Canadaís national public broadcaster is being accused of bowing
to pressure from Beijing for a second time after it produced
and aired a one-sided exposť smearing Falun Gong, a spiritual group persecuted
in China. The program aired last week.
Last November, the CBC pulled and edited a
documentary on the persecution of Falun Gong after receiving a phone call from
the Chinese embassy complaining about the planned broadcast.
Despite editing the film, titled Beyond the Red Wall, CBCís website was blocked in China
this January, a move the network attributed to airing the documentary. [Please
see these related articles: CBC Documentary Probes Falun Gong Persecution in
China<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> and CBC Pulls TV Documentary After Pressure From Chinese
On Thursday, the networkís French-language
Radio-Canada channel aired an unusual, one-sided indictment of Falun Gong,
portraying the group as a destructive force in Montrealís Chinatown while giving
sympathetic treatment to a Montreal newspaper man who has repeated Beijingís
defamations of the group and called for its eradication in Canada.
The program appears to have surprised even
two independent experts who were interviewed by the CBC for the broadcast. One
University of Montreal professor told The Epoch Times
the networkís chosen slant was "regrettable," while a former member of
parliament who appears in the broadcast called it "grossly unfair."
Lucy Zhou, a spokesperson for the Falun Dafa
Association of Canada, which represents Falun Gong practitioners in the country,
"I'm worried the CBC is catering to Beijing
with this program," she said.
The roughly half-hour program, called
"Malaise in Chinatown," appears as a diatribe against the meditation group.
Falun Gong is continually criticized without any counter arguments.
Oddly, many of the harshest words come from
the CBC journalist, Ms. Solveig Miller, who calls the group an "omnipresent
bothersome religion" that "generates a lot of mistrust outside China." Miller
alleges the group "jostled a fragile peace," when it arrived in Montreal.
But Falun Gong actually arrived in Montreal
in 1996 and there were no reports of controversy until the regime in China began
to repress the practice, say local Falun Gong practitioners. Soon after the
persecution began in 1999, anti-Falun Gong propaganda began turning up in
Chinese-language newspapers, most notably a Montreal newspaper published by
Crescent Chau, the protagonist in CBCís program.
Chau was approached by a Ms. Bing He, an
apparent agent of Beijing who offered to pay Chau to publish anti-Falun Gong
content. Chau accepted.
In his newspaper, Chau rallied readers to
join in efforts to eradicate Falun Gong in Canada and published special
anti-Falun Gong editions with content strikingly similar to those found in
state-run press in China.
Chauís newspaper alleged that Falun Gong
practitioners cut their stomachs open with knives, kill themselves and others,
and that in Montreal practitioners suck blood, have sex with animals, and commit
other disgusting and immoral acts.
The Chinese regime uses such allegations to
justify its claim that Falun Gong is a public health threat. But Human Rights
Watch has a different perspective. "The danger to health comes from the
treatment its practitioners receive at the hands of the police and prison
officials," said Sidney Jones, executive director of the Asia division of Human
Rights Watch in a report on the persecution of Falun Gong.
Falun Gong is actually a traditional Chinese
meditation practice based on cultivating truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance
in one's daily life.
The CBC report did not mention the content of
Chauís articles, nor that Chau continued publishing the content after two court
orders demanded that he cease.
Instead, Chau was described simply as the
owner of one of Chinatownís oldest newspapers and someone who had lived in
Canada for 30 years. The CBC said Chau was "exasperated" by Falun Gong
practitioners who had filed a lawsuit against him.
It was not long after CBC announced its
website had been blocked in China that Lucy Zhou says she was approached by
Zhou was told the network was doing a story
about Chauís newspaper and Falun Gong in Montrealís Chinatown, she says.
Producer Leon Laflamme told her that they did not want to talk about the
persecution, which Zhou considered essential context because Chauís newspaper
had been repeating the Chinese regimeís propaganda, and had only started doing
so after the persecution began in China. Zhou added that the groupís case
against Chau was still before the courts and declined the interview request.
Zhou spent several hours discussing the
matter with CBC she said.
It was the first time the Falun Dafa
Association of Canada had declined such a request. Yet the broadcast did not
mention Zhouís reasons for declining the interview and instead portrayed her
refusal as a fear of the press.
