SYDNEY—Falun Gong practitioners gathered outside the Sydney headquarters of Australia’s national public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), in the inner-Sydney suburb of Ultimo on Tuesday to protest against an episode of Foreign Correspondent and a podcast series that misrepresented the group.
Multiple protesters expressed they were concerned that the scheduled program may be used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to further justify its decades-long persecution of Falun Gong and effectively exacerbate the persecution in mainland China.
Indeed it was on July 17, when a CCP website lauded the program, saying the ABC’s report justified its persecution of Falun Gong 21 years ago, which led to two decades of arbitrary detention, torture, forced re-education, killing, and forced organ harvesting.
Dozens of banners lined both sides of the street, including in front of the entrance to the ABC building, as the Falun Gong community gathered for a press conference at the building’s entrance expressing concerns over the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program.
Protesters held banners that read “ABC: investigate the facts; stop misleading Australian[s],” and “ABC Stop Being the CCP’s Accomplices.” Other banners read “Be responsible to Australian people,” and expressed concerns that the upcoming ABC reports “gravely misrepresents the Falun Gong community.”
Other signs held by protesters called for the end of the persecution of Falun Gong in China, and reiterated that “Falun Gong teaches truthfulness, compassion, forbearance.”
The program and podcast is an inter-department collaboration between ABC’s Foreign Correspondent and Background Briefing programs. It presents, almost exclusively, the experiences of some disaffected people who interacted with or knew Falun Gong practitioners.
‘Shocked and Heartbroken’
Dr. Lucy Zhao, president of the Falun Dafa Association of Australia, said in a statement that she fears the series of reports “will cause misunderstanding about a culturally foreign faith practice, and potentially exacerbate the trauma of Falun Gong practitioners in Australia who fled religious persecution as refugees.”
Sydney resident Tony Liu wrote in a media release for the event that he felt “shocked and heartbroken” upon seeing the trailer for the ABC program. Liu was detained in a forced labour camp in China and suffered horrific torture at the hands of prison guards and other inmates for practicing Falun Gong.
“I came to Australia to escape persecution. I never dreamed it would follow me here,” Tony said, adding that the ABC promotions for its upcoming reports reminded him of being back in China, where the CCP media spread “propaganda about Falun Gong to turn people against us.”
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice that involves meditation exercises and living according to truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. The practice became very popular after its public introduction in 1992, with official state estimates at 70-100 million people practicing Falun Dafa in China in 1999. It is now practised in more than 100 countries by millions around the world.
The trailer promoting the program has been heavily criticised by the Falun Dafa Association of Australia for “basic factual errors” and “inflammatory representations” of Falun Gong’s beliefs.
David Matas, a Canadian human rights lawyer and expert on the topic of forced organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China, said in a statement that the promotional material for the program on Falun Gong “is an exercise in bigotry or prejudice.”
“[It] is defamatory, degrading and demeaning to innocent practitioners of Falun Gong,” Matas said of the trailer.
The Association earlier sent a letter to the ABC expressing its concerns and also provided a detailed explanation of aspects of the Falun Gong teachings and practices that it says “were misrepresented in the ABC promotion, and raised concerns that ABC was being used to promote CCP narratives and vilify an already marginalised faith practice.”
“ABC has not responded to those concerns,” the Association said.
The Association said in a statement that the ABC report “appears to violate the ABC’s own Code of Practice regarding accuracy, balance, impartiality, fair treatment, open-mindedness, the avoidance of misleading information, sensitivity to foreign cultural practices, and harm mitigation.”
The Epoch Times reached out to the ABC for a comment but the broadcaster did not respond.