Banned Falun Gong and the defiant story of TV hijacking

    CHINA: Revisiting the Falun Gong’s TV takeover on the 20th anniversary.

    On March 5, 2002, members of the outlawed spiritual group Falun Gong hijacked state television to broadcast their message to thousands of homes in the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun in a bid to «set the record straight» and «counter the government’s narrative about their practice.» The brazen stunt, which involved the hijacking of the TV signal by cutting into the cable network and connecting it to portable video equipment, was orchestrated by a small band of Falun Gong members amid a nationwide crackdown on their faith. Founded by Li Hongzhi in the early 1990s, Falun Gong, a spiritual practice involving meditation and exercise, was banned in the summer of 1999 in a measure that was arguably prompted by the group’s growing capacity to garner support and mobilise in large numbers. On April 25, 1999, some 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners gathered near Beijing’s government compound in a silent protest. The ensuing ban of the group was accompanied by the authorities’ outpouring rhetoric against Falun Gong, accusing it of being an «evil cult» that jeopardises the country’s «stability» and «social order.»

    Jason Loftus’ animated documentary Eternal Spring, which racked up a top audience award at this year’s Hot Docs Festival, recounts the dramatic events leading to the TV hijacking and its violent aftermath. The story is told through the eyes of Falun Gong practitioner and acclaimed comic book artist Daxiong (Justice League, Star Wars). Following the TV hijacking, Daxiong was put on a blacklist, despite playing no role in it and was forced to flee the country in 2002 amid sweeping . . .

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    Sevara Pan
    Journalist and film critic.
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