Thomas Keenan on Tue, 9 Jul 2002 14:57:04 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Tactical media?

Copyright 2002 The Washington Post Company 

Banned Falun Gong Movement Jammed Chinese Satellite Signal 
By Philip P. Pan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, July 9, 2002; Page A18 

BEIJING, July 8 -- The banned Falun Gong spiritual movement jammed one of
China's main television satellites for eight days and briefly beamed a
video into millions of homes during last month's World Cup soccer finals,
the government said today. 

The hijacking of the government's Sinosat-1 satellite disrupted TV
transmissions from June 23 to 30 and scratched plans for a live broadcast
of a speech by President Jiang Zemin. It was the latest act of defiance by
a group that has survived a three-year campaign of repression and the most
sophisticated challenge so far to the Communist Party's control of the

Chinese officials said Falun Gong members began bombarding the satellite
with illegal signals shortly after 7 p.m. on June 23, interrupting
transmission of nine national channels and 10 provincial stations to rural
areas without access to regular TV broadcasts. Television screens went
blank for several minutes, then began playing a Falun Gong video with
images of followers meditating in a stadium and then a plaza. Officials
said the video was cut off after only 20 seconds, replaced by a blank
screen again. 

Chinese officials declined to say how many people were affected, but
Sinosat-1 is central to a project launched in 1998 to expand TV access to
the nation's most remote regions. More than 70 million people in 100,000
villages rely on it, according to the government. 

The government said frequent interference with its broadcasts continued
until June 30, but offered no other details. A Hong Kong-based human
rights group reported that Falun Gong managed to transmit its material
into Chinese homes at least one more time, on June 25, with viewers in
some parts of China seeing 15 minutes of its propaganda. 

Falun Gong members have interrupted Chinese broadcasts before, hacking
into cable systems in several cities this year. But taking over a
satellite signal is much more complicated. 

Countries have jammed satellite transmissions for political reasons, but
it is unusual for an independent group to do so, and rare if not
unprecedented for anyone to hijack a satellite signal, said Roger Smith,
an official with the Geneva-based international organization that
regulates satellite communications. 

"This is extremely despicable and represents yet another crime committed
by the Falun Gong cult organization," said Liu Lihua, a top broadcast
official in the Ministry of Information Industry. "We call on the
international community to jointly condemn this mean act." 

Liu said the government had evidence implicating "overseas-based Falun
Gong cult organizations manipulated and directed by Li Hongzhi," the
leader of the Buddhist-like sect who lives in New York. But Liu declined
to present the evidence and acknowledged the government was still trying
to trace the source of the signals. 

Levi Browde, a Falun Gong spokesman, denied Li organized the satellite
hijacking, and described it as a grass-roots attempt to fight government
propaganda. "The state-run media is one of the strongest weapons the
government uses to persecute people and incite hatred," he said. "These
people are trying to get the truth out." 

Christian Lyngemark, who runs a clearinghouse for technical data on
satellite channels, said the Falun Gong members appeared to have
overpowered the government's signal with their own, which would require a
large satellite dish and expensive equipment. 

He said they must have been transmitting from within China or one of its
neighbors to reach Sinosat-1, possibly with a mobile apparatus to make it
more difficult to track them down. As they moved farther from China, he
said, they would need larger satellite dishes and more powerful equipment. 


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