A leaked document purportedly from Chinese authorities in the northeastern area of Liaoning Province indicates that they have intensified the persecution of the spiritual practice Falun Gong and other groups.
Bitter Winter, an online English-language magazine covering human rights in China, made the document public on Nov. 21. The website previously has leaked similar internal Chinese Communist Party directives.
The latest document, released with redactions, is from the 610 Office branch in Liaoning Province. The 610 Office is a secret police force established by former Chinese Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin in 1999 expressly to carry out the persecution of Falun Gong.
Jiang, feeling threatened by the group’s enormous popularity—there were about 70 million to 100 million practitioners in China by the late 1990s, according to official estimates—ordered adherents around the country to be thrown into prisons, brainwashing centers, and labor camps, in an effort to force them to abandon their faith. The 610 Office, officially assigned to deal with “heretical teachings,” played a central role in gathering intelligence on Falun Gong practitioners, tracking them down, and placing them in detention, where they were often tortured.
The Chinese regime has labeled Falun Gong and other minority faiths as “heretical sects” in order to turn public opinion against such groups.
The document details a campaign launched in October and to be carried out until December that will target “heretical believers” and punish them for their online activities, naming both Falun Gong and other targets, though with a strong emphasis on the former.
The document was circulated to all 610 Office branches as well as the Liaoning Propaganda Department, Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau, Public Security Bureau (akin to police), Justice Bureau, provincial court, and prosecutor’s office, according to Bitter Winter.
The document outlines a “mission” to crack down on Falun Gong practitioners’ activities. “Attack at first sight, and use high-pressure intimidation,” it said.
This is chiefly done by finding the key coordinators among Falun Gong adherents, locating their underground site of activities, and destroying the locations where they manufacture “counter-propaganda.” Many Falun Gong practitioners in China work to spread awareness about the Chinese regime’s ongoing persecution while evading the authorities, through methods such as printing fliers and copying CDs at home.
Another focus of the campaign is cracking down on Falun Gong practitioners’ online activities, such as on popular social media platforms like QQ and WeChat, in order to prevent them from communicating with each other and spreading information about Beijing’s persecution online, the document said.
The document also calls for ramping up the “knocking on doors” campaign to catch any Falun Gong adherents who were not accounted for previously. According to the U.S.-based website Minghui.org, the “knocking on doors” campaign began in March 2017, whereby a team of police visit the homes of practitioners to probe whether they are still practicing the faith. Anyone found in possession of Falun Gong-related literature or materials is usually detained.
The 610 Office particularly mentions Minghui.org, as well as the Chinese-language Epoch Times and its sister media, NTD, as sources for detecting “whistleblowers” who spread “internet political rumors”—in other words, information about the persecution. Correspondents for Minghui.org have tracked individual cases of Falun Gong practitioners’ persecution since 1999, while both The Epoch Times and NTD have covered the subject extensively, sometimes with the assistance of anonymous sources within China.
Liaoning Province authorities’ emphasis on exposing and targeting whistleblowers is a heretofore unheard-of effort to stamp out information about the Falun Gong persecution from reaching domestic citizens and the outside world.
The amped-up crackdown is also a reversal of the central authorities’ decision in March to weaken the 610 Office’s power, after the Chinese Communist Party decided to merge the 610 Office and two other offices dedicated to suppressing dissent as part of broader structural reforms. Observers at the time believed the move meant the Falun Gong persecution was becoming a lesser priority.
It is unclear whether the aggressive campaign in Liaoning Province is an anomaly or indicative of a larger developing trend.