A bizarre e-mail hoax has left several Alberta city councillors scratching their heads this week as the puzzle pieces come together.
Sent on March 13, the e-mails claim to be from a Falun Gong practitioner and, among other things, discuss the recent earthquake in Japan in an offensive manner, saying the victims were being punished.
The tone is irrational and the writer appears to suffer from mental illness. The e-mails also aggressively urge officials to see Shen Yun Performing Arts, a show presented by the Falun Dafa Association.
Shar Chen, a spokesperson for the Falun Dafa Association of Edmonton, says she suspects the e-mails were sent by Chinese consulate officials, who have used similar strategies in the past to defame the spiritual group.
Chen says the current batch of emails have two purposes: to discourage officials from seeing the Shen Yun show, and to give them a bad impression of Falun Gong.
“They’ve changed the style of approach, but it’s the same evil intention—to stop them from watching Shen Yun and to turn them against Falun Gong. I think it’s systematic.”
Last year, letters were sent to theatre directors in Edmonton attempting to convince them to block Shen Yun from performing at their venue. In Australia letters were sent by the Chinese Consulate directly to officials, telling them not to attend the show.
Chen says she knows the e-mails could not have been from a Falun Gong practitioner because the name is not known to anyone in the community, and the message is completely out of character for the group.
“It’s totally against the principles of Falun Gong, because Falun Gong practitioners practise Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance. We cherish life. The tragedy [in Japan] also affects us, we feel saddened as well,” she said.
Chen believes at least 12 councillors and the mayor of Edmonton have received the e-mails, adding that the sender could be targeting the provincial and federal levels as well. Already three Edmonton city councillors have confirmed receiving the e-mails.
“I am relieved to hear the Falun Gong is not connected to the original e-mail which, as many people have noted, was very offensive,” said Councillor Kerry Diotte.
On Feb. 25, shortly after the earthquake in New Zealand, several city officials received similar e-mails, supposedly from Falun Gong practitioners, which said the victims of the Christchurch earthquake got what they deserved.
“It’s part of the email harassment sent to other parts of the world as well,” Chen explains.
“These people are actually CCP spies who are trying to take advantage of the earthquakes to turn people against the Falun Gong and also to interfere with the [Shen Yun] show.”