A journalist from the Netherlands owns a unique Chinese banknote. Although it’s worth only 10 yuan, it might be “the most precious object” this reporter has ever owned. The mysterious and “practically worthless” bill landed in this lady’s wallet during a reporting trip to China a few years ago.
“What’s special about my banknote is that in China—a country where everything is about money, money and more money—nobody accepts the [expletive] thing. It’s practically worthless,” Mayke Blok wrote in her post for Vice.com.
That fateful day in Shanghai, Blok was eating pizza with a group of journalists in a local restaurant.
“When it was time to pay for the food, we all pulled out our cash. Amy, a Chinese student who showed us around, took the stack of bills and handed it to the waitress,” Blok said.
Ik zeg al sinds m'n 11e: ik word later journalist en dan ga ik naar New York. Ik ben er nog niet, maar iets van mij…
Surprisingly, Amy returned shortly later with a 10 yuan bill in her hand, stammering that the restaurant rejected the legal tender because it was a “bad note.”
As curious as it could get, Blok asked Amy why the banknote was rejected, but she declined to answer. “Later, later,” is all she said.
When Amy offered this “bad note” to the journalists, Blok seized hold of it immediately.
Blok carefully examined the “bad note.” Aside from bearing the watermark of communist China’s founding dictator Mao Zedong’s portrait and other official details, the banknote had strange stamped Chinese characters on it.
“This is anti-Communist Party,” Amy told her. “The note says you have to abandon the Party in order to be free.”
Blok mentioned in her post that in China any forms of protest against the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could land one in jail.
“Just take Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, for instance. If you are retweeted more than 500 times on Weibo with a message that the CCP deems inappropriate, you’ll end up spending years in prison,” Blok said.
In such an extremely authoritative environment, who would have the guts to print these bold messages on paper currency? Strangely, in China, nobody wanted to talk about the bizarre note that Blok took into her custody. It was as if everyone was scared of this banknote. But that was precisely what made the note special.
Determined to solve the mystery behind the 10 yuan, Blok went to Amsterdam’s Chinatown upon returning from China. Blok timidly asked a man behind the counter in a Chinese acupuncturist’s office if he knew anything about the mystery note.
The man, wearing a white coat, went over the note with a fine-tooth comb. Then, he glared at Blok, throwing the bill in her face.
“This is not good. This is a bad movement against the Chinese Communist Party,” he said. “This is Falun Gong.”
To verify the man’s words, Blok then went to a Chinese restaurant and asked a middle-aged Chinese man about the taboo note.
After fixing his gaze on the 10 yuan bill, the man told Blok, “This? This is nothing. These are just rules. Communist Party rules. This is just what you are supposed to do in China.”
“He clearly didn’t feel comfortable talking about Falun Gong,” Blok said.
What is Falun Gong? What’s the meaning of the stamped Chinese characters on the banknote?
— VICE (@VICE) June 7, 2015
With the help of sinologist Stefan Landsberger from Leiden University, Blok finally came to know what the stamped messages meant.
Landsberger translated the stamp on the 10 yuan as following: “How many prophets have warned / Humanity knows great decay /Retreat from the ranks and levels of the Chinese Communist Party / And wait for the moment till the Great Law will guard peace.”
It turned out the stamp was a poem that urges people to withdraw from the CCP and its affiliates, as well as to convey the goodness of the ancient meditation system of Falun Gong, which has been outlawed in China since 1999.
“Great Law” is another name for Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa.
Falun Gong is an ancient mind-body cultivation practice, involving slow-moving exercises and a sitting meditation, based upon the principles—Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance. The practice, which improves people’s health, and uplifts their morality, was first introduced to the public in China in May 1992.
Blok said, “By 1999, tens of millions of Chinese people were practicing Falun Gong. It became so immensely popular among the population that it frightened the powers that be.”
With Falun Gong’s estimated 70 million to 100 million adherents in China, the CCP perceived Falun Gong’s presence as a threat to its authoritarian rule, and launched a brutal persecution to eradicate the practice on July 20, 1999.
According to Falun Dafa Information Center, an estimated 450,000 to 1 million Falun Gong adherents have been held illegally in labor camps, prison camps, and other long-term detention facilities, and they were forced under torture to renounce their faith.
“A lot of these people were physically and psychologically tortured. At the same, the Chinese government started a propaganda campaign on radio, television, and in print to denigrate the movement,” Blok wrote.
The most hideous was the staged “self-immolation” incident on Tiananmen Square on Jan. 23, 2001, which was broadcast endlessly on TV to frame Falun Gong. Worse still in China, the allegations of forced organ harvesting from living prisoners of conscience—chiefly practitioners of Falun Gong—on a mass scale to sell for profit first surfaced in 2006.
Blok said, “Chinese embassies seem to be used to suppressing Falun Gong-tendencies among their people at home and abroad. That might explain the reaction of the two men in Chinatown.”
But why do Falun Gong practitioners take the risk to stamp banknotes that say “Falun Dafa is good”?
According to Minghui.org—a clearinghouse for information about the persecution of Falun Gong—the adherents are using this method as a way to help people misled by the CCP propaganda to see the truth of Falun Gong, the viciousness of the persecution, as well as the “evil nature” of the communist party.
“The use of such currency can be traced back many years, all the way to when the Party’s slanderous propaganda about Falun Dafa first blanketed China. Many people in China learned the truth about Falun Dafa by receiving money with these Falun Dafa messages printed, or even handwritten on it,” a Falun Gong practitioner from China wrote for Minghui.org.
“Such currency was once known as ‘currency with words.’ But now, it is referred to as ‘currency with the truth.'”
Blok wondered whether “somewhere in a secret place in China,” someone is still stamping these banknotes with the bold messages!
Sure, there are still people doing that, reported Minghui. In fact, “the number of marked bills have increased over the years,” a correspondent in Heilongjiang Province, China, wrote for Minghui.org.
As in the communist China, no media outlet is reporting the truth about Falun Gong, the persecution, nor the crimes committed by the Chinese leaders.
“In China, people have been deprived of their right to know about the world in which they live,” the correspondent wrote.
Hence, it’s vital for Chinese people to learn about the truth and to have an opportunity “to differentiate between right and wrong and not participate in the persecution of Falun Gong.”
“People should cherish these bills and help spread their messages. There will be only blessings for one’s good deeds and righteous acts,” the correspondent concluded.
It turns out that this special banknote is apparently “honest money,” which serves to awaken Chinese citizens’ conscience so that they can break free of the communist propaganda and choose justice.
“If we believe in and choose justice and conscience, God will save us,” renowned Chinese writer Zhang Lin, who has publicly declared his withdrawal from the Communist Youth League, told Epoch Times.
These selfless and fearless acts of Falun Gong practitioners in China to uphold the truth are truly admirable!