Checkpoint Asia

Anti-China Cult Gets US Government Money — Runs Large Pro-Trump Ad Campaign

Turns out the biggest advertiser for Trump on Facebook by far is Falun Gong

Falun Gong is a cult which claims to have millions of followers. It was founded in China by Li Hongzhi who thinks of himself as a higher being. Falun Gong mixes some Taoism and Buddhism with nutty ideas, conservative politics and strong anti-communism:

Some of Mr Li’s pronouncements are certainly unconventional, some would say just plain strange.He believes aliens walk the Earth and he has reportedly said he can walk through walls and make himself invisible.

Mr Li says that he is a being from from a higher level who has come to help humankind from the destruction it could face as the result of rampant evil.

In 1999 the cult attempted to gain political power in China. The government shut it down for pushing its followers to not use medical therapies. Li Hongzhi and some of his followers moved to the United States.

As the cult is strongly anti-communist the U.S. government used it to put pressure on China. Some institutions and companies related to Falun Gong are openly funded with U.S. government money.

The main media outlet of the Falun Gong organization is the Epoch Times. NBC reports of its astonishing growth as a pro-Trump social media force:

By the numbers, there is no bigger advocate of President Donald Trump on Facebook than The Epoch Times. The small New York-based nonprofit news outlet has spent more than $1.5 million on about 11,000 pro-Trump advertisements in the last six months, according to data from Facebook’s advertising archive — more than any organization outside of the Trump campaign itself, and more than most Democratic presidential candidates have spent on their own campaigns.

Those video ads — in which unidentified spokespeople thumb through a newspaper to praise Trump, peddle conspiracy theories about the “Deep State,” and criticize “fake news” media — strike a familiar tone in the online conservative news ecosystem. The Epoch Times looks like many of the conservative outlets that have gained followings in recent years.

In April, at the height of its ad spending, videos from the Epoch Media Group, which includes The Epoch Times and digital video outlet New Tang Dynasty, or NTD, combined for around 3 billion views on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, ranking 11th among all video creators across platforms and outranking every other traditional news publisher.

The Epoch Times brought in $8.1 million in revenue in 2017 — double what it had the previous year — and reported spending $7.2 million on “printing newspaper and creating web and media programs.” Most of its revenue comes from advertising and “web and media income,” according to the group’s annual tax filings, while individual donations and subscriptions to the paper make up less than 10 percent of its revenue.

New Tang Dynasty’s 2017 revenue, according to IRS records, was $18 million, a 150 percent increase over the year before. It spent $16.2 million.

The NBC report says it is not clear where the “web and media” money that gets invested in pro-Trump advertisement actually comes from.

Falun Gong in Taipei

Here is a hunch. What NBC does not mention is that Falun Gong is a U.S. anti-China asset. The Bush/Cheney administration used the Falun Gong to intentionally embarrass China’s then President Hu Jintao when he visited Washington:

PRC President Hu Jintao had the misfortune of visiting Washington in 2006, when Vice President Cheney and his militant faction were riding high. China’s role as an impediment to Bush administration policies on Iran as well as North Korea did not make for a particularly hospitable environment for Hu’s visit.

The capper to the disastrous visit was the outburst during Hu’s speech on the White House lawn by Dr Wang Wenyi of the Falun Gong spiritual practice movement, who gained access to the speech as a credentialed correspondence.

Ming Pao reported more categorically that Dr. Wang declaimed in a piercing voice, shouting exhortations such as “Heaven will destroy the Chinese Communists”, “Leave the Party”, “10 million heroes have left the party, when will you leave?”, “Judge Jiang Zemin, Luo Gan, Zhou Yongkang” and “Falun Practice is Great”.The revelation that the White House had granted Dr. Wang a temporary press pass in the name of the Epoch Times probably did not elicit a forgiving shrug from the Chinese government.

Dr. Wang was not a journalist by profession. She was a pathologist, and the lead researcher on Falun Gong’s hot-button issue–the alleged vivisection of Falun Gong practitioners by the Chinese government at a facility in Shenyang, and the sale of their organs for transplant purposes.

And, beyond Falun Gong’s well-known hostility to the Chinese Communist Party and Dr. Wang’s central role in Falung Gong’s most impassioned crusade against the Chinese regime, her prior personal history of confronting Hu Jintao was a matter of public record.

The Secret Service is usually quick in removing hecklers from official White House events. It made no effort to remove Dr. Wang during President Hu’s speech.

Yasha Levine documents in his book Surveillance Valley that the U.S. government built and uses the Internet as a weapon. Falun Gong plays a role in that.

At least some parts of the Falun Gong organization are financed by the U.S. government through the Internet Freedom program run by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). The USAGM/BBG budget for 2018 was $804 million.

A 2011 report (pdf) by the minority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee attacked the State Department for too friendly behavior towards China:

From Fiscal Year 2008 to 2010, Congress provided some $50 million in funding to assist in Internet Freedom. As of January 2011, the State Department had obligated less than $20 million, of which little went to Internet Censorship Circumvention Technology (ICCT).

Some of the most sophisticated ICCT software is being developed by two U.S. companies, whose founders fled China to escape persecution for being members of Falun Gong. Their software was initially designed to allow fellow Falun Gong practitioners in China (whom Beijing authorities continue to prosecute, harass and imprison) to circumvent the Great Firewall by enabling their users to surf the Web as if they were in the U.S. or other “Internet friendly” nations via a combination of Proxy Websites and Virtual Private Networks. However, both DIT and UltraReach soon found their products being used by democracy activists and ordinary citizens to circumvent Internet censorship in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Burma and Vietnam –[…] Congress has responded by appropriating some $50 million to the State Department to support Internet freedom: FY2008 $14.8 Million; FY2009 $5 Million; FY2010 $30 Million

A footnote confirms that the Falun Gong companies received part of that money through the BBG:

Of the FY2009 Internet Freedom funding, the BBG received $1.5 Million. The BBG promptly used to contract with DIT to expand its Freegate software operations for some $600,000 and with UltraReach for $840,000.

