Recently, Falun Gong posters have been popping up in public places in Chinese cities. These posters are banned—but not just that. With such a severe persecution of the spiritual group ongoing in China, getting caught putting up a poster could mean being thrown in jail or a labor camp.
Falun Dafa posters in Shanghai
“Falun Dafa is Good” banners in Heilongjiang Province
Falun Dafa banners in Heibei province
Falun Dafa poster in Shandong province
What’s the big deal about a few banners and posters?
According to adherents of the spiritual practice, human rights organizations, and the UN (Document Numbers: Manfred Nowak, A/HRC/13/39/Add.1, A/HRC/13/39/Add.5; Asma Jahangir, A/HRC/13/40/Add.1; Margaret Sekaggya, A/HRC/13/22/Add.1) to date, there are nearly 3,500 confirmed deaths as a result of the crackdown. Many more have been illegally imprisoned or sent to labor camps, where they face severe torture and abuse.
So why we can still see posters saying “Falun Dafa is Good” and calls to end the crackdown against Falun Gong throughout China?
We spoke over the phone with Levi Browde, the Executive Director of the Falun Dafa Information Center in New York. Here is what he told us.
Are these posters an isolated phenomenon, or do they indicate a revival of Falun Gong in China?
I think neither. I think this has been one of the standard methods practitioners have used for years to verbalize either what’s happening to them or just to set the record straight on the nature of the Falun Gong, because the media there is completely blocked.
So this is one of the channels that everyday citizens have used to tell people that Falun Gong is not what the Chinese Communist Party says it is and that the persecution is happening, it’s ongoing and it’s very vicious.
These banners…it doesn’t always get reported out to the West… even over to our websites, but it is something that has been going on for years in towns and cities throughout China…
This is one thing they do. And the other is they print leaflets and newsletters and distribute them usually under safe conditions at night… to buildings through China. To get the word out, about what the Falun Gong is really about and what the persecution is about…
It might be new for people in the West [as it] hasn’t had a lot of visibility but it is something that has been going on for years, and they’ve been doing it very consistently.
Why hasn’t this had much visibility in the West?
Well, I think that’s an important question, and more broadly it’s an important question why the Falun Gong topic is not something that’s featured very much in Western press.
I think there are a number of factors. I think one: there is a taboo factor where, you know, there are certain topics—Falun Gong is one—that if Western media cover heavily, they’ll run into trouble with the Chinese regime. And media entities are also companies, and they have a concern about getting kicked out of China. I think that’s definitely one thing.
Another is that it may perhaps in many Western minds…perhaps it’s no longer breaking news or something that fits, you know, the headlines of today. Some might have a notion that it’s kind of an old story.
And I think the third thing is that people don’t realize the significance. You walk by a pole in Shanghai and you see a Falun Gong poster. People don’t realize and even Western media don’t realize that the persecution of Falun Gong first of all, is as vicious now as it ever was. It affects tens of millions of people. That’s something that still doesn’t fully register with even fairly educated Western media [reporters] in China. And so perhaps it’s thought that there’s not enough of a story there, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.
So what’s the meaning of seeing Falun Gong posters throughout China?
I think as Chinese it’s very informative, because again, this is telling a story that they are not going to hear anywhere else. They are not going to hear it on television or newspaper there. It’s all controlled. So I think it’s eye-opening to Chinese citizens.
For folks in the West, it would depend on how much they understand the background. It really would. Whether they understand the significance of that poster and all that it is saying and all that has gone into this grassroots effort to post these things.
I think it’s really going to depend on how much the Westerner understands what’s really happening on the ground of China…what they need to understand is that there’s tens of millions of people, who for the last ten years have been victims of a campaign that uses every instrument of the state to squeeze them out. To not give them a life, fires them from their jobs, expels them from school, doesn’t let them have housing; they are at risk to randomly being picked up, abducted, put in a jail, put in a labor camp for years. This is how tens of millions of Falun Gong practitioners have lived.
And by-and-large, the wool has been pulled over the eyes of the Chinese citizenry, because the media has portrayed Falun Gong in a completely opposite nature of what it is and marginalized Falun Gong. And so [people] should look at these leaflets as the few and only channels to get the word out on what’s really happening to these tens of millions of people.
It’s extraordinary for the historic nature of it, for the scale of it… even in a country as populous as China, tens of millions of people, it’s a lot of people to be subjected to [persecution]… And so, as far as I can tell, this [type of campaign] is the largest grassroots underground media in the history of the world.