The French Military School Strategic Research Institute (IRSEM), an organization under the French Ministry of Armed Forces, published a report on September 20 titled “Chinese Influence Operations” (Les operations d’influence chinoises).
Available at the organization’s website (https://www.irsem.fr/), this 646-page report illustrates how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influences and infiltrates other governments through the Party organization, Chinese government, Chinese military, and state-owned enterprises as well as private businesses. Citing information from articles, videos, and social media, the report unveils a comprehensive “United Front” framework by the CCP to control others through overseas Chinese, media, diplomacy, economy, politics, education, think tanks, culture, and so on. On the one hand, the CCP lures others to “to project a positive image of herself in the world, to arouse admiration”; on the other hand, “Beijing has intensified infiltration and coercion: its influence operations have hardened considerably in recent years” to push through the communist agenda.
In this report, there are 79 places that covers the CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong, a meditation system based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. In addition, the opening of the report stresses that it targets the CCP, not China or Chinese people. There is a difference between these two.
|A report was published by the French Military School Strategic Research Institute (IRSEM) on September 20.|
This report also includes concrete examples of how the CCP bought off overseas Chinese media and Chinese organizations to spread fake information that demonizes Falun Gong and incites hatred. Moreover, the CCP threatens and intimidates Falun Gong practitioners through Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA, an organization network under Chinese embassies and consulates across countries), individual Chinese students studying in the overseas, and Fifty-Cent members (who used to be paid 50 cents per post that glorifies the CCP).
The report has collected extensive information with a thorough analysis of the CCP regime, which is rare in official documents from the French government. Here we would like to cite some contents related to the suppression of Falun Gong.
The 610 Office
According to the report, Falun Gong is a spiritual system that improves both mind and body. It became popular in China with tens of millions of followers. Then CCP top leader Jiang Zemin viewed the practice as a threat because the CCP does not allow the existence of any entity beyond its control.
As a result, the 610 Office was launched. With agents both inside and outside China, this extralegal agency has taken actions globally in an attempt to eradicate Falun Gong.
Paid Publication to Slander Falun Gong
The report indicates that the CCP pays media in other countries to publish articles that defame Falun Gong. By doing so, it creates a misconception that such negative views about Falun Gong are from a “third party” and thus more “credible.”
For example, an agent provided 20,000 pesos (about 200 Euros) to editors-in-chief of numerous Argentina media in April 2020 to publish an article against Falun Gong written in “crappy Spanish.” The media targeted included El Cronista Comercial, Diario Popular, and online platform Infobae. This article contained a large amount of false information about Falun Gong and was meant to destroy Falun Gong’s reputation. It also included verbiage that the CCP often uses to defame and demonize Falun Gong. In other words, it spread a message from the CCP through overseas media outlets.
This incident was exposed because one editor the agent contacted felt he should contact a coworker – a Falun Gong practitioner – about this. Both Falun Dafa Information Center and Epoch Times obtained a copy of this article. This agent admitted he worked for the “Chinese” on this matter.
Sending Emails with Fake Identities
To further frame Falun Gong, some “attackers” sent humiliating emails, in the name of Falun Gong practitioners, to ministers and parliaments in Canada and other countries.
One member of the Canada Falun Dafa Association said that there was evidence that CCP agents “systematically” and “repeatedly” sent such emails to officials at all levels across countries to undermine Falun Gong. The IP addresses of some of these emails came from China.
Role of CSSA
Many overseas Chinese students are under pressure from the CSSA, which often instructed them to do certain things and not to do certain things. For example, one student at the University of Ottawa received a threatening email from CSSA. “Based on testimonies from other students and investigation from CSSA officials, you are still a Falun Gong practitioner. You’d better watch yourself,” wrote the email.
A similar situation occurred in the University of Calgary. Some CSSA members received emails from someone who claimed to be a CCP agent. The email discouraged them from attending a movie played by the Friends of Falun Gong club on campus. “Otherwise, your name and photo will be reported to the (CCP) central government,” the email wrote.
