C h i n a N e w s D i g e s t
August 16, 1999
Falungong: No Stranger to Confrontation With Press
[CND, 08/15/99] Falungong's relationships with Chinese media has often been marked by angry confrontations and vociferous protests, the China Daily reported Saturday.
Before China officially outlawed the group, which the China Daily called a cult, last month, many Chinese media outlets have experienced first-hand the great wrath Falungong was able to invoke upon them, usually after they ran stories casting the group in an unflattering light.
SONG Lingjun, Editor-in-Chief of the Qiantang Weekend, a Hangzhou-based publication, remembered well his run-in with Falungong in December 1997. Angry responses from Falungong practitioners started to flood in after Qiantang Weekend carried a story critical of Falungong's "unreasonable and dangerous" practice of prohibiting followers from taking medicine, resulting in the death of a staff reporter who was also a follower. Phone calls and letters demanding apologies from the publication eventually escalated to personal confrontations and office break-ins, culminating in a sit-in by hundreds of Falungong members outside of Qiantang's office building. Song and his colleagues were extremely frustrated and angry about the group's refusal to take the matter to court, despite their offer. "If their freedom of speech was justified, as they said, then where was our freedom of speech?" a flabbergasted Song asked.
ZHOU Fangzheng, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Beijing-based Health Digest, echoed Qiantang Weekend's distaste with Falungong's approach to criticism. "The Falungong leaders will try all means to harass you if you say anything against it," Zhou said, relating a story of how hundreds of the groups followers surrounded his office after Health Digest ran an anti-Falungong article in May 1998. In the article, the health-oriented publication urged Falungong followers to seek medical help for their ailments, rather than entrusting their healths to the proclaimed "cure-all" Falungong, which Zhou regarded as "ridiculous and lacked basic medical knowledge."
As many as 18 mass sit-ins have been organized by Falungong leaders and their "misguided followers," the China Daily article said, citing earlier report by the Xinhua News Agency. (LUO Zhen yuan, WU Yiyi)