The Rise and Fall of 610 Office Head Li Dongsheng: A Political Career Marked by Hate Propaganda and Violence
(Minghui.org) Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister in Nazi Germany, once stated, “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.” This may be one reason why Hitler was able to successfully mislead public opinion prior to the genocide.
Several decades later, similar strategies were used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to create a hostile environment against Falun Gong practitioners while carrying out arrests, detention, and other forms of mistreatment.
Li Dongsheng, current 610 Office head, who was formerly vice minister of the Propaganda Ministry and later vice minister of Public Security, played a key role in leading both state-run media propaganda and the wide-spread police forces.
His Career Takes Off: Misleading Public Opinion through Media Propaganda
Li was the deputy director of China Central Television (CCTV) between January 1993 and July 2000. When the 610 Office was first established in June 1999, he was appointed deputy director of the organization, in charge of propaganda.
To influence public opinion, he used “Focus,” a popular CCTV prime-time program about current affairs. During the 6 ½ years from July 21, 1999, to late 2005, “Focus” programming featured 102 anti-Falun Gong episodes, according to a 2013 report published by the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG). Between July and December 1999 alone, there were 70 anti-Falun Gong episodes, according to the same report.
Manipulating the media to alienate its targeted groups has been used by the Communist Party many times during previous political campaigns, including sustaining the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s and suppressing the democracy movement in 1989.
Li's efforts were very effective in swaying public opinion. Several months later in July 2000, he was promoted to deputy director of the State Administration of Radio Film and Television of China (SARFT).
Unlike other targeted groups in previous political campaigns, Falun Gong practitioners have no political agenda, making it difficult for the Communist Party to eliminate them in a short time. Instead, the principles that this group of people follow, namely, Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance, as well as their upright conduct in daily life, left a positive impression on the public.
This was in sharp contrast to what the defamatory propaganda claimed about them. Many ordinary citizens began to question whether the persecution was justified, and if the brutality used in the process—arrest, detention, imprisonment, home ransacking—was excessive.
To shore up support for the persecution, CCTV presented a staged self-immolation on Tiananmen Square on January 23, 2001--Chinese New Year's eve--and claimed Falun Gong was responsible. A lot of Chinese people were fooled by the lies and became hostile toward Falun Gong practitioners.
Due to acute social conflicts under Communist Party rule, self-immolation does exist in China as a last resort. It has been used by some Chinese citizens when their interests are long ignored or their issues remain unaddressed. Such occurrences, however, are very rare and all were strictly forbidden from being reported by state-controlled media.
A Washington Post reporter went to the hometown of Liu Chunling, one of the self-immolators, to investigate her background. A subsequent Washington Post article reported that, “no one ever saw her practice.” After this article was published, the reporter was arrested upon returning to the victim’s hometown for further investigation.
Further analysis revealed more loopholes in the authenticity of this incident. False Fire , an award-winning film that analyzed the event in detail, concluded it had been staged by CCTV to defame Falun Gong. However, this information has not been available to a lot of Chinese people.
Because the staged self-immolation took place the day before Chinese New Year and it included several vivid characters, including a 12-year-old girl and her mother, the TV program was viewed by a huge audience. The same news was then carried in newspapers and on other television programs and was even included in school textbooks. The sympathy people had for Falun Gong practitioners turned to anger and hatred.
Li's performance in directing propaganda to fuel the persecution won him a promotion from Zhou Yongkang. He was promoted to vice minister of Public Security and head of the 610 Office in October 2009, a transition from a CCP agency that churned out propaganda to incite hatred to an agency that promoted violence.
Career Transition: Using Violence to Enhance Brainwashing
Other than physical restriction, the 610 Office ordered practitioners to be brainwashed. Thus, a large number of brainwashing centers were set up to hold practitioners, with some being arrested from home or work, while others were transferred from prison or forced labor camps to brainwashing centers after their detention term expired.
The CCTV “Focus” programs produced during Li Dongsheng's tenure were among the brainwashing materials.
Details of three individuals held in Wuhan Brainwashing Center in Hubei Province were reported on the Minghui website on December 22, 2013. They are typical examples of how violence is used in brainwashing centers.
Ms. Wang Yan, a practitioner in her 20s, has been detained at the center since early November, 2013. Center director Qu Shen knew she was not local and ordered the guards to brutally beat her.
Ms. Cu Hai, a 64-year-old officer from Wuhan Chemicals Import and Export Company, has been detained since October 2012, including two months in the brainwashing center, where she has been force-fed, injected with nerve-damaging drugs, deprived of sleep, almost suffocated, had freezing water poured over her in winter, and so on.
Mr. Peng Xinhua, a 75-year-old retired teacher, was transferred to a brainwashing center after her five-year-long imprisonment term expired.
Above are examples of merely three individuals subjected to violence in the Wuhan Brainwashing Center. Many more cases from this center can be found on the Minghui website. In fact, Wuhan Brainwashing Center is only one of countless facilities where practitioners are mistreated under the supervision of the 610 Office.
Career Downfall: Final Days of Li Dongsheng
On December 20, 2013, Chinese news agencies reported that Li was being investigated for misconduct, a signal announcing the beginning of the end of his political career.
A month before, Li Dongsheng visited Huailai County, about 120 km from Beijing. He went to a village with the county Party secretary on November 5 and directed the county to increase propaganda and online surveillance to carry out the persecution of Falun Gong.
The visit was most likely made to conceal his anxiety. State-controlled media hadn't reported anything on Li Dongsheng since August. When it was rumored that Zhou Yongkang, Li's major political patron, was under house arrest, Li wanted to make public appearances to bet his future again on persecuting Falun Gong practitioners, in the hope of being rescued by Jiang Zemin. However, his visit was only reported in the local media.
While Li's position as the head of the 610 Office had been kept semi-secret and left out in his official public introduction, “head of the 610 Office” was his first official title mentioned in the announcement of his investigation.
The downfall of Li Dongsheng as the head of the 610 Office finally focuses attention on the organization. His undoing may look like a result of “internal struggles” in the CCP, but it is also a form of retribution. It cannot said that all corrupt officials persecute Falun Gong practitioners, but the reverse is always true: those who persecute Falun Gong practitioners are certainly corrupt.
With Li's downfall, the end of the 610 Office may not be far off.