WASHINGTON — ; Falun Gong followers have again hijacked a local Chinese television station with broadcasts aimed at countering negative official reports on the banned spiritual movement.
For 10 to 20 minutes on Aug. 17, according to residents of Baiyin City in China's northwestern Gansu Province, Channel 5 of official CCTV aired Falun Gong images to local viewers. An employee at the Baiyin cable television company, contacted by RFA's Mandarin service, confirmed that the interception had occurred and estimated that it had lasted less than 10 minutes.
Local newspapers in Baiyin didn't report on the incident, said the employee, who asked not to be named.
According to one local resident, the Falun Gong programming took direct aim at the Chinese leadership, which banned Falun Gong in July 1999.
"The narration said, '[Chinese President] Jiang Zemin rose to power from the June 4th, 1989 crackdown," said one Baiyin resident. "The video showed the naked back of a person who had been severely beaten... and a group of Falun Gong followers being pursued by public security. When I went to the Baiyin cable TV station around 10 p.m., public security vehicles were parked outside."
The population of Baiyin was 1.73 million as of 2001, according to the municipal government. How many residents have access to television and might have seen the broadcast wasn't immediately clear.
On several previous occasions, Falun Gong followers have intercepted Chinese television programming and substituted their own material for broadcast. Nine Falun Gong members have so far been charged in connection with those incidents, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.
China banned Falun Gong, which claims tens of millions of followers in China and abroad, in July 1999, after the group staged a massive silent protest outside the main leadership compound in Beijing. The official Chinese media have consistently portrayed it as a fringe, fanatical sect, often referring to Falun Gong as an "evil cult."
Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of Falun Gong followers have been jailed and tens of thousands sent to labor camps without trial since then.
Yuan Feng, Falun Gong spokeswoman in the United States, told RFA she knew nothing about the Baiyin interception. "We do not know how it was done technically, nor are we in direct contact with them. But we feel the Chinese people have the right to know the truth and make a well-informed judgment"about Falun Gong.