Breaking Through Chinese State Censorship – Changchun Signal Interruption Remembered


Something unexpected happened in China’s Changchun city today—on March 5th—back in 2002. For forty minutes, the local state-run television’s programming was interrupted by this.

The documentary, False Fire, disproved the self-immolation incident that was staged on Tiananmen Square a year earlier. Chinese state-run media claimed five Falun Gong practitioners had set themselves on fire. They broadcast the propaganda every evening to incite public hatred against the spiritual practice. It helped justify the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on the group since 1999.

[Lan Lihua, Falun Gong Practitioner]:
“I saw an article about a Falun Gong practitioner using television signal jamming technology to broadcast the persecution of Falun Gong to thousands of households. I thought this was a great way to get the message out.”

Like millions of Falun Gong practitioners in China, Lan Lihua was thinking of ways to break through the Chinese regime’s censorship.

She connected two people she knew who would be able to take over the airwaves. After months of planning, on March 5th, Changchun residents watched on TV how Falun Gong was welcomed and practiced around the world. They saw how the Communist Party was lying to them.

[Bill Xia, CEO, Dynamic Internet Technology]:
“It represented Falun Gong practitioners’ efforts to bring real information to the Chinese and for that particular event it was actually dramatic and had a big impact. In a few hours it reached millions of people”

And that effort didn’t stop there. To help the Chinese public gain access to information the Chinese regime blocks daily, Bill Xia and other tech savvy Falun Gong practitioners teamed up. Together, they began to take down China’s Internet Firewall, with software like Freegate and Ultrareach.

[Bill Xia, CEO, Dynamic Internet Technology]:
“Together we have millions of regular users, over a month’s period of time. We see this as an opportunity to go against the propaganda spread out by the Chinese government controlled media, to inform people of the real information.”

Bill Xia’s company is part of the Global Internet Freedom Consortium. Because what he does is so sensitive, the US-based programmer has asked us not to show his picture. But there are very public organizations that use software he has helped to design to get their information into China.

[Bill Xia, CEO, Dynamic Internet Technology]:
“There is a long history of information control and a long history of human rights violations, and disaster [the CCP] is responsible for in China…so there was a continuous need to cover up that information. If people find out what’s going on, people will be able to make more informed decisions and stay away from the Communist Party so that it will lose its regime.”

For Falun Gong practitioners, their goal was to raise enough awareness, so that the persecution would stop.

[Lan Lihua, Falun Gong Practitioner]:
“I always knew clearly that Falun Gong practitioners are not in the wrong. Regardless of what we do, whether it’s taking over the airwaves, or telling Chinese people what has been happening, our goal is to end the persecution, and that we would be able to freely practice our beliefs.”

Almost all of the Falun Gong practitioners directly involved in the Changchun signal jamming died from torture.

But their legacy lives on. They inspired more than a dozen similar TV signal interruptions throughout China in the next few years.

And now, more than half a billion Internet users in China are breaking away from state-censorship, breaking through the Firewall to get free access to information.

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Date: September 12, 2020

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