hundreds of thousands of Underground Print Shops Deliver Truth to China’s Masses
Posted by Author on May 13, 2011
For a decade in China hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, undaunted by the possibility of arrest and torture, have turned their homes into bases for what Chinese authorities regard as “reactionary propaganda,” and what everyone else regards as simple truths about the right to faith and freedom from persecution.
These bases, termed “materials sites” by their operators, produce fliers, booklets, and informational CD-ROMs. The wares are then slipped surreptitiously under doorsteps or nestled in mailboxes by practitioners of Falun Gong (also know as Falun Dafa), who travel at night alone or in pairs, in cities, towns, and villages across China.
Despite the breadth, penetration, and longevity of the campaign, many in the West have never heard of it.
Chen Pokong is a prominent writer and commentator in the overseas Chinese dissident community. “Through putting fliers in people’s mailboxes and directly giving them to people, Falun Gong practitioners are communicating with the ‘laobaixing’ directly,” he said, using the Chinese phrase for the common people. “It leaves the Communist Party at a total loss. They can’t block it.”
The Epoch Times was able to sketch a picture of the materials sites from interviews with former operators and users from different regions in China; experts who have studied Falun Gong’s resistance to persecution; and the wealth of material on the subject available from Falun Gong websites online.
From Appeal to Protest
Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center, an organization that monitors and analyzes the persecution of Falun Gong and practitioners’ resistance inside China, observes that in the immediate wake of the persecution in 1999, adherents were too bewildered to form a coordinated response.
They had previously only gotten together to practice Falun Gong’s five meditative exercises and study its spiritual and moral teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance; they were not ready to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) propaganda and domestic security apparatus, mobilized to “eradicate” their faith.
The initial approach practitioners took was that of the typical law-abiding Chinese citizen, believing that if only the central government understood the situation, the persecution would not continue. “They saw themselves as appealing to the government to help it uphold its own laws—defending and protecting the institutions that are there in theory,” Browde explained.
The situation began to evolve in 2001, Browde says, when anti-Falun Gong propaganda in the media became much more intense and pervasive—television shows attacking Falun Gong would air for hours each day. “Practitioners felt the need to ‘clarify the truth’ had become more pressing,” he said, using a phrase common in the Falun Gong community for referring to their grass-roots campaign.
They began circulating materials to debunk the propaganda and educate the Chinese people. The materials explained what Falun Gong is, that it was being persecuted (the people had little direct knowledge of the human rights abuses against practitioners), and that the persecution violated Chinese law and human rights.
By 2004, Browde explained, materials sites proliferated and had become more sophisticated and regularized. Censorship circumvention software developed by practitioners outside China had advanced by that time, too.
The practitioners’ goals also changed. In November 2004 The Epoch Times published an editorial series called Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, a history of the Party that describes its violent political campaigns over 60 years, including that against Falun Gong. Referring to the CCP, the “Nine Commentaries” calls for Chinese people to “see its nature clearly” and “abandon for good all illusions” about it.
The volume became a staple of materials sites from that time on. Practitioners, using the “Nine Commentaries,” began encouraging people to withdraw from the Communist Party and its associated groups.
As of 2009 the main Falun Gong website, Minghui Net, said there were 200,000 materials sites in China, at least one in every county. This figure is presumed to be based from the number of times certain materials were downloaded from the website by unique IP addresses.
According to interviews with Falun Gong adherents who have recently left China, in many cases friends, family members, and colleagues of practitioners went from agreeing with the Party’s propaganda on Falun Gong to becoming out-and-out supporters of practitioners and condemning the CCP.
Mary, a practitioner from Shandong Province now living in the United States, said that in the early years it would be common to get hostile looks or have fliers rejected. More recently, she said people who saw her out depositing materials in letterboxes or bicycle baskets would furtively ask her: “Do you have any of those CDs?”
Chen Pokong sees practitioners’ efforts as having wider implications for human rights in China. “Learning the truth about Falun Gong’s persecution, learning about the defense of rights and civil rights, I think this is something that can really wake up the Chinese people,” he said. “It’s educating them about these matters generally,” he said.
“This is terribly significant. This method can cancel out the indoctrination by CCP-controlled television stations and newspapers. Falun Gong practitioners have been doing this for years, and as far as I know the response they’re getting is better and better,” Chen said.
Wang Jia, a 54-year-old from Changchun, Jilin Province, who came to Canada last year, operated a materials site from her home from 2005 to 2010. She says that 90 percent of her friends and acquaintances came to change their views of Falun Gong and the Communist Party due to her efforts. She doesn’t know how many others read the materials she produced and changed their minds.
Jiang Ning, a 58-year-old woman from Shandong Province now living in Canada, said she used to spend five or six hours a day preparing materials. She said the changes in peoples’ views of Falun Gong over the years have been significant.
Distribution methods vary widely: from blanketing every mailbox and bicycle basket in every apartment building on a given block, to targeting particular high-level Party cadres, retired officials, or other key people. Some practitioners paid for courier deliveries of Falun Gong CD-ROMs to high-ranking officials, guaranteeing they reached the right hands.
Danger lurks at every turn of the materials sites’ operation: from buying the materials and printers, ferrying them between drop points and the site itself, getting the finished products into the hands of distributors, to guarding the identities of staff.
Those who run the materials sites never speak directly about their activities. “I bought you a new spool of cotton,” Wang would say to a friend when going to deliver the new lectures from Master Li Hongzhi, founder of Falun Gong. When she successfully finished a round of handing out DVDs or fliers, she would call and say, “Today was smooth going, I sold all 20 prawns!” The buying of “new pants” also became part of their own jargon.
It’s common in China for people to gift each other boxes of food, and practitioners will often use such boxes to cart around papers or fliers or booklets about the persecution.
Adherents who are caught are frequently brutalized. Liu Lihua was a retired schoolteacher in Yantai City in Shandong Province. She was arrested on March 19, 2009, for distributing Falun Gong materials. She was released on Sept. 30, but died on Jan. 28, 2010, from the abuse she had suffered during her detention, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center.
Mary explained why practitioners run these sites. “Being able to express oneself is the most basic right. We had no right to speak anywhere after the persecution began,” she said. Many practitioners’ health conditions were very poor and they feel that Falun Gong saved their lives. They will naturally stand up to defend it when under attack, she said.
Jiang Ning explained that Falun Gong practitioners are “rescuing” Chinese people from the hatred and lies that the Communist Party instilled in them against Falun Gong; they are seeking to treat others with compassion, to do what is good for them.
Materials sites have taken root in China and will not be going away, interviewees said. “It doesn’t matter how much money they spend, they’re never going to be able to stop this,” Chen Pokong said, referring to the CCP’s efforts to stamp them out. Materials sites should make the Party “rethink the consequences” of the 1999 decision to persecute Falun Gong, he said.
“Now Falun Gong has become the CCP’s biggest enemy. These material sites show the power of Falun Gong inside China, they frighten the CCP, and the Party is probably regretting it badly at this point,” Chen said.
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This entry was posted on May 13, 2011 at 7:58 pm and is filed under China, Falun Gong, Human Rights, News, People, Politics, Religious, Social, World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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