ABC Allegedly Breaches Own Code of Practice in Reports: Falun Gong Spokesperson

July 21, 2020 Updated: July 22, 2020

The president of the Falun Dafa Association of Australia (FDAA) has written a letter to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) saying she is “deeply concerned” about “reckless, misleading, and unsubstantiated allegations” published by the public broadcaster in a media release and trailer for an upcoming episode of Foreign Correspondent titled “The Power of Falun Gong.”

In a letter dated July 17, obtained by The Epoch Times, and now published online, FDAA President Dr. Lucy Zhao said Falun Gong’s reputation may be “harmed” by the ABC program and requested an urgent meeting with ABC producers and executives to articulate the group’s concerns.

Zhao asserts the program may contravene “ABC policies on hate speech and trauma by inciting undeserved hatred and hostility toward members of a religious minority.”

In particular, Zhao noted that the ABC intends to publish the story one day after the 21st anniversary of the start of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) persecution of Falun Gong adherents in China.

“The date of the intended broadcast is noteworthy: July 20 marks the start of the CCP’s nationwide persecution of Falun Gong in China. The only two groups who attach significance to this anniversary are the Chinese Communist Party and Falun Gong,” Zhao said.

“That the ABC would broadcast this documentary to coincide with the 21st anniversary of the persecution of the practice shows how unworthy of dignity and respect the reporters and editors involved in this program seem to think we are,” she added.

Falun Gong is a spiritual practice of the Buddhist tradition, whose adherents are taught to live by the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. It was first introduced to the public in China in 1992 by founder Mr. Li Hongzhi. It spread rapidly, mostly by word-of-mouth, and by 1999, a government survey estimated that about 70 to 100 million people were practicing all across the country.

Believing the popularity of the spiritual practice to be a threat to his power and the atheistic ideology of the Communist Party, then-Party leader Jiang Zemin ordered the practice to be eradicated on July 20, 1999. Since then, millions of Chinese people have been targeted by the regime; thousands have or are facing arbitrary detention, forced re-education, torture, or have been murdered for their vital organs.

On July 20, the Falun Dafa Info Centre published a joint statement signed by over 600 lawmakers from 30 countries—including over 20 Australian politicians—calling for the Chinese regime to end the persecution of Falun Gong, and acknowledging the 21-year suffering of its adherents in China. 

ABC’s Code of Practice

Zhao believes the plans to broadcast the program one day after the anniversary of the Chinese regime’s crackdown contravenes the ABC’s Code of Practice (pdf), which states the broadcaster must never “gratuitously harm or offend,” and should “avoid the unjustified use of stereotypes or discriminatory content that could reasonably be interpreted as condoning or encouraging prejudice.”

“If the media release disseminated about the forthcoming documentary is at all representative, the documentary clearly fails to adhere to these standards,” Zhao said.

“A public broadcaster has a moral duty to treat their subjects in an open-minded, fair, balanced, and accurate manner. This duty is even more important when reporting on an already vulnerable and persecuted minority group, to avoid causing undue harm or exacerbating the group’s marginalisation,” she said in the letter.

On July 21, the ABC’s report was picked up and reported by the Chinese Communist Party’s 610 office. The 610 office, named for the date of its creation on June 10, 1999, is a secret police force that was established with the sole purpose of eradicating Falun Gong. It reported directly to then-leader Jiang Zemin and became the main weapon in the regime’s struggle against adherents.

ABC Misrepresents Falun Gong Views on Homosexuality and Race

The ABC media release claimed that Falun Gong teaches intolerant, racist, and homophobic views—claims which Zhao denies.

In her letter, Zhao explained: “Falun Gong does not forbid individuals of any sexual orientation or gender identity from practising the discipline, nor does it promote or condone hatred or discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, or identity.”

On the contrary, Zhao wrote, Falun Gong’s teachings stress that all people should be treated equally, with tolerance and compassion. She added that same-sex attracted individuals are among the community of practitioners and are treated no differently from anyone else.

“Moreover, Falun Gong does not seek to impose its ethical precepts on anyone,” Zhao explained.

Instead, she is concerned that the ABC’s media release and trailer are “misleading, reckless, and divisive” and could expose Falun Gong practitioners who are gay or biracial to “needless anguish.”

“It is also worth noting that a significant proportion of Falun Gong adherents in the West belong to mixed-race families. This reality about the Falun Gong community cannot be reconciled with the claim of discrimination or intolerance towards people of mixed race,” Zhao wrote.

Allegations of Being Anti-Medicine

The ABC Foreign Correspondent trailer is also alleged to have accused those who practice Falun Gong of refusing medical treatment, which Zhao said is entirely unfounded.

“Falun Gong has no prohibitions on seeking medical treatment, and the Falun Gong community does not apply social pressure to discourage individuals from seeking medical treatment. To the contrary, its teachings state that hospitals and Western medicine can be effective at treating illness, and that people experiencing severe illness should seek medical care,” Zhao noted.

Zhao wrote that scholars and researchers had conducted “extensive field work” in the faith community and confirmed that “the group does not prohibit practitioners from taking medicine or apply social pressure to that end,” she said.

Zhao noted that how an individual interprets the teachings of Falun Gong and how they choose to apply them in their lives is entirely up to them.

The Epoch Times reached out to the ABC for a comment but the broadcaster did not respond.