Suppressing the Truth is the Root of All Evil
by Chang Chin-Hwa
Abraham Lincoln once said: “Let the people know the truth and the country will be safe.” The Chinese Communist regime, however, not only strictly controls the media in mainland China by crushing freedom of speech and reporting of facts, its black hand of suppression has even extended into free societies. Without freedom, truth cannot be told, conscience and humanity will not exist and evil will be rampant. In fact, lack of freedom is the greatest misfortune in any society.
Let’s start with an example in Taiwan:
Free Media Becomes the Mouthpiece of Propaganda
In August 2010, Taiwanese lawyers for Falun Gong practitioners brought unprecedented criminal charges against Huang Huahua, a former governor of Guangdong province, who was scheduled to lead a procurement delegation to Taiwan. Charges presented to the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office included the crime of genocide and violation of two UN treaties: The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, both of which Taiwan adopted in 2009. The lawyers requested that his role in persecuting Falun Gong practitioners be investigated and that he be arrested while in Taiwan. Guangdong is one of the provinces in China where the persecution of Falun Gong is the most severe. The extent of cruelty is staggering, with a recent survey confirming 75 deaths and numerous injuries as a result of torture. Since Huang took the position as Party Secretary of Guangzhou, a city in Guangdong, he has been directly involved in commanding, plotting and organizing the persecution. One such example is that a Taiwanese Falun Gong practitioner was detained during his family visit in mainland China.
Taiwan has always claimed to be a nation “founded on human rights.” Yet, three out of four major newspapers in Taiwan did not provide coverage on the charges brought against Huang and all major commercial television stations likewise did not give any report.
In fact, it is not uncommon for Taiwan media and even Western societies to neglect to report the brutal persecution of Falun Gong. Some even become the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) by spreading the Party’s lies.
Why is the media not reporting the facts about Falun Gong? Why is the press no longer free in a free society? What means has Red China employed to force the media in a free society to succumb to its power? What impact does this have on society? Let’s first discuss the issue of the CCP controlling the media in a free society.
Suppression of Free Media: Four Methods Employed by the CCP to Control Overseas Media
1. Acquiring Ownership and Turning the Media to Its Mouthpiece
Want Want Media Group in Taiwan is a good example. In 2008, China Times—one of the popular newspapers in Taiwan—was quickly declining due to fierce competition, rapid internet development and its own mismanagement. Tsai Eng Meng, a Taiwanese tycoon based in mainland China, purchased the company at an (unexpected) high price. Tsai was originally a businessman whose businesses conglomerates comprise Want Want snacks, beverages, real estate, insurance, financial services, management, hospitals, hotels, etc. More than 90 percent of his profit comes from the mainland Chinese market (Legislature, 2011). Forbes magazine recently listed him as the richest man in Taiwan and one of the richest in mainland China. However, according to a document in The Economist magazine published in April 2013, Want Want was listed as one of the largest enterprises funded by subsidies from the Chinese Government. According to the British magazine, the subsidy Want Want received from the CCP amounted to 11.3% of the company’s net profit in 2011. We can see the close relationship between the CCP’s support and Want Want Group’s success.
A special report published in the February 2009 issue of Taiwan’s World Magazine quoted a dialogue in a Want Want internal publication: “Reporting to the Director, we have bought up China Times.” According to this article, Tsai spent NT$20.4 billion (around US$70 million) to acquire the China Times Corporations (including newspapers, a cable news channel and a wireless TV channel). He reported this to the director of the China-Taiwan Office (Wang Yi) one month after the transition. Tsai also said the media group has followed very well their “upper level’s orders” to propagate the prosperity of the Motherland (i.e., mainland China). Wang Yi then replied: “If you have any need in the future, our office will certainly try our best to support you. (Lin Xingfei, 2009)
The above dialogue shows that Want Want, as a subsidized corporation from China, has paid a high price to take over the media not simply for commercial purposes but also for a political purpose to serve both the interests of the government and the business. The academia refers to this relationship as “lackey” media. In fact, this happened not only in Taiwan, but also in Hong Kong and other countries. In recent years, overseas Chinese media ownership or equity have similarly been gradually bought up by these lackey businessmen. In free and democratic societies, the media emphasizes objectivity and neutrality, reporting the facts, serving the public interest and playing the role as the “fourth estate.” However, these lackey media, although not directly under the CCP’s control, act also as mouthpieces to serve the political interests of the CCP and report solely on “the prosperities of the Motherland.”
