Provocateur E-mails Frame Spiritual Group, Bewilder Recipients

May 4, 2011 Updated: May 4, 2011

For months now e-mails have been going out around the world to academics, politicians, nongovernmental organizations, and media workers, making unhinged, overzealous, and often maniacal claims. The senders say they are practitioners of Falun Gong, (also known as Falun Dafa) a Chinese spiritual discipline. Recipients, who may be greeted as “You garbage-brained idiot,” often don’t know what to think.

Scott Lowe, a professor and chair of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, was met with that salutation in an Oct. 12 e-mail last year. “Odd, to say the least,” he observed in an e-mail to The Epoch Times.

Lowe had received similar e-mails every few days for a couple of months until recently. “They were pretty weird and made me immediately suspicious,” he said.

The e-mails he received included out-of-the-blue requests with no context, written in wacky Chinglish, for advice on matters of Falun Gong doctrine, or contained excerpts of experiences of Falun Gong practitioners from Falun Gong websites.

Executive Director of the Falun Dafa Information Center Levi Browde, believes that what Lowe received was part of a concerted, albeit strange, campaign. “These e-mails are the latest attempt by the Chinese Communist Party to destroy the reputation of Falun Gong,” he said in an interview.

Someone calling himself “Mike Strike” was particularly interested in giving the appearance of heavy-handed proselytizing to Lowe. Lowe was not sure whether he was dealing with a Chinese provocateur or an overly enthusiastic Falun Gong follower.

“It’s a perfectly weird thing to send someone you don’t know,” he wrote.

“I, at least, know what Falun Gong is, so I have some context for the story being recounted. If I were, say, a foreign diplomat or government employee who’d received the e-mail, I’d presumably think whoever sent it was unhinged,” he wrote.

After the Falun Dafa Information Center published a press release describing the e-mails, dozens of recipients in various fields have forwarded what they received to the information center.

Kyle Thomas, a psychology researcher at Harvard University, received a plaintive note on April 26 from “Simone, a senior high school student living in America.”

The e-mail began by saying that Falun Gong is “the most supernaturalscience” and that the founder of Falun Gong “has a lot of special thoughts, which are attractive to me very much.” Then it elaborated on how the practice was apparently making her paranoid about her friends and family.

The e-mail was traced back to Hangzhou, China, according to the header information made available to The Epoch Times.

“Simone Yuang” has a history of sending such e-mails. Simone Yuang was the same name used by someone claiming to be a Falun Gong practitioner in an e-mail sent to all of the Auckland, New Zealand, city councilors on Feb. 25. That e-mail said that those people who died in the Christchurch earthquake got what they deserved. Councilor Cathy Casey characterized that e-mail as “reprehensible.”

When Kyle Thomas was informed of the provenance of the e-mail he received, he wrote: “Wow, how ridiculous. I don’t know anything about Falun Gong… but I can’t believe the [Chinese] government cares enough to do stupid things like this. I was mainly just confused by the e-mail.”

With the direct-sell approach of sending out e-mails the CCP is able to circumvent the discredited state-media propaganda model and get its message in front of VIPs in the form of concocted, irrational Falun Gong testimonials, interviewees said.

“It’s a new way of packaging an old message,” says Browde. “But the propaganda line is the same.”

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