Falungong’s Signals of Defiance of China

Using relatively cheap technology, followers of Falungong were able to interrupt the World Cup Finals and the anniversary of the Hong Kong handover broadcast on Chinese state television. Their purpose was to counteract state propaganda that has branded Falungong as an evil cult. While most of the interruptions were in rural China, which often receives TV programs celebrating China’s modernization efforts, the broadcasts could have come from anywhere. An internet surfer in one China’s chat rooms boasted, “give me 1.5 million yuan and a roof-top and I, too, can do it. - YaleGlobal

Falungong’s Signals of Defiance of China

Jason Leow
Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Five pieces of readily available equipment costing about one million yuan (S$212,000) were all that the Falungong needed to block national broadcasting and beam its own propaganda into Chinese homes.

The technology was used to send a defiant message: The Falungong, although branded as an evil cult and banned, is here to stay.

Scholars said the hijack of the broadcasting, revealed by the Ministry of Information Industry on Monday, is likely to leave Beijing red-faced.

Falungong members took over nine national and 10 provincial channels by interfering with signals from state-run Sino Satellite (Sinosat) Technology Company between June 23 and June 30.

They did this with readily available digital broadcasting technology, said Sinosat's chief engineer Min Chang- ning yesterday.

All that was required were a video recorder, a digital television, an encoder, a satellite dish and an antennae.

These could have been bought in any major Chinese city for between one million and three million yuan, he told The Straits Times.

But the place from where the broadcasts were beamed was a 'company secret', he said.

In March, the Falungong had twice cut into transmissions in the north-eastern Jilin province and inserted reports on the alleged persecution of its followers.

The movement appears to have upped the ante with its latest attack.

China's chatrooms were abuzz yesterday with surfers wondering how US-based leader Li Hongzhi garnered the support for the attack.

At least one surfer said the act was simple enough,

'Give me 1.5 million yuan and a roof-top and I, too, can do it,' he wrote.

Scholars interviewed yesterday said Falungong's aim was to show off its large membership, which includes the technology-savvy.

The takeover of the broadcasts was a warning to the government that the movement has the expertise and funds to further its cause in the most unexpected ways, he said.

The attack on television signals happened during the World Cup finals, causing millions of Chinese to miss part of the games.

Broadcasts of the celebrations for the fifth anniversary of Hongkong's handover and news related to recent floods across the country were also interrupted, added the Information Ministry's Radio Regulatory Department on Monday.

Described by state officials as a 'hijack', Falungong's broadcasts reached mainly viewers in rural and remote areas, where it has become increasingly important for Beijing to beam party propaganda.

Instead of programmes extolling the modernising efforts of the Communist Party, viewers were treated to images of Falungong believers in meditation for about 20 seconds.

Professor Zhang Jilian of Beijing Normal University told The Straits Times that the Falungong had made a calculated move to infiltrate the rural areas.

'The government has done little public education there on the evils of the cult, so rural folk are probably more receptive to its propaganda,' he explained.

copyright © Straits Times 2002