2. Controlling News Production, Veering the Course of News Personnel, Editorials and Content
The second phase is to control the editorials and personnel. In February 2012, famed American Pulitzer prize winner Andrew Higgins, interviewed Tsai of the Want Want Group. He disclosed that Want Want media not only made major changes in its personnel but also controlled its editorial content in order to cater to the CCP. Higgins further revealed the similarities between Tsai’s position and that of the CCP on the topics of the June 4th massacre and China’s democracy. For example, Tsai said: “I realized that not that many people could really have died… [China] is very democratic in lots of places… [w]hether you like it or not, unification is going to happen sooner or later.” Tsai claimed the reason to fire the chief editor of China Times was that she “hurt me by offending people, not just mainlanders. On lots of things, people were offended.” Tsai added: Journalists are free to criticize, but they “need to think carefully before they write.”(1)
Many Taiwanese intellectuals were very angry then. They launched waves of protests, criticizing his remarks against the facts known about the Tiananmen massacre in free societies. They also questioned the Want Want Group for purging dissenters, controlling personnel, and abusing freedom of the press. Also fired by the Want Want Media Group, the editor of the opinion page of China Times made a candid remark at a press conference that he was “not allowed to touch-sensitive topics such as the June 4th Massacre, Falun Gong, the 1992 Consensus, and Dalai Lama, etc.” Under such pressure, reporters fall into self-censorship: “Once they keep an inner police in mind, the editors will dodge sensitive issues by themselves.” (Xu Peijun, 2012)
In fact, the lackey media does not only blatantly ignore the journalistic codes, but brazenly violate laws. At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that Huang Huahua led a procurement delegation to Taiwan in 2010, and was sued by Falun Gong lawyers. The majority of Taiwan’s mainstream media, including Want Want, sidestepped this lawsuit. Instead, they all provided extensive news reports on Huang’s “love” of Taiwan, how productive and fruitful his trip was; the speedy development of Guangdong Province, the golden opportunities for investment and the tight bond between Taiwan and “Motherland China.” No attention was given to the Taiwanese businessmen’s protests against him, Guangdong’s severe environmental pollution, corruption and human rights violations. All the coverage turned out to be one-sided propaganda and advertisement. In fact, every piece of “positive news” was a paid advertisement. An investigation conducted by the Taiwan Board of Audit and Inspection in November 2011, confirmed that more than one medium practiced news placement, (i.e., “propaganda-disguised- as-news”). Such violations, the investigators argue, undermine journalistic professionalism, deceive readers, and threaten national security.
The CCP manipulates news media in many ways, including the acquisition of ownership, control of personnel, restriction of editorial autonomy and censorship of news coverage, etc., which have resulted in a total corruption of journalism. Reporters’ consciences are suppressed and distorted and news content becomes mere propaganda and lies. The case of Want Want Group is just the tip of the iceberg.
3. Controlling of Advertising and Benefits, Threatening and Silencing the Media
Even if there were no changes of the ownership structure, the CCP would still use economic incentives, advertisements and marketing benefits to manipulate the media. In fact, it has become common practice. For example, a highly popular TV talk show host, well-known for his outspoken style and sharp criticism against China, was replaced because of the pressure from the CCP. Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, known for its pro-democracy and anti-communist stance, experienced significant advertising revocation from companies having business ties with China, resulting in a tremendous loss of revenue and 20% reduction in the number of newspaper pages. Another Hong Kong newspaper, am730, a free publication, which maintains a relatively mild position but has once criticized the CCP-installed Hong Kong government, had also suffered from advertising sources shut off by at least three Chinese banks, resulting in a serious blow to the newspaper’s company.
As a matter of fact, the CCP’s tactics of withdrawing advertisement from media has long existed, although it has become more pervasive, threatening all media intended to reach a Chinese-speaking audience. In order to survive, reporters have had to go against their conscience and silence their voice. It is truly unfortunate that the media in a free society would no longer be free.
4. Violent Attacks to Escalate Fear
For those media or critics uncontrolled by CCP’s various tactics in free societies, some frightening violence against dissidents in China has been obviously extended to overseas media. The first chapter of Hong Kong’s Freedom Yearbook from 2014, “Violent Attacks on Reporters Endangers Freedom of the Press,” points out that incidences of violent attacks on journalists in Hong Kong have risen drastically over the past two years and the seriousness of the violence has also been heightened, targeting not only outspoken reporters but also agency owners. The most tragic incident that occurred in the last few years was the former editor-in-chief of Ming Pao, Lau Chun-to (Liu Jintu), who was brutally stabbed in broad daylight, suffering severe injuries. The attack drew international attention and dozens of human rights organizations issued statements expressing their deep concern and condemn. They stated that the violence has affected not only the media, but challenges the rule of law in Hong Kong, and is a provocation against the Hong Kong press and freedom of speech in general.
