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Beijing Exports Its Religious Suppression to US Textbooks: Report

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The Chinese regime has exported its ultra-leftist suppression of religions to U.S. soil through defamatory materials in college textbooks, a new report has found.

Titled “Surveillance, Slander, and Censorship,” the report released on May 25 by the New York-based Falun Dafa Information Center (FalunInfo) surveyed dozens of university campuses across the United States with a presence of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline heavily persecuted in communist China, to examine how the Chinese regime’s persecution is affecting adherents of the faith in the United States. 

It found that at least 10 universities, including Yale University, Brown University, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, and Wellesley College, use curriculum materials for a Chinese language course that contained defamatory information about the spiritual practice. 

The textbook, titled “Discussing Everything Chinese,” contains a section on Falun Gong that “attempts to legitimize the CCP’s religious persecution against Falun Gong by misrepresenting the practice and framing its adherents as possessing psychological problems,” the report stated.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline involving meditative exercises and moral teachings based on three core principles: truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. The practice gained popularity in China during the 1990s, with estimates putting the number of adherents at 70 million to 100 million.

The communist regime, fearing that the number of practitioners posed a threat to its authoritarian control, initiated a sweeping campaign starting in July 1999 and continues today, to suppress the practice and its adherents.

Since then, millions in China have been detained in prisons, labor camps, and other facilities, with hundreds of thousands tortured while incarcerated, according to the FalunInfo.

A critical component of the CCP’s persecution is its disinformation campaign against the practice, aimed at turning Chinese citizens against Falun Gong and its adherents. To this end, the regime has relied heavily on propaganda, inciting hatred against the spiritual discipline and vilifying its practitioners.

The CCP’s propaganda campaign expanded to the West, where it focuses on “malign and inaccurate[ly]” labeling Falun Gong as a “cult,”  in an attempt to demonize the practice, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center’s report.

“The physical dimensions of the CCP’s campaign to wipe out Falun Gong have been accompanied by a massive, systematic propaganda effort to defame and slander Falun Gong, to spread falsehoods, and to incite unfounded fears that the group is dangerous or violent,” stated the report.

“Discussing Everything Chinese” echoes CCP propaganda, the report continues, by introducing broad statements like, “Falun Gong can lead people to madness,” and accusing practitioners of promoting “extreme ideas such as starvation, forced sleep deprivation, and rejection of any medical treatment”—claims that FalunInfo contests. Assignments even ask students to associate the spiritual practice with heretics.

The textbook also includes exercises that endorsed China’s One-Child Policy “as a legitimate means of controlling population growth” and promote “a strong anti-american sentiment,” according to the report.

Harassment and Censorship

The report found that in at least nine universities, survey respondents faced or heard of interference with Falun Gong events; six of those cases involved the consulate-linked Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA). 

Supposedly created to help international students and promote cultural exchange, CSSAs form part of Beijing’s sprawling overseas influence activities run under the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) United Front Work Department (UFWD). The party unit coordinates thousands of groups to carry out foreign political influence operations, suppress dissident movements, gather intelligence, and facilitate the transfer of U.S. technology to China, according to analysts.

One case occurred at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), where the Falun Dafa club co-hosted a screening of the documentary “In the Name of Confucius,” which exposes ties between Confucius Institutes—a Chinese language program attaching to over 1,600 foreign universities and schools around the world—and the Chinese regime.

Epoch Times Photo
(Supplied by the official website of “In the name of Confucius”)

The event was co-hosted with the Athenai Institute and Students for a Free Tibet, and was advertised by the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GAPSA). 

After the event, at least 79 students and former graduates linked to the CSSA sent complaints to GAPSA, framing the event hosts as “anti-China” organizations, stated the report. They also accused GAPSA for promoting the event, labeling it as an “act of marginalization against the Chinese Community at UPenn.”

According to FalunInfo’s report, some tried to delegitimize the event by saying it promoted “anti-Asian hate,” despite the fact that both the director of the film and the Falun Gong club president are of Chinese ethnicity.

“The attempt fits a pattern reported at other university campuses of Chinese students lodging complaints about events critical of the CCP, claiming they promote anti-Asian hatred,” the report stated.

The CSSA-affiliated students also held a campaign of online harassment and pressured the university to penalize the Falun Gong club.

As a result, the then Falun Gong Club president claimed to have suffered ongoing trauma and anxiety from the harassment, according to the report. 

Stigma and Trauma

“Aggressive harassment campaigns and misleading depictions of the practice in textbooks, media reports, and presentations by Chinese students—often affiliated with CSSAs—can contribute to discrimination, intimidation, and trauma for students who practice Falun Gong,” stated the report.

FalunInfo’s survey found that many Falun Gong adherents at universities feel “afraid of stigma” and “negative reactions” from Chinese students or faculty members. Some even recounted experiencing backlash from second generation Chinese or non-Chinese students who had read the CCP’s propaganda.

A fifth of the survey respondents claimed feeling somewhat or very uncomfortable self-identifying as a Falun Gong adherent or speaking about it in class.

Respondents also mentioned online harassment and social media posts aimed to dissuade people from joining Falun Gong events or interacting with practitioners.

“Discrimination and stigma are experienced [at U.S. university campuses] … in ways that would be widely viewed as unacceptable in the case of other faiths,” concluded the report.

These experiences resemble what Falun Gong practitioners in China have been suffering for more than two decades due to heavy brainwashing of their peers against Falun Gong, which prompted them to become social pariahs, humiliated, and bullied.

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