Language used by the CSSA in communications indicated this organization functions as a spokesperson for the CCP. CSSA from the University of Toronto pressured the city in 2004 to withdraw its recognition of “Falun Dafa Day.” In the following year, CSSA in the University of Ottawa interfered with NTD’s application for a local TV station. Its letter contained phrases that were exactly the same as that used by overseas CCP ambassadors.
Four years ago, the CSSA president at Australian National University of Canberra saw the campus pharmacy had Epoch Times newspapers for free pickup and asked who gave the authorization. The president persisted until the pharmacy discarded the newspapers.
There are many examples of this kind. Some overseas Chinese students seem to feel they own all the privileges on campus. They knew the schools rely on them financially and used that as leverage. Their behaviors are also supported and encouraged by the Chinese authorities.
Largest Transnational Repression
The report says the CCP’s first goal is silencing overseas Chinese, including dissidents with different opinions and those who grew up in the free world. The main targets are minorities and certain faith groups including Tibetans, Uyghurs, Inner Mongolians, and Falun Gong practitioners. Also targeted are dissidents in Taiwan and democratic advocates (such as Hong Kong residents since 2019), human rights defenders, human rights journalists, and former officials wanted by the CCP for “corruption.” This massive campaign by the CCP was described by human rights organizations as the most sophisticated, largest, and most comprehensive global repression.
In terms of implementation of its goal, the CCP monitors these organizations and individuals regardless of their nationalities – as long as they are Chinese descendants. The tactics range from information gathering, infiltration, suppression, threat, intimidation, harassment, and even direct violence. Occasionally, it coerces local governments to arrest and extradite individuals. The latter cases happened in India, Thailand, Serbia, Malaysia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, UAE, Turkey, Nepal, and others.
Censor and Control Overseas Chinese Media
It is well known that Beijing controls Chinese media globally, including in North America. In fact, nearly all Chinese media in Canada are controlled by the CCP. The only exceptions are Epoch Times and NTD Television, two popular independent media. When their reporters planned to go to China in 2005 to report on the Canadian Primer Minister’s trip, their visas were first issued and then revoked.
Besides the Chinese authorities, even Canadian officials sometimes restrict these two media to avoid retaliation from Beijing. For example, when former Chinese president Hu Jintao visited Ottawa in 2005, these two media could not receive permits to cover related events. Same thing happened when Hu visited Ottawa again in 2010.
To tame overseas Chinese media, the CCP’s two primary tools are carrot (encouraging news media’s self-censorship in exchange for financial benefits) and stick (threat and harassment of reporters’ relatives in China). In addition, the CCP also tried to regulate and train these reporters with the CCP narratives. For example, under organization by local Unite Front from the CCP, International New Media Cooperation Organization was launched in Vancouver in 2014 to unite all pro-CCP Chinese media in North America.
Infiltration Through the Confucius Institute
Another financial leverage of the CCP is the Confucius Institute. Salvatore Babones, Associate Professor from the University of Sydney, says the impact of the Confucius Institute is not limited to its propaganda, but also includes influence on the college administration. More specifically, Beijing has the key to opening the door – funding, teachers, salary, and equipment. It may even offer a building or a language center for a college that is under financial stress. Many colleges find it difficult to turn down such offers. In turn, they become dependent on Beijing, which later turns to an obedience relationship.
Following that, Beijing would influence these colleges’ decision-making. This could even expand to some research projects (such as restricting studies on Tibet, Taiwan, or strategic ending of the CCP’s influence), limiting freedom of speech and belief (especially Falun Gong) of staff members, which guest speakers to invite, and the college’s position on the CCP. This would all lead to self-censorship.
Closure of Confucius Institute in Lyon
The report says there are still 18 Confucius Institutes in France, but some have been closed. One example is the Confucius Institute at Jean Moulin University Lyon 3, which was established in 2009 based on a proposal from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong Province, China.
