Last week The Epoch Times reported that hundreds of Falun Gong adherents and their supporters rallied on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington to mark 11 years of persecution at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – but very few news outlets mentioned much about the event. When it comes to human rights violations, the Falun Gong – regularly beaten, tortured, starved, imprisoned in labor camps and killed for the value their organs will bring on the black market – simply don’t seem newsworthy.
Though a bill passed the House in March demanding the Chinese government stop its oppression of the Falun Gong (also called Falun Dafa), persecution has only worsened in recent years. At the same time, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center, media coverage of the oppression has become more scant.
In an analysis of more than 1,800 Western news articles spanning eight years, writer Leeshai Lemish found that while “the documented number of Falun Gong practitioners’ deaths from torture in custody increased, the number of articles in the Western press … rapidly decreased.”
Why? Mr. Lemish posits several theories, among them the possibility that some media groups are concerned about being censored or removed entirely by the CCP in a growing and promising Chinese marketplace if they detail Falun Gong persecution; another theory is the difficulty of access Western media have to Chinese labor camps and prisons.
Neither of these is the case in what is probably the most-covered, best-funded “human rights abuse” campaign of recent decades: the plight of Palestinians in Palestinian Authority- and Israeli-controlled territories. In Israel, where Palestinians are represented in parliament, Israeli media routinely publish policy-critical op-eds and editorials and Israeli citizens freely hold demonstrations protesting government decisions.
During the 2005 “disengagement” of Israeli troops from Gaza, foreign journalists were embedded with the army to cover the story. There was no shortage of reporters covering the pullout; journalist Tom Gross even lamented on his website, “If only a fraction of this number of reporters were covering Darfur …”
Perhaps Israel’s status as a democracy allowing of critique makes Western media feel at home, and reporters are unconcerned - as they should be - about censorship.
But it is precisely because China’s Communist regime does not allow for such critique or transparency that the Western press ought to publicize the CCP’s heinous malfeasance – particularly when, according to Mr. Lemish, doing so seems to have a real impact on the treatment Falun Gong prisoners receive.
“Labor camp survivors have told me they noticed a real correlation between the degree to which the persecution they faced was exposed overseas and the treatment they received,” Mr. Lemish writes. “Some have described all of a sudden being treated better in detention, being transferred to a better cell and no longer being tortured. Only after they were released did they realize that the change took place at exactly the same time that their case was publicized abroad.”