A program by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has been leveraged by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) notorious 610 office—an extralegal secret police force akin to the Gestapo–to justify its 21-year persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual meditation practice.
Last week, the Australian Falun Gong association warned the ABC that the program they intended to broadcast could be exploited by the CCP in its ongoing propaganda and disinformation campaign against the practice.
The 610 office—named for the date it was created on June 10, 1999—was set up under the mandate of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin to carry out the work of eradicating Falun Gong in China.
The office’s formal name is the Central Leading Group on Dealing with Falun Gong (later changed to Central Leading Group on Dealing with Heretical Religions).
It is directly accountable to the Central Committee—one of the most powerful political organs in the CCP regime.
According to a China Tribunal report, the 610 office along with the Political and Legal Affairs Commission, is believed to have the power (pdf) to mobilise “personnel and resources in the police, Ministry of State Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the fields of finance, culture, education, science and technology, and health departments throughout the country.”
“The regime mobilised the entire state apparatus in the campaign against Falun Gong,” the report said.
ABC Program Assists Beijing’s Propaganda Efforts
On July 17, a website set up under the umbrella of the 610 office with the express purpose of defaming Falun Gong, championed ABC’s new program “Dark Karma” saying it justifies the CCP’s 21-year persecution of the practice.
Dark Karma (and The Power of Falun Gong) is a joint investigation by ABC’s Foreign Correspondent and Background Briefing that looks into Falun Gong through the experiences of individuals who interacted with practitioners and their activities.
The website associated with the 610 office published an article claiming the CCP has been “warning the world” about the practice.
“Now a whole 21 years later, Australia’s national broadcaster has just begun to face up to and expose the Falun Gong …” the 610 article continued.
Dark Karma’s trailer has been heavily criticised by the Falun Dafa Association of Australia for “basic factual errors” and “inflammatory representations” of Falun Gong’s beliefs.
John Deller of the Falun Dafa Association of Australia said on July 21: “It reflects a deep cultural illiteracy, bordering on anti-religious bigotry. This will obscure far more than it will illuminate, and only the Chinese Communist Party stands to gain.”
On July 20, 1999, the CCP launched a nationwide campaign to “eradicate” Falun Gong, a Buddhist qigong discipline that was once practiced by tens of millions of people.
Since then, through the 610 office, millions of Falun Gong practitioners have been detained without trial in black jails, prisons, and re-education-through-labour camps.
Chinese authorities have sanctioned the use of torture, extrajudicial killings, and state-sanctioned organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners for profit on the organ black market.
610 Leverages Overseas Media to Export Persecution
The 610 office coordinates the CCP’s propaganda channels and leverages China’s newspapers, television, radio, and websites to demonise Falun Gong.
It has direct access to major state-owned news outlets Xinhua News Agency and China Global Television Network. At the same time, it maintains links with embassies, consulates, student associations, and most notably the United Front Work Department. All agencies are tasked with reinforcing the CCP’s narrative on Falun Gong.
Professor Clive Hamilton, author of “Silent Invasion”—which details Beijing’s influence operations in Australia—said United Front operations in Australia encompassed influence of not only Chinese-language media but also mainstream media outlets.
He pointed to a Media Watch report in 2016 that claimed the ABC was censoring news content in order to gain access to Chinese consumers.
Deller said they had written to the ABC last week warning them the program would be “picked up by the CCP and was going to be used to validate the persecution.”
“We’re seeing now on the 610 office website that they’re picking up on the ABC’s story—exactly as we warned them,” he added.
“There are obvious consequences of further harm for people in China, and those given refugee protection by the [Australian] government. It has really opened up old memories and wounds when many felt safe here,” he continued.
Tony Liu, a survivor of a forced labour camp in China who was detained for practicing Falun Gong said he was “shocked and heartbroken” when he saw the trailer for the ABC program.
Liu, who suffered horrific torture at the hands of both guards and other inmates, said:
“It reminded me of being back in China when the Chinese Communist Party media spread propaganda about Falun Gong and deliberately turned people in society against us.”
“They intentionally tried to destroy our good reputations as well as destroy us physically. I did not expect that this would happen in Australia,” he added.
International Pressure Heats Up to Stop the Persecution
Deller believes the CCP is becoming desperate as international attention bears down on Beijing during the 21st anniversary of the persecution’s inception.
On July 20, in a rare move, the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the CCP to release imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners and to account for those still missing.
“Twenty-one years of persecution of Falun Gong practitioners is far too long, and it must end,” he said.
“Extensive evidence shows the PRC [People’s Republic of China] government continues to repress and abuse this community to this day, including reported torture of Falun Gong practitioners and detention of thousands.”
On the same day, 20 current and former Australian lawmakers joined a group of 606 lawmakers from 30 countries to sign a joint statement calling for an end to the persecution in China.