But after a new director was appointed in 2012, the relationship between both sides worsened. Gregory Lee, a professor at the university, said the new director questioned the curriculum and insisted on penetrating the university deeper with the Confucius Institute, including allowing the latter to issue diplomas. Lee said that this would undermine academic freedom, as well as the spirit and policy of higher education in France.
In the end, Hanban (Confucius Institutes Headquarters) went further and stopped annual donations without notifying him. After negotiations failed, Lee decided to close the facility in September 2013.
Incident at Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium
Jonathan Manthorpe, Canadian columnist and China expert, considers the Confucius Institutes mainly a tool for CCP’s propaganda and spying activities, although they are often decorated as a cultural exchange program. Li Changchun, a standing member of the CCP’s Politburo, also admitted the Institutes are a vital component of the CCP’s overseas propaganda. In reality, they serve as a spying hub for the Chinese embassies and consulates, to control students, collect information from so-called “enemies” and threaten people with different opinions.
One good example is Song Xinning, director of Confucius Institute at Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium. In 2019, Belgian intelligence charged Song with engaging in 8 years of spying activities. While teaching Chinese at the institute, Song used his title as a cover-up to recruit members for Chinese intelligence.
As a result, Song was expelled and barred from entry in the Schengen Area (a border control coalition formed by 26 European countries) for 8 years. In addition, this Confucius Institute was also closed.
Diplomat Visa Renewal Denied for Persecuting Falun Gong
In 2006, the Canadian government denied a visa renewal application by Wang Pengfei, Second Secretary of the Education Office of the Chinese Embassy at Ottawa. Wang was also asked to leave Canada.
This happened because Wang’s work at the Education Office involved collecting information from Falun Gong practitioners in Canada and interfering with their legal rights.
For example, Wang had worked together with CSSA at over 20 Canadian colleges to defame Falun Gong. Shenzhou Xueren (China Scholars Abroad), a magazine by the Chinese authority, once published an article in 2004 praising the “excellent” performance of the CSSA president at the Beijing University’s branch in Montreal, especially his tactics and “courage” against Falun Gong.
According to the IRSEM report, about 50 Chinese students in Canada who received scholarships from the Chinese government were called to the embassy in Ottawa before Hu’s visit in 2010. Liu Shaohua, first secretary of the Education Office, gave a speech on his plans to welcome Hu. Besides Ontario, the embassy also called in about 3,000 people from Quebec and covered all their expenses, such as hotel, food, traffic, and even clothing. Witnesses said each attendee received 50 Canadian dollars as compensation.
During the meeting at the Education Office, Liu described this as a “battle” to defend “the motherland’s reputation.” He requested the students to win over Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan “separatists,” and Uyghurs “separatists” who had “occupied” Capitol Hill.
As an incentive, Liu reminded that all costs were covered by the embassy, even for students who did not receive scholarships from the Chinese government. He also told the students to keep this conversation “confidential.” When Hu visited Ottawa in 2005, CCP officials were outraged because “enemies occupied” major spots. Therefore, Liu expected a grand welcome scene by pro-CCP individuals this time. If students asked why they came here “voluntarily,” they should reply, “We are here to welcome Hu. Long Live the Sino-Canada friendship!”
On that same day, Zhang Baojun from the Education Office of the Chinese Consulate in Toronto also sent an email to students with a similar message. He reminded students to “work together and act as planned.” For those who received scholarships from the Chinese government, anyone who could not attend must provide a justification for their absence.
Mixing up Chinese Immigrants and Overseas Chinese
The report also adds that the CCP tended to blur the difference between foreign nationalities of Chinese descent and Chinese nationals who live outside China. By doing so, the CCP aims to lure more people to work on its behalf through the United Front strategy.
In fact, many of these people fled China after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, came from Hong Kong or Taiwan, or immigrated overseas generations earlier. Some of them may have little connection with the Chinese language or Chinese culture.
Nonetheless, the CCP has tried to establish a community or a gigantic network of “Chinese” that resides overseas but serves the regime.
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