The strange ways of Falungong

7 November 2005

Hu JIntao, the president of China, is due for a big welcome during his two day  state visit to Britain: not only does he get to stay with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, but the town is to be floodlit in red, in perhaps a misjudged attempt to make him feel at home. The East, of course, isn't really Red any more. Perhaps it's a sign that Chinese Communism has morphed seamlessly from threat to heritage, without passing through anything as definitive as collapse.

There are vocal opponents of the state visit of course. Mr Hu is a particularily resonant figure for the Tibetans, for instance, since he was party secretary in Lhasa in 1989, when Beijing ordered a brutal crackdown on demonstrations and imposed martial law, months before the more celebrated repression in Tiananmen Square. Also much in evidence in London over the next few days, though he claims the timing is a coicidence, is Chen Yonglin, formerly the first secretary of the Chinese consulate in Australia, who defected in June and has since been a vocal critic of the regime. Mr Chen appeared at what was  described as a  press conference  in London's Foreign Press Association, along with three British politicians.  The press conference was sponsored by an organisation identified only as the FSC Centre. Inquiries produeced the response that  this was the "Future Science and Culture Centre" in Cambridge. You may be none the wiser, and nor was oD. But it began to feel like Falungong. And so it proved.

Now there is nothing wrong with Falungong putting its case against the Chinese government: they have as much right to do that as anyone else. But why the subterfuge? And why the video crews filming the audience, as well as the speakers? And why the still photographer taking pictures of everyone who asked a question? If Falungong advocates democracy and truth, as they say they do, how about a little transparency in their own operations?

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