The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has again managed to influence organisations within Australia, with event organisers of a nationally-broadcast Christmas parade taking place in Western Australia (WA) banning a renowned Falun Dafa performance of traditional Chinese culture.
Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a traditional Chinese self-improvement discipline that consists of five meditative exercises along with moral teachings centred on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. The practice was first introduced to the public on May 13, 1992, by founder Li Hongzhi in China. It attracted between 70 million and 100 million adherents within just a few years as a result of its benefits to people’s health and well-being.
But in July 1999, the Chinese regime launched a nationwide persecution campaign involving the arrests, detention, and torture of Falun Dafa adherents. An independent tribunal later found “beyond reasonable doubt” that practitioners had been subject to crimes against humanity with their organs forcefully harvested en masse.
However, the CCP continues to make efforts to suppress Falun Dafa outside of China.
Falun Dafa had initially been invited to participate in the 2021 Perth Christmas Pageant by the event’s organiser, Seven West Media, which is owned by billionaire Kerry Stokes, and the parent to 7News and The West Australian—with Falun Dafa practitioners in Perth regularly displaying traditional Chinese culture through dancing dragons and a drum troupe in events around the city.
Emails seen by The Epoch Times reveals that a request to be introduced in the parade under the name “Falun Dafa” had prompted an event manager to outline the group could only perform on the condition that any reference to their name was completely removed.
But in a later email, the representative quickly changed the verdict, banning the group altogether.
“Upon further discussion with my pageant stakeholders, unfortunately, we are no longer able to accommodate your group in the pageant due to operational reasons.”
The Seven West employee refused to accept a request for a meeting, instead claiming the group would be too political for the event.
“The pageant is, in all respects, an apolitical event and we cannot allow participation by any group that may give rise, however remotely, to the airing of international political issues, or any matter of political controversy,” the Seven West employee said.
“The pageant is not a forum for those involved in such issues to be represented and it gives rise to potential conflict and security issues for the event.”
Mark Hutchison, a Falun Dafa practitioner from Perth, expressed grave disappointment, saying that the performance—which participated freely in the same event in 2011 and 2012—had only served to show traditional Chinese culture and did not include any political elements.
“There’s nothing political about it. We are trying to show a beautiful practice with a beautiful golden dragon dance, drum troupe, and heavenly celestial maidens,” he said.
Concerns of Foreign Interference
However, Hutchison was also deeply concerned that this was not the first time the group face pressure to be silent.
In 2018, Hutchison alleged he was told by a Seven West employee that they would no longer be allowed to participate in that year’s Christmas pageant after it had received a call from the Chinese consulate in Perth.
He claimed this eventually led to a compromise where the group had to remove all references to Falun Dafa but were promised they would be introduced as Falun Dafa over the national television broadcast. But he said Seven West proceeded to remove all references to the group in the final edit without their knowledge.
Expert on CCP influence in Australia, Tshung Chang, alleged that Seven West had sufficient motivation to censor Falun Dafa due to the ties between the Chinese Communist Party leaders and the organisation’s owner, Kerry Stokes.
“As great an Australian Kerry Stokes is, he has deep business interests in China—which he has himself talked about in various forums—and so he knows not to ruffle any feathers,” Chang told The Epoch Times.
“Stokes’ well-known list of dealings with China includes his close relationship with President Xi Jinping, who dined at Stokes’ residence in China prior to becoming president, as well as his position on Huawei’s International Advisory Council since 2010,” Chang said.
“It also includes Stokes’ Australian Capital Equity—a firm that had previously owned the WesTrac Caterpillar franchise in China, while also being the first foreign firm to partly own a daily newspaper in China, the English-language Shanghai Daily.”
“So when the Chinese consul tells Kerry Stokes’ organisation responsible for the event, ‘I don’t want these people or this group to take part,’ they automatically know what to do.”
The Epoch Times reached out to Seven West Media for a comment but did not receive a reply.
A Display of Drums and Dragons
While the Christmas pageant had blocked Falun Dafa’s performance, the same group had been welcomed at numerous venues in 2021, including the largest community event in the city—the Perth Royal Show—which saw 350,000 visitors over the course of a week.
Another event attended by the group was the Diwali Festival of Lights held at the port town of Fremantle.
“The performance was beautiful,” said Gina Blakemore, a coordinator of the Festival of Lights event.”I thought it brought a lot of excitement, with the drumming, the movement of the dragon, the colour … the crowd really enjoyed it.”
Blakemore said she had received no complaints from any of the event organisers or attendees that raised concerns of political issues, despite introducing Falun Dafa to the event over speakers and with many performers brandishing shirts containing the group’s name.
She did not agree with the ban of Falun Dafa from the Christmas pageant and said that it would have instead been beneficial for those wanting to look up and research the human rights abuses committed against Falun Dafa practitioners in China.
“I think that there is no harm in making people aware of the situations around the world that are happening,” she said.
“There’s no harm in young people and children learning about these things happening because this is what is happening in our world, and it is something that we need to be aware of, and deal with, and have an opinion on.”