The Chinese consulate in Perth allegedly tried to remove practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline from a popular Christmas Pageant on Dec. 1, sparking concerns over the Chinese communist regime’s influence in Australia.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a traditional Chinese meditation practice that follows the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. It has been heavily persecuted in China by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
A group of Falun Gong practitioners consisting of 40 dancers and drummers had registered to participate in the annual Christmas Pageant in Perth organised by Seven West Media. The event, which took place Dec. 1, drew an estimated crowd of 200,000 people.
However, Seven West Media told the Falun Dafa Association on the morning of Dec. 1 parade that the group could only participate in the event if it removed any reference that would identify the movement. Later, Seven West said that the group would be allowed a small sign to identify them.
Photos from the event show that other community groups did not have the same restrictions. They were able to wear shirts that prominently featured the logos and names of their groups.
On the morning of Dec. 1, around 10:30 a.m., Seven West Media called a local Perth coordinator from the Falun Dafa Association. The coordinator, who does not wish to disclose his name, said he was told that a complaint had been made about the Falun Gong group on the night prior, Nov. 30, to Seven West Media, claiming that Falun Gong is “anti-Chinese” and “anti-Chinese government.”
However, Seven West Media also told him that the group could still participate if they removed all references to Falun Gong—including any references on their clothing or equipment that refers to Falun Dafa or Falun Gong either in English or Chinese.
The Australian reported that someone had called a line connected to the Christmas Pageant to complain on Nov. 30; the person said they were from the Chinese consulate in Perth and “warned against allowing Falun Gong” to take part in the Christmas pageant.
‘We’ll Handle the Embassy’
Seven West Media, owned by billionaire Kerry Stokes, denied that it intended to or made any attempt to remove Falun Gong from the parade, but did confirm that it told the Falun Dafa Association they could not show any identifying material during the pageant, The Australian reported.
The group of Falun Gong performers had been approved to attend the evening parade and had already been assigned wristbands by the time of the phone call. Given the condition of removing all identification of Falun Gong, the coordinator was considering to bail on the event.
The coordinator said that the representative on the phone told him the decision had “come from the top.”
“I said, ‘Lady, we’re clearly going to be unidentifiable,'” the coordinator recounted to The Epoch Times. “She said ‘that’s correct.’”
“I said, ‘I can’t accept that. The group won’t accept that. Based on the fact that we’re unidentifiable, I don’t think there’s any point of us being there,’” he recounted.
“These people have been persecuted heavily in China and here they’re going to be treated like criminals on the streets of Perth,” he told her.
However, about an hour later, around 11:30 a.m., Seven West Media called the coordinator again. A different representative informed him that the group could join and confirmed that they would be allowed to have one small sign at the front of the group to identify them.
The representative, a woman, told the coordinator, “We will handle the Embassy.”
The woman said the group would still not be allowed to have any other materials that are identifiable as Falun Gong. The drummers had to turn their drums around to hide the Chinese words “Falun Dafa.” No shirts that said Falun Gong in either English or Chinese were allowed to be worn. Furthermore, a person was assigned to monitor the group throughout the entire parade to ensure they met the requirements.
The Seven Network’s Perth managing director, Mario D’Orazio, said he had not received any request from the Chinese regime to remove Falun Gong from the parade, The Australian reported.
Seven West Media wrote an emailed statement to The Epoch Times in response:
“Seven West Media received no formal request from the Chinese government to exclude the Falun Dafa from the Perth Christmas pageant.
“The group participated in the parade. In keeping with the Christmas spirit, we moved to ensure that no political messaging was on display.
“The pageant was immensely successful, attracting thousands of people. We are delighted it was conducted safety and in the spirit of the season.”
The Chinese Consulate in Perth could not be reached for comment.
The Falun Gong performers took part in the parade with dancers dressed as celestial maidens, a group of waist drummers, a golden dragon, and a pink inflatable lotus flower, measuring 5-metres wide.
Political Interference from Beijing
Former head of China analysis for Australia’s Defence Intelligence Organization, Dr. Paul Monk, calls the incident “a case of political interference from Beijing.”
Monk, who has lectured at several leading Australian universities on Chinese politics and strategic intelligence analysis, said the consulate is clearly involved.
“There are undue sensitivities regarding what Beijing might feel or think, or might say or do,” he told The Epoch Times. “We should not be paying this kind of hypersensitive and nervous intentions to what Beijing thinks because this is not China, this is Australia.
“If the Chinese community in Perth hold a festival and Falun Gong, who were well represented in that community cannot go along and identify their particular affiliation, then we are being interfered with.”
‘Seven is a Victim’
Dr. Lucy Zhao, president of the Falun Dafa Association in Australia, said that the Falun Gong group had applied and participated in Perth’s Christmas Pageant in years 2010 to 2015 with great success.
She said the group did not have any political messages and just wanted to share the meditation practice’s peace and joy with the crowd during the holiday season.
“The fact that they decided to police us or restrict us shows that they must have had some pressure.” Zhao said.
Zhao added that if Seven West Media really did not have any pressure from the Chinese consulate, what they did to the Falun Gong group would amount to discrimination by one of Australia’s largest media networks.
“If they really didn’t receive any formal request or pressure from the Chinese consulate, then it’s even worse that they had done this by themselves—to restrict Falun Dafa from showing their name.
“Then, it would be as though they singled us out from other groups, which is discrimination.”
Zhao questioned whether Tibetan, Buddhist, or Christian groups would have been treated the same had they been in the parade.
Zhao told The Epoch Times she believes Seven West Media is another victim of the Chinese regime’s bullying.
“I’m not blaming them because I think they must be under pressure from the Chinese consulate. But now because of all the publicity, they face even more pressure from Australian society, which they want to avoid, as it puts them in a bad position.”