In addition, incidents of violence against oppositional media in Hong Kong have been increasingly frequent in recent years: the gates to the residence of Lai Chi-ying (Li Zhiying), chairman of Next Media Ltd., the most anti-communist media group in Hong Kong, were crashed by an intruding car; tens of thousands of copies of the Apple Daily newspaper were maliciously set on fire on June 2013, Ming Pao once received a parcel of explosives; the sales stores of Sing Tao Daily and Oriental Daily News were damaged by criminals; executives of the Hong Kong Morning Media Group Limited were physically attacked in the business center of the town; the president of iSunAffairs.com magazine was attacked by two masked assailants with wooden sticks; the Epoch Times newspaper, established by Falun Gong practitioners, has been under constant assault. However, the vast majority of these violent attacks against media and their workers have remained unsolved.
In addition to these vicious, physical attacks, the CCP has reportedly built up a cyber army of hundreds of thousands of people to attack websites of large enterprises and government agencies, paralyzing websites or stealing internal intelligence and private information. Such high-tech crimes have escalated in recent years. For example, the night before a large parade for Hong Kong democracy and rights for public voting, the Next Media’s website was attacked at the so-called “national level,” with up to forty million hits per second. Moreover, accompanied with internal data stealing, the hacking has threatened the security of individual and organizational information. The news websites set up by Falun Gong practitioners have been under constant attack for a long time. In response to China’s cyber invasion and threats, many countries, including the USA, have heightened their security.
Conclusion: From Repressing News to Persecuting Basic Human Rights
The CCP, through political, economic and editorial manipulation, let alone the threatening violence against media personnel, has exerted critical impacts on most media in free societies. For instance, the 2014, Freedom House Report ranked Hong Kong’s press freedom as 74 among 197 countries, classified as a “partially free” country. In contrast, in 2002, Hong Kong was ranked 18th and well known as one of the freest countries in Asia. Ever since Hong Kong reverted back to Chinese rule in 1997, subjected to various CCP’s manipulations through the years, Hong Kong has sadly slipped backwards from 18 to 74 in twelve years!
The freedom of the press in Taiwan, similarly influenced by the increasing “exchange programs between China and Taiwan,” has, to some extent, declined as well every year. The 2014 Freedom of the Press Report released by Freedom House ranked Taiwan 47th, ahead of Hong Kong, and classified Taiwan as a “free country.” However, in 2007 Taiwan was placed 32nd, and since then has declined by 15 places! The report suggested that the aforementioned acquisition of Taiwan’s media by a Taiwanese-China tycoon has significantly impaired the press freedom in Taiwan.
Professor Yu Ying-shih (Yu Yingshi), the well-known Chinese historian and an elected Fellow of Academia Sinica of Taiwan, published a letter in 2012, pointing out that “in Taiwan, a number of powerful politicians and wealthy businessmen were determined to pander to the wishes of the CCP under motives of absolute self-interests. They have infiltrated every nook and cranny in Taiwan, and buying up public media is just one part of it.” He openly questioned the negative impact of the CCP’s control of public opinion by purchasing and merging of Taiwan media from 2012 to 2013.
From examples cited in this article, one can observe the CCP’s totalitarian control of freedom and conscience inside China as well as overseas. It has severely eroded the core values of journalism in free societies, including truthful reporting of facts, monitoring power, and safeguarding public interest. People rely on unbiased news coverage to get information on every aspect of life, from personal safety and health to civil and political rights. People make choices depending on true and complete information through free-flowing conduits and diverse opinions. This free flow of information is the basis for the healthy operation of a democratic society, where power could be supervised, the abuse of power can be exposed, the interests of the people can be safeguarded and a sound political system could be entrenched. Truthful information is also critical in maintaining the order and peace of the international community. At present, the international community is calling the CCP out on a number of offenses, including manipulating exchange rates, expanding its military, practicing exploitative colonial diplomacy, plundering mineral resources, copyright violations, exporting products made by slave labor, suffusing global markets with toxic food and toys, etc.
Countless children died under the collapsed school buildings during the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province as a result of shoddy construction. Numerous babies suffered from severe health problems while many died after consuming poisonous infant formulas intentionally tainted for increasing profits. China’s land, air, water and farms are ruthlessly contaminated, impacting both domestic and exported products. Many countries have paid a high price for the CCP’s misdeeds while countless people have been hurt and even lost their lives. Yet, under the CCP’s blockade of information and sugarcoated propaganda, corrective measures could not be addressed, and most Chinese citizens are even not aware of the problems.
