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Sowing Confusion

Embarrassed by reports of live organ harvesting, China's sympathizers launch a high-tech disinformation campaign

Kevin Steel - April 9, 2007

He posts his messages everywhere under several different names on Internet blogs and discussion groups. He writes letters to the editor anywhere and sends e-mails to anyone--anyone who might take seriously shocking evidence that the Chinese government "harvests" and sells live organs from political prisoners. His main message is that the Falun Gong--the group which first brought evidence of live organ harvesting to light--and the Epoch Times newspaper that broke that story are spreading propaganda against China's Communist government. And he's not even Chinese. He is Charles Liu, a 40-year-old Taiwanese-born technology consultant who lives in Issaquah, Wash., and does business in China.

Liu has been so active and so pro-Beijing in his writings that some Falun Gong supporters--in particular Epoch Times reporter Jana Shearer--have accused him of being an agent for the Chinese government, waging a disinformation campaign against them, trying to confuse people, and deliberately wasting everyone's time.

It's a charge that upsets Liu, who dismisses it as "a bunch of kooky friends making unfounded accusations. It's just a bunch of blog BS." As for why he devotes so much energy to attacking the Falun Gong and the organ harvesting allegations, he says, "My position is that I simply don't agree with their brand of politics, because I observed their politics turning from anti-Communist party, to anti-China, . . . and recently it's morphed into this anti-Chinese hysteria and that's going to be hurting people," he says. As an Asian-American, he says he decided to speak up.

He doesn't really explain, when asked, why he started a blog last year called "The Myth of Tiananmen Square Massacre" under the name of Bobby Fletcher (one of his online aliases, which he also uses to comment on the Western Standard's online blog). On that blog, he pushes the minimal 250 casualty figure that the Chinese government has always maintained died that night in 1989 (more reliable estimates put the figure at at least ten times that).

Liu's actions mirror disinformation campaigns waged by the Chinese government in the past. Typically, these include the deliberate spreading of false or misleading facts to sow confusion or doubt among the conflicting accounts. The classic example is the Tiananmen Square massacre; the Chinese government has maintained that no one died in the square itself, that there was only pushing and shoving on the streets around the square, resulting in a few military casualties. Overseas, the CCP relies on its United Front Work department, part of the Chinese intelligence service, to propagate its message. During the Cold War, the Soviets employed many overseas flunkies through their Disinformation Department.

Former Canadian MP David Kilgour, who co-authored a report on China's macabre organ harvesting industry, has received many propaganda e-mails from Liu. For instance, Liu has written repeatedly that a U.S. congressional committee looked into the organ harvesting allegations and found nothing. "[David] Matas and I gave evidence to that subcommittee and got support from both the Republican chairman and the Democratic vice-chair," says Kilgour. "I just came to the conclusion he was trying to waste my time, and I have other things to do."

Winnipeg-based human rights lawyer, and Kilgour's co-author, David Matas, really doesn't know what to make of Liu. "I don't know who he is, but what he does is spend a lot of time replicating nonsense to defend the Chinese government," Matas says.

The only concern Matas has is that Liu seems to know who he and Kilgour met with in the United States to discuss their report. Matas discovered Liu had sent e-mails to politicians--and their staff--prior to the meetings. "The only people who would have that information would potentially be the Chinese government. I can't imagine how Liu would know we were meeting with those people," Matas says. "We're not super-secretive, but you can't find information on the Internet or in any public place about who we're meeting with, where and when." He himself has received at least 10 e-mails from Liu, all of which he's ignored. Maybe Matas is onto something with that approach.

More articles by Kevin Steel