The world should be horrified by the evidence of genocide emerging from East Turkestan, but we shouldn’t be so surprised. To a large extent, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is merely repeating the game plan it used to launch its wholesale persecution of Falun Dafa (also called Falun Gong).
Today, Party propaganda tells the world that it is simply routing out terrorists. In the case of Falun Gong, it was religious extremism. Filmmakers Jason Loftus and Eric Pedicelli ask the hard questions about the incident used to justify the anti-Falun Gong campaign that the Western media should have asked, in the riveting exposé documentary “Ask No Questions," which premiered at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah.
Falun Gong is a traditional spiritual practice based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance that is not inherently political, but its rapid growth spooked the Communist Party; so true to form, the Party prohibited it. Those who still practiced were subjected to physical and mental torture in re-education camps. Whoever refused to recant became slave laborers in work camps (much like what is happening in East Turkestan).
For a while, the world expressed concern over this naked repression of Falun Gong, but the release of a videotape, supposedly documenting practitioners self-immolating on Tiananmen Square, largely defused the issue. (In fact, the International Olympic Committee rewarded the CCP for its brutality by approving China’s bid for the 2008 Olympics.)
Ever since, the incident has made practitioners like Loftus defensive. Yet, when he took a hard look at the tape, he noticed some suspicious inconsistencies. CNN reporter Lisa Weaver (who happened to be on the Square at that very moment) had questions about the official story, but she was not allowed to follow up because CNN wanted to protect its Beijing bureau.
Throughout “Ask No Questions,” Loftus points out the strange circumstances surrounding the incident, starting with the fact that practitioners had no known history of the self-immolators ever practicing Falun Gong. He also interviews at length Chen Ruichang, a former state television official and Falun Gong practitioner, who refused to recant despite the brutal torture he endured in a prison camp.
Some of Loftus’s evidence is circumstantial, but he readily identifies it as such. He never overblows or overplays any objections to the official story, but the cumulative effect is overwhelming. Perhaps most chillingly, Loftus and Pedicelli identify the parallels between the alleged Falun Gong incident and a false-flag self-immolation chronicled in Wang Lixiong’s novel “Yellow Peril,” which the CCP authorities would be well familiar with, since they banned it in China.
Loftus appears throughout the film, providing a personal perspective, but he still marshals his case quite credibly and persuasively. He raises so many legitimate questions that it really puts CNN to shame. Again, there is no hyperventilating and no over-reaching, just reasonable questions.
However, there is one critical point Loftus misses. The possible (likely) framing of Falun Dafa did not just impact practitioners. The world’s subsequent acceptance emboldened the CCP to apply such tactics against the Uyghurs in East Turkestan, and it is already starting to roll them out in Tibet.
Regardless, this is an incisive documentary that arrives at a perfect time. Highly and urgently recommended, “Ask No Questions” screens again on Jan. 29, as part of this year’s Slamdance.