Tiananmen Self-Immolation “False Fire” Incident Continues to Cause Harm Over a Decade Later
(Minghui.org) Chinese people enjoy the New Year holidays, a celebration that has continued for thousand of years, with meanings anchored in hope for the future. When this tradition is manipulated to infiltrate lies and hatred, however, the effect can be devastating.
This is what happened when the Chinese Communist Party launched the staged Tiananmen Square Self-Immolation incident, concocted solely to defame Falun Gong, on January 23, 2001, the last day of the Chinese Lunar Year. Later coined “False Fire” by those who learned that the event was staged, the incident was repeatedly broadcast and followed up during prime time on CCTV and other news media in China, incorporated into various propaganda venues, and even adopted into textbooks, to turn public opinion against Falun Gong.
The consequences were far and wide. Although Falun Gong practitioners began clarifying the incident shortly after it occurred, and detailed reports from Washington Post and National Review that debunked the lies followed, the Chinese government's news censorship blocked the truth in China, so the event effectively misled the people in China and stirred up hatred. Even today, a large number of Chinese are still poisoned by this and other propaganda, and oppose Falun Gong.
Detailed analysis, including a review of 54 clarifying facts, is available at the Minghui website and other sources. Here we would like to briefly recap the incident and focus on several individuals related to this drama.
Mother and Daughter—Liu Chunling and Liu Siying
The Communist Party news claimed that Liu Chunling was a Falun Gong practitioner. The disastrous experience of her and her daughter, 12-year-old Liu Siying, won many people's sympathy—that is, hostility against Falun Gong.
Philip Pan from Washington Post investigated this and published his findings in an article on February 4, 2001, entitled “Human Fire Ignites Chinese Mystery.” Pan wrote in the article, “She [Liu] hit her mother, and her mother was crying and yelling. She hit her daughter, too.” In addition, it was learned that Liu worked in a nightclub and was paid to dine with and dance with customers. These facts contradict the claim that she was a practitioner. Additionally, no one ever saw her practice Falun Gong.
Liu died in the incident, and detailed video analysis indicated that she had been struck dead by a large object, likely a fire extinguisher. Siying survived the incident and, like all other participants, was not allowed to be interviewed. Her health gradually improved, then she mysteriously died two months later. Many suspect that officials were responsible, so as to cover up the incident, as anything leaked by the 12-year-old would undermine the entire plot.
Although this was supposed to have been a spontaneous event, CCTV's news coverage contained videos filmed with telephoto lenses, zoom lenses, and close-up lenses. Had third-party investigators been allowed to interview these participants, it would not be difficult for find out the truth.
Story of Chen Guo
Chen Guo, 19-year-old student from the China Conservatory of Music, was disfigured from burns. But the tragedy did not end there.
Wang Bo, Chen's classmate, was detained for her belief after she saw CCTV broadcasts about this incident. Knowing that Chen had stopped practicing Falun Gong in 1999, Wang realized the entire incident was a hoax, and she immediately told other detainees and officials about this.
This triggered severe retaliation against Wang Bo. Officials spared no means, including coercing her parents, to force her to remain silent on the subject and give up her belief. Wang eventually yielded in order to continue her schooling, and her case was later used to transform more detained Falun Gong practitioners as well as misinform the public. Luo Gan, former secretary of Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC), traveled to Shijiazhuang City in Hebei Province in person to monitor this case.
It was sad that Chen lost her beauty in the self-Immolation staged by the Communist Party. Even sadder is that her story has been used over and over again as hate propaganda, and the efforts by Wang and others to find out the truth were harshly suppressed.
Ironically, not all disfiguration was treated the same. After Gao Rongrong, an accountant working at an art college in Shenyang City, Liaoning Province was shocked by electric batons for hours on May 7, 2004, causing her face to become severely deformed, officials tried all means to conceal the information. Many practitioners were arrested and tortured for rescuing Gao out of a hospital. With direct involvement of Luo Gan, Gao was located and arrested again, followed by detention at the notorious Masanjia Labor Camp. Gao later died in June 2005 at 37.
Primary Reporter Not Affiliated with News Agency
In CCTV's series of reports on the incident, the only reporter was Li Yuqiang. Staff members working at CCTV said they did not know Li. In addition, throughout these reports, Li only showed her back or side, with no views from the front.
Among various characters displayed in the incident, the one with most flaws is probably Wang Jindong. Although sitting in the fire, his hair remained intact, and a plastic soda bottle, supposedly filled with gasoline, between his legs did not explode. A police officer holding a fire blanket stood at attention next to him waiting, and did not place the blanket on him until Wang called out a phrase labeling himself as a Falun Gong practitioner.
When Li later went to a brainwashing session at Shijiazhuang City, Hebei Province, trying to transform detained Falun Gong practitioners, many practitioners asked her about various flaws described above. Li admitted much of the footage was filmed afterwards, and said they did not expect there would be so many errors.
The False Fire Continues
Within two hours after the incident, Xinhua News made an announcement, in English, blaming Falun Gong for the self-immolation. Detailed video coverage followed. Such record-breaking speed stunned many journalists, because they know that given the tight news censorship in China, this was unusual, unless it was prepared in advance.
American television producer Danny Schechter wrote, “Moreover, state-run media have never released any photos or video of Falun Gong protests in the course of 18 months of persecution to the foreign press, so why now and with so little hesitation?”
In a letter to Minghui, one practitioner said his family warned him not to go to Tiananmen Square on the 2001 Chinese New Year, “When I asked them why, my family said, 'It was said by a relative who works as an official in the public security system, that Falun Gong practitioners would ‘set fire’ and that the government knows about the plan in advance and would wait in Tiananmen Square.'” Additional information indicated that Tiananmen Square was already under curfew that morning, and no tourists were allowed.
During a PLAC conference, Luo Gan explained more explicitly that even if Wang Jindong had not set himself on fire, there would have been a Zhang Jindong, a Li Jindong, or someone else coming forward, to put on a show.
Although Falun Gong teachings forbid killing and suicide, the Communist Party nonetheless chose to use this incident to intensify the persecution against Falun Gong. Fang Jing, CCTV's news anchor, continued to defame Falun Gong through the Focus program in 2005, four years after the drama.
In January 2014, Chinese businessman Chen Guangbiao held a press conference in New York City in the name of purchasing The New York Times. However, he spent much of the time reiterating this 13-year-old incident, to further defame Falun Gong.
It was worth noting that Chen's move occurred shortly after Li Dongsheng, former 610 Office head, was under investigation in December 2013. After working as deputy director of CCTV for six years, Li was appointed as deputy director of the 610 Office in charge of propaganda when the organization was formed in June 1999. Under his leadership, the Focus program featured 102 anti-Falun Gong episodes during the 6 ½ years from July 1999 to late 2005, including the staged False Fire.
Chen's efforts did not save Li Dongsheng, who was indicted in August 2015. A similar fate met Zhou Yongkang, China's former security czar, who was involved with organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners. He was arrested in December 2013 and sentenced to life imprisonment in June 2014.
As over 200,000 criminal complaints were recently filed against Jiang Zemin, for persecuting Falun Gong since 1999, it is time to stop the False Fire from causing more harm.