A professional worker in the U.S. may earn $300 a day, and the same wage is attainable in China—the world’s second largest economy after the U.S. Yet, something U.S. citizens are unlikely to find themselves doing, is spying upon, and selling the life and liberty of one’s fellow neighbor for the equivalent of a day’s wages. In China, however, it is a recurrent phenomenon.
The Chinese, who have a long tradition of Qigong, are fond of their early-morning meditative exercises. It’s common to observe people practicing different movements in community parks.
In recent years, leaflets have been appearing on cars, street stands, and benches surrounding parks, as informational materials are distributed by predominantly practitioners of Falun Gong. They’ve been brutally suppressed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since July 1999; their existence within mainland Chinese society, officially erased. Over the last 22 years, amidst government-led crackdown, imprisonment, and murderous abuse, Falun Gong practitioners have neither dwindles in number, nor lessoned in faith. Underground, they’ve been growing; the practice continues to flourish across China.
The leaflets that blossom around parks and neighborhoods are a depiction of the practitioners’ enduring efforts in raising awareness; they tell of the persecution, the practice, and the evil nature of the CCP. Practitioners call it “truth clarification”—clarifying the truth; separating fact from fictitious propaganda.
The simple act of making information available has repeatedly met governmental counter-attack; hostility and violent punishment. The CCP offers rewards for reporting on Falun Gong. In July, two practitioners, Yang and Zhao, distributed leaflets in a park in Huayuan County, Hunan, after their exercises. Xu, a local resident, immediately reported them to the Public Security, receiving $300 and praised for “civic engagement” by the police and the Bengbu Municipal Party Committee. According to Bitter Winter, an Italian magazine on religious liberty and human rights, Yang and Zhao were illegally arrested shortly afterwards, their homes ransacked, and their Falun Gong materials confiscated. Both were later heavily sentenced in Anhui province.
Reward strategies involving the general public are only one small element in the CCP’s nation-wide Falun Gong eradication campaign and giant surveillance network. Citizens are encouraged to spy on one another; turning in family and friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens for pocket money. With China’s new facial recognition cameras everywhere, the prison-like environment run by communist leader Xi Jinping is already extremely repressive. As if that wasn’t enough, interspersed in almost every city are plain-clothes police officers, who even conduct unannounced routine raids on citizens’ homes.
China’s terrifying degree of suppression ironically contrasts its rise in economic power; Wall Street and the world are kept illusioned by its stocks and green finance. An economically driven society has long been established in China since the 1980s, when Deng Xiaoping led the nation into becoming one giant moneymaking machine. The Chinese people had only just emerged from Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Fast-forward to the 21st century and most Chinese believe in nothing more than making money. China’s export and financial dominance reflects its philosophy of money, and internally, reward systems are in full swing, capitalizing on the imbued greed to suppress “dissidents” or religious groups.
When such widespread spying permeates society, with everyone looking primarily through the lens of individual gain that lacks moral compass, the culture birthed is one of utter suspicion. Enemies may lurk anywhere—one’s neighbor, friend, colleague, or even family may report another for their beliefs; not because they disagree with them, but simply because the cash reward is a welcome top-up to a meager monthly income.
The U.S. State Department’s 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom: China, states, “The government [CCP] offered financial incentives to law enforcement to arrest religious practitioners and to citizens who reported ‘illegal religious activity.’”
“Religious freedom in China is a vast topic and we will only begin to scratch the surface of it today. But consider the following: Uyghur Muslims are rounded up and interned in camps, Tibetan monks and nuns are forced to undergo political reeducation sessions, Falun Gong practitioners are reportedly sent to legal education centers for indoctrination, churches are shuttered, crosses removed, and Christian believers harassed and imprisoned.”
Chinese authorities often harass family members of religious believers. A spouse may be bribed or encouraged to use divorce as a threat, to coerce their partner to give up their practice. Like poison, the government’s strategy has injected mistrust into Chinese society, infiltrating deeply, even reaching the sacred and intimate space of a family.