(Minghui.org) It is not unusual for authoritarian regimes to use underhanded methods to defame the oppressed, such as the Great Fire of Rome set by Nero to vilify and destroy the persecuted Christians. In a new twist to this age-old technique of demonizing a group singled out for persecution, a wealthy Chinese businessman held a press conference in New York City on Tuesday and staged an elaborate propaganda ploy. 

In front of the invited Western media and the world, he attempted to resurrect a decade-old propaganda stunt concocted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to turn public opinion against Falun Gong. The “self-immolation incident” as it has become widely known in China, was staged on Tiananmen Square in January 2001.

Evidence from various independent sources confirmed many years ago that the “incident” was staged by the CCP to defame Falun Gong. The award-winning 20-minute documentary False Fire explains it well.

On Tuesday in New York, two of the supposed victims of the self-immolation were brought out onstage to parrot the Party line – the vicious propaganda that claims Falun Gong was to blame. The Chinese tycoon claimed that he would be donating money for reconstructive plastic surgery for the two alleged victims.

This most recent attempt to defame Falun Gong comes at a time when the persecution of Falun Gong is losing ground in China. Such was also the case back in 2001, when the self-immolation hoax was first staged.

Those who are responsible for the persecution are trying desperately to keep it going because they know that once it ends, they will most surely be brought to justice for their crimes. The “press conference” in New York this week thus seems to be nothing more than another propaganda stunt, this one playing to the Western media, trying to prop up the persecution of Falun Gong with the same old lies that sustained the persecution 13 years ago.

Exploiting the Victims

Anyone who is injured in a fire deserves sympathy. However, it adds insult to injury when the victims of such a tragedy are once again used to fuel hate propaganda in a campaign to persecute the innocent.

Make no mistake – the “self-immolation incident” was indeed a propaganda stunt, but it was a very effective one. The ruse succeeded in turning millions of Chinese citizens against Falun Gong. China's state-controlled media broadcast the immolation propaganda over and over and over – for years. And as despots and tyrants have known for centuries, when you repeat a lie over and over often enough, sooner or later people begin to believe it.

Over the course of the brutal persecution of Falun Gong, millions of practitioners were wrongly arrested, detained, or imprisoned. At least 3,731 practitioners have been confirmed dead as a result of the persecution; hundreds of thousands sent to brainwashing centers to suffer severe abuse, both physical and mental, to force them to give up their belief in Falun Gong's principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.

After all this time, one may wonder why China's communist regime is now attempting to dredge up this old case in such a high-profile location – New York City. But China-watchers already know the answer: To create anti-Falun Gong “news” outside China that the regime's state-run media can then repeat over and over to once again mislead the Chinese public.

Falun Gong is Against Killing or Suicide

Falun Gong teachings explicitly prohibit killing or suicide. Since its introduction to the public in 1992, over the past 21 years, no practitioners have ever set themselves on fire. This includes about 100 million practitioners inside and outside China. Yet the CCP, knowing that such actions are against Falun Gong principles, nonetheless chose to accuse this peaceful meditation group with such shocking and tragic behavior.

During the New York press conference, the two self-immolation victims, as directed by the wealthy businessman, took turns repeating lies that defame Falun Gong. A reporter asked one of them, Ms. Chen Guo, why she would self-immolate when Falun Gong teachings clearly prohibit killing or suicide. Chen said she was listening to Liu Yunfang, a woman supposedly behind the scheme.

Liu Yunfang, one of the seven alleged self-immolators, did not injure herself during the events that unfolded on Tiananmen Square that January day in 2001, nor did she answer reporters' questions about her motivation.

Liu Baorong, another alleged self-immolator and survivor, gave rather absurd testimony during a TV appearance. Her elusive comments about “dark smoke” and “white smoke” have no basis in Falun Gong teachings.

Debunking the Propaganda

Less than two minutes after flames erupted, the site of the self-immolators was surrounded by police officers armed with fire-extinguishers. Where did they come from? Regular patrol officers had never been seen carrying fire-extinguishers on Tiananmen Square before.

Video footage taken from surveillance cameras showed a policeman filming the whole event up-close. According to reporters who have spent years covering events on the Square, the police normally do not carry video cameras with them. This up-close footage was later used in the barrage of negative propaganda against Falun Gong.

Chinese authorities claimed the up-close footage was taken by CNN, but CNN says they have no footage from the incident because their cameras were confiscated by police on the square almost immediately when the event occurred.

There is also a close-up of another alleged immolator, Wang Jindong, in the CCTV video. A police officer stands beside him holding a fire-extinguishing blanket, but not using it, as if waiting for Wang to finish his script. After Wang shouts some words supposedly implicating Falun Gong, the police officer, as if on cue, immediately covers Wang's head with the blanket. And while Wang's clothes were burned to pieces, a green plastic pop bottle supposedly filled with gasoline, remained intact between his legs.

All of the evidence confirms suspicions that the "self-immolation incident" was a scheme to defame Falun Gong and deceive the public. More background information False Fire an award-winning 20-minute video debunking the “incident”

After an in-depth investigation, Washington Post journalist Philip Pan published a front-page article titled “Human Fire Ignites Chinese Mystery.” According to the report, Liu Chunling, an alleged victim who died in the incident, was never seen or known by neighbors to be a practitioner of Falun Gong. Instead, witnesses reported that she “sometimes hit her child, that she drove her elderly mother away, that she worked in a nightclub and took money to keep men company.”

Sadly, this troubled woman and her 12-year-old daughter became victims of the cruel government-backed propaganda machine. After their death, they – along with their photographs – have been used as part of the deception to mislead the public, including school-aged children, causing them to fear and hate Falun Gong.

Practitioners in China who courageously reached out to the public with the facts about the incident, such as Falun Gong practitioners Mr. Liu Chengjun and Mr. Liang Zhenxing, both of whom intercepted public TV signals to broadcast the facts about the incident, were severely persecuted. Both died after intensive physical abuse, including torture.

Philanthropy versus Propaganda Plot

One can only wonder why this wealthy Chinese businessman is donating funds to help these two victims who repeat the Party's anti-Falun Gong propaganda, rather than the individuals who have risked their lives to speak out against injustice, or the families of the countless victims of persecution.

What are the true motives, and who is pulling the strings?