Australian Liberal Democrats MP David Limbrick has written to board members of the national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), to demand an investigation about what he calls “an unfair and possibly xenophobic attack” in a program it aired on Falun Gong.
“Today I sent a letter to the ABC board demanding an investigation into the circumstances around the production and broadcast of the recent Foreign Correspondent report on Falun Gong,” Limbrick announced on Twitter on July 24.
“The ABC must be held accountable for its actions.”
He opened the letter pointing to Amnesty International’s reports about how Falun Gong has been persecuted by the Chinese regime for more than 20 years.
Today I sent a letter to the ABC board demanding an investigation into the circumstances around the production and broadcast of the recent Foreign Correspondent report on Falun Gong.
— David Limbrick MP (@_davidlimbrick) July 24, 2020
The program, which aired on July 21, 2020, presents, almost exclusively, the experiences of some disaffected people who interacted with or knew Falun Gong practitioners.
Limbrick writes in his letter: “During my time as a Member for South Eastern Metropolitan Melbourne, I have come to understand Falun Gong to be a sincere movement whose adherents’ beliefs are no more unusual than many other religions.”
Limbrick has asked the ABC board to investigate:
- “Whether this report is consistent with the ABC’s own policies of dealing with vulnerable religious minorities.”
- “Why reporters refused to acknowledge facts presented to them in this letter dated 17th July 2020 before the program went to air.”
- “Whether reporters had any contact with Chinese Government officials in the development of the story.”
Prior to Limbrick’s letter, and following a report by The Epoch Times on the ABC program, an ABC spokesperson said the public broadcaster “stand[s] by the accuracy and integrity of the reports.”
The spokesperson told The Epoch Times that the ABC “completely rejects” any claims that its reporting on Falun Gong was “sourced from or influenced by the Chinese Communist Party.”
The spokesperson insisted that the ABC had reached out to Falun Gong practitioners to allow a right of reply.
However, the ABC interviewed Dr. Lucy Zhao, the president of the Falun Dafa Association of Australia, on July 17, just four days before the program was scheduled to air. When asked whether the ABC gave her fair treatment, Zhao told The Epoch Times, “Not really.”
Zhao said she had offered to introduce the ABC to Falun Gong practitioners they could interview “so they can have a more balanced and fair report. But they were not interested and didn’t interview any other practitioners.”
“They just wanted to get some words they wanted from me and were not interested in listening or reporting truthfully what I want to express,” she said.
Australian Falun Gong spokesperson, John Deller, told The Epoch Times on July 25 that his first contact with the ABC was on July 10 after he called ABC producer Lisa MacGregor because a practitioner told him an ABC crew had been filming and taking photos of practitioners meditating in Hyde Park, Sydney.
He says MacGregor called him back three days later and told him the ABC didn’t need any “input” from the Falun Dafa Association in Sydney as they “had interviewed someone in the US.”
“Then, on 14 July, the same day they started their promotions for the shows, I was contacted by Hagar Cohen, of Background Briefing. That seems to me like an after thought,” he said.
The ABC did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment on Limbrick’s letter.
ABC Reporter Attends CCP-Facilitated Trip to Forced Labour Camp
The ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program on Falun Gong contained video footage captured back in 2001 at a forced labour and brainwashing camp in Masanjia, in China’s Liaoning province that appears to paint a rosy picture of the facility—yet stood in stark contrast to undercover footage smuggled from the camp.
Eric Campbell, the chief reporter of the ABC program, had attended a Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-facilitated trip to Masanjia re-education through forced labour camp—notorious for its severe abuses and vicious torture on practitioners of Falun Gong.
China’s state-owned mouthpiece Xinhua at the time reported on Campbell’s interactions with women purported to be former Falun Gong practitioners who had been successfully “transformed.”
Xinhua reported that American NBC journalist Eric Colt, AP writer John Leicester, and Singapore Press Holdings reporter Chew Juai Fong, all expressed a newfound belief in the CCP’s propaganda following this trip.
Campbell said that the camp “is extremely open, and I am surprised that we are allowed this close access to the re-education camp,” Xinhua reported.
The picture stands in stark contrast to an in-depth report by The Epoch Times last year about the same camp. The report featured undercover video footage smuggled out of the camp that expose slave labour and evidence of torture.
Undercover video from Masanjia Forced Labor Camp showing a Falun Gong practitioner after being beaten for protesting against the persecution of Falun Gong:
Undercover video from Masanjia Forced Labor Camp showing a Falun Gong practitioner cuffed to a bed after being tortured badly for protesting against the persecution of Falun Gong:
The Masanjia camp was also the subject of an award-winning feature documentary “Letter from Masanjia,” which tells the story of a Falun Gong practitioner who exposed the persecution and torture he suffered in an “SOS letter” he smuggled out through a product he was forced to make.
“If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right[s] Organization. Thousands people here … will thank and remember you forever,” the note read, in part. It was uncovered in 2011 by Julie Keith, a mother in Oregon, who found it in a product from Kmart intended to be decorations for Halloween.
The note, written by Sun Yi, a Falun Gong practitioner detained at Masanjia, outlined the gruelling working conditions in the Masanjia labour camp and referenced the torture and abuse experienced by detainees.
Keith took the letter to her state newspaper and the story became international news.
The ABC has not responded to The Epoch Times’ request for comment regarding Campbell’s visit to Masanjia on a CCP-facilitated trip.