DIT or Dynamic Internet Technology is run by one Bill Xia. In a 2006 Businessweekportrait he confirms that he is a Falun Gong member. The DIT website lists only four customers: the Falun Gong’s Epoch TimesVoice of AmericaRadio Free Asia and the New York and Hong Kong based propaganda group Human Rights in China (HRIC). VOA and RFA are financed by the USAGM/BBG. HRIC is financed by the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, the Soros Open Society Institute and similar organizations.

As three of the four organizations listed as DIT customers are officially U.S. government financed one wonders who finances the fourth.

Ultrareach Internet Corp does not list any customers, executives or address. Bloombergputs the company at an address in Cheyenne, WY which is of a small house used as a lawyer’s office.

The USAGM/BBG Internet Freedom program had a 2018 budget of $13.8 million.

Through Falun Gong the U.S. government provides software and servers for circumventing China’s Great Firewall. It is somewhat ironic that those services were used by the alleged Chinese government agents that Twitter and Facebook recently removed from their services:

In all, Twitter said that 936 accounts originating from within China have been suspended for a number of violations of the company’s “platform manipulation policies,” including spam, coordinated activity, fake accounts and ban evasion.The social media activity of the suspended accounts, which posted in both English and Chinese, were part of efforts to undermine the “legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground”, the company said.

Twitter, Facebook and most other western social media platforms are blocked in mainland China. Most of the accounts identified by Twitter as “bad faith actors” circumvented the Great Firewall – as the country’s digital barrier is known – using virtual private networks (VPNs), though some were tracked to specific, unblocked IP addresses based in mainland China.

Twitter’s expulsion run was, as usual, badly targeted:

The accounts taken down represented “the most active portions of this campaign”, the company said.That was news to Luka Ivezic, a 24-year-old student at Kings College London, whose account – @TechPoliticist – had been suspended, and appeared on the list of those said to be run by, and out of, China.

Mr Ivezic, who was born in Croatia and says he has never been to China, recently completed his thesis. The subject? “Disinformation, and how artificial intelligence can empower the tools that China and Russia have to misinform us.”

An analysis of the total 200,000 accounts Twitter deleted points to mostly rented Russian language bot accounts which were used to agitate against Guo Wengui, a dissent Chinese tycoon who is seeking U.S. asylum. There is also an army of pro Guo Twitter bots who condemn China. That army was, of course, not suspended.

The Twitter accounts that tweeted against the Hong Kong riots were not sent by the Chinese government but Baidu forum users who flooded Twitter though the Falun Gong virtual private networks the U.S. finances to tweet in support of the Hong Kong police.

The U.S. government financing of those Falun Gong entities is not the only connection with that organization.

Shortly after Falun Gong came to the United States a U.S. government regime change organization set up a Friends of Falun Gong organization:

In the spring of 2000, a group of concerned American citizens wanted to take action to raise awareness about the terrible injustice facing Falun Gong practitioners in China.Having the common desire to restore and protect the fundamental rights of Falun Gong practitioners, they turned for advice to a long-time champion of human rights issues, former U.S. Ambassador Mark Palmer, who has been following the plight of Falun Gong practitioners. At the time, Ambassador Palmer was the Vice-Chairman of the Board for Freedom House, and he still serves on that board. Among his many other achievements, Ambassador Palmer co-founded of the National Endowment for Democracy.

After months of hard work, in November 2000, with the help of Ambassador Palmer and others, Friends of Falun Gong USA was formally established.

The Falun Gong cult makes some significant money through its Shen Yun propaganda dance companies:

The dances continued, sleeves swirling, skirts rippling. A man came onstage to sing a song in Chinese, which was translated on the screen behind him. “We follow Dafa, the Great Way,” he began, singing about a Creator who saved mankind and made the world anew. “Atheism and evolution are deadly ideas. Modern trends destroy what makes us human,” he sang.

Shen yun, according to Shen Yun, means “the beauty of divine beings dancing.” (It can also be translated as “the rhythm of a divine spirit,” or, more simply, “God’s melody.”) The Shen Yun Performing Arts organization was founded in 2006, in New York’s Hudson Valley, and put on its first touring show in 2007. By 2009, there were three touring Shen Yun companies. Today, there are six companies, each consisting of forty or so dancers, all of them trained at the Fei Tian Academy, which is situated on a four-hundred-and-twenty-seven-acre campus established for Falun Dafa practitioners in upstate New York. The dancers are accompanied by an orchestra that incorporates Chinese instruments; each troupe includes about eighty people. In addition to the ninety-six American cities it is touring this year, Shen Yun will visit Vancouver, Berlin, Auckland, Taipei, Daegu, Aix-en-Provence, and dozens of other places.Shen Yun is a nonprofit. In 2016, it reported more than seventy-five million dollars in assets and more than twenty-two million dollars in revenue.

It might well be that the money Falun Gong generates through such propaganda endeavors is channeled through its media empire into pro-Trump advertisement.

But the significant support U.S. government agencies give to Falun Gong, combined with the virulent anti-China policies of the Trump administration, lets one assume that there are also official dark money sources, think CIA, that support the Falun Gong’s anti-China efforts.

Money is fungible. A U.S. government financed organization should not invest it in partisan U.S. politics. Some enterprising Democratic candidates could up their game by taking a deeper look into this issue.

Source: Moon of Alabama