The Communist China’s cruel abuse of power has led to the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, people of different faiths and creeds and all kinds of dissidents. What is even more despicable is the loss of conscience and medical ethics that have resulted in forced organ harvesting, selling organs for profit and promptly cremating bodies—dead or alive—to cover up any trace of these crimes. Behind all sorts of evil and violence is the autocratic regime’s systemic abuse of power, corrupt officials, social injustice, and media control. The problems are numerous, but the facts are blocked from public access. As a result, parents are incapable of protecting their children, teachers are incapable of protecting students, citizens are incapable of safeguarding the environment and there is no social stability to allow for the survival and welfare of the next generation. The CCP uses its mouthpiece—the state media—to praise the Party as being “Grand, Glorious, and Righteous” to brainwash its people. Those without access to external information echo the Party’s propaganda and become accomplices to those who slander the innocent and violate human rights.
The deeper problem of the CCP’s totalitarian regime is the threat they pose to individual well-being, so that protection and satisfaction of one’s own needs overshadows the needs of others. When survival is threatened, people choose to abandon their conscience and succumb to evil, some even voluntarily become accomplices of violence. One of the main themes at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC is that the ones closest to the victims often become their aggressors: “Some [perpetrators] were neighbors.” Under the lies and threats of violence, good friends, good neighbors, or good classmates become accomplices of persecution, transforming from angels to demons. Therefore, it is not only the violation of professional journalism, but also the most evil distortion of human nature that we are witnessing today from the CCP’s control of the media.
The human rights issue of Falun Gong is a good example. Under the CCP’s threats, the media either cooperate with the CCP-controlled official media or remain silent. Even when encountered with the aforementioned unprecedented accusation against the China governor, most of the mainstream media chose to remain silent. What is even more pitiable, some media actually portrayed a blatantly corrupted official as a “good governor who cares deeply about the people!” It becomes difficult for the general public to distinguish facts from lies. As a result, they may become the persecutor’s advocates. Journalists who choose to lie have not only betrayed their professional conscience, but also become the persecutor’s accomplices. When there is no truth and freedom, one cannot judge with conscience. Therefore, by controlling and suppressing news, China’s authoritarian regime is not simply victimizing the targeted group, but all people.
Although the so-called “China factor,” through the exchange of various interests, has eroded the foundation of journalism and democratic societies, there are still some people who try to know the facts and then understand the truth. Because these people cherish freedom and maintain conscience, they rise to expose and resist the suppression. An example is the social movement against the merger and acquisition of China Times media group by Want Want Corporation. More than ten thousands of people, including teachers and students in academia, as well as NGOs and community groups joined forces together. Through the internet, they formed a momentous movement calling for freedom of the press, diversity and media reform. When a large number of citizens spontaneously protested on the streets, the Taiwan government was finally propelled to pay more attention to the regulation on media diversity and merger review. In addition to setting strict conditions regulating the merger by the NCC (National Communications Committee), the Legislative Yuan also launched actions of revising the anti-monopoly media law. Finally, under the pressure of tremendous civil opposition, Want Want media group backed off from additional mergers. This is truly the power of goodness that won a victory for civil liberties.
Falun Gong practitioners have been one of the most active groups in the world helping people to see beyond the CCP’s propaganda. For over 15 years, practitioners in and outside of China—often at great risk to their lives—have continued to dedicate their time, effort and resources to reveal the facts not only of the persecution of Falun Gong but also of the various abuses by the CCP. Through passing out truth-clarification flyers and other materials on the street, visiting Congressional and Senate offices, working with the courts and speaking to the media, Falun Gong practitioners enable people to learn the facts and understand the truth. Through their activities to rescue persecuted practitioners in China and stand up against the illegal and immoral persecution, Falun Gong practitioners empower people in becoming courageous enough to not only step up to support Falun Gong, but also take initiative themselves to help end the persecution; and in doing so, they change themselves and change the world.
The famous reporter and political commentator Walter Lippmann once said, “Without facts, there can be no liberty.”(2) No matter how authoritarian regimes try to suppress freedom and truth, and how much the media has been controlled and threatened, it’s really simple to fight such evil. If everyone of us takes some effort to understand the truth from the materials distributed by Falun Gong practitioners, then the truth will no longer be blocked and the power of facts and righteousness will expand, then the evil and its lies will lose its supporting roots and collapse.
 Higgins, Andrew. Tycoon prods Taiwan closer to China. The Washington Post. (2012.01.21).