When The Epoch Times
called Miller to ask about the report, she was quick to get off the phone. She
said she was in a meeting, and that CBC was "looking into the matter" and hung
up. She did not answer the phone when we called back, nor return messages.
David Ownby, an expert in popular Chinese
religions who has studied Falun Gong, is one of two experts CBC interviewed for
the report who say their comments were selectively used. Although Ownby
expressed that he is sympathetic to Falun Gong's cause, he said that was not
reflected in the clips CBC used in its broadcast.
In fact, Prof. Ownby had testified as an
expert witness in the lawsuit Falun Gong practitioners filed against Chau in
Montreal. In court, he called Chau's articles "unsubstantiated filth poured upon
the page." CBC made no mention of Ownbyís critiques of Chau.
Yet in Ownby's opinion, Falun Gong
practitioners erred in declining CBC's interview request.
"That enables them to paint the Falun Gong as
secretive and difficult and paranoid. It played into the hands of someone that
does not want to portray you well," he said.
Ownby believes that by providing more
information to journalists, the group could dispel ideas that the group is
But Ms. Zhou disagrees.
"It was clear they had an agenda. Accepting
their interview would have only given a guise of objective journalism to their
biased attack," she said.
Though human rights groups and governments
agree Falun Gong is among the most severely persecuted groups in China, "Malaise
in Chinatown" looked at only one element of persecution faced by Falun Gong: the
reports of organ harvesting. And the program set out to refute that organ
harvesting was taking place without providing any of the supporting evidence.
CBC interviewed longtime MP David Kilgour,
Canadaís former Secretary of State for Asia Pacific. Kilgour investigated
allegations of organ snatching from Falun Gong
practitioners and co-authored a report titled "Bloody Harvest" with renowned human rights lawyer David
The report details a variety of evidence
that, when taken together, led the authors to conclude Falun Gong practitioners
are the victims of organ harvesting.
The CBC made no mention of the evidence in
Kilgour and Matasís report, nor that their findings had been endorsed by
high-profile figures like the U.N.ís Special Rapporteur on Torture, along with
prominent physicians and professors.
Following the Kilgour-Matas report, the
British Transplantation Society expressed concern about coercive organ donation
in China. Dr. Tom Treasure, writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of
Medicine, said the allegations are credible.
The Australian government has called on the
Chinese to allow an independent investigation into the claims, while two major
transplant hospitals in Australia banned the training of Chinese surgeons for
fear they may participate in organ harvesting.
Although CBC spoke with Kilgour for around 20
minutes, he said they must not have liked his answers because they only used
about 10 words, none of which included evidence of organ harvesting.
"I guess my bottom line would be that the
program was grossly unfair to the people who are concerned about the issue of
organ pillaging from Falun Gong," said Kilgour.
"David Matas and I have been in about 45
countries talking about this issue and I think I can say that I have never seen
such an unfair representation of our position."
"When I was a journalist, you were supposed
to try and give both sides fair treatment, and from this program, clearly there
was no attempt to give fair treatment to both sides."
It is not the first time that CBC has left
out Kilgourís comments on organ harvesting. The former MP was interviewed last
year in a program discussing human rights in the lead-up to the Beijing Games.
The CBC used only a few words from the interview and made no mention of organ
harvesting against Falun Gong, the core of Kilgourís research.
And then in November of last year CBC pulled
the Red Wall documentary. Among the most significant edits made were to cut out
material supporting the reports of organ harvesting.
Zhou says the pattern is alarming and
suggests the CBC is trying to help the regime cover-up these reports.
David Matas, the award-winning human rights
lawyer who co-authored the organ harvesting report with Kilgour, says the CBCís
latest report struck him as "ignorant."
"The reporter was trying to report on the
Falun Gong but really didnít understand anything of the nature of Falun Gong. I
think it manifested religious intolerance."
Matas, familiar with the history of how the
"Malaise in Chinatown" developed over the last several months, said it seemed
the reporter believed Falun Gong to be a tightly structured organization with
significant funds and went about trying to prove that point.
"This is not a balanced or fair inquiry into
the Falun Gong. Itís an indictment against the Falun Gong set up by the
"It was trying, I guess, to set up an
artificial and symmetrical conflict within Chinatown. It was just ignorant. It
didnít understand and didnít report accurately."