The international arm of the state broadcaster of the Chinese regime has ordered some of the American contracted workers to distance themselves from the persecuted Falun Gong religious group, an internal document submitted by The Epoch Times reveals.
The Washington bureau of the state-owned English-language television company CGTN earlier this year instructed several contractors to commit to maintaining their “political purity” in accordance with an employee conduct agreement.
This means that they “should not participate in illegal and reactionary organizations and heretical religions such as Falun Gong,” the document says.
The spiritual practice of Falun Gong includes three basic principles: truthfulness, compassion and patience, and a set of meditation exercises. For more than two decades, it has been the target of a brutal suppression campaign by the Chinese regime. According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, millions of followers have been detained or forced labor, and hundreds of thousands have been tortured.
CTGN is a registered foreign agent under US law and one of 15 Chinese branches designated by the State Department as overseas missions last year in recognition of their role as an overseas propaganda weapon of the Chinese communist regime.
The document, titled “The Promise,” written in Chinese, was provided by former US contractors who left CGTN in late October after finding the company’s pressure and control intolerable.
This appears to be a copy of what was released by the Beijing CGTN bureau, given that one pandemic control requirement forced workers to comply with COVID-19 regulations from the Beijing government and local counties.
Other provisions of the agreement include restrictions on gambling, social media use, bribery, “rumor-making,” drunk driving, red light driving, and the disclosure of company trade secrets.
“It feels like we’ve signed a contract,” James (pseudonym), the IT specialist who signed the document, told The Epoch Times. James, like the other current and former CGTN contractors mentioned in this article, spoke to The Epoch Times on condition of anonymity for fear of company reprisals.
These IT professionals were recruited to work for CGTN by Sobey Digital Technology Co., Ltd., an IT solutions provider for the media industry, located in the southwestern city of Chengdu China. Soubi declined to comment, and CGTN did not respond to repeated email and phone requests for comment from The Epoch Times.
The document also places particular emphasis on party ideology, in which workers are encouraged to “unite their thinking” and “leaders at all levels” to “diligently ensure the ideological education of personnel under their control.”
This aspect of ideological oversight should be surprising, said Sarah Cook, senior China analyst at Washington-based nonprofit Freedom House.
“It seems to me that the dynamics that we often see in the CCP system or in the ‘outsourcing’ of ideological coercion of ordinary citizens are forced to account for each other and control each other,” she told The Epoch Times, referring to the Chinese. Communist Party. “Managers have a responsibility to control their thoughts, but also those of their subordinates.”
James and his IT team signed an agreement at the CGTN office in Washington in August – more than a year after James started there, and about seven months later for his teammate Alvin.
It is unclear if the same document applied to staff members or other departments outside of IT. The company also did not explain why contractors were asked to sign the document at this particular time.
None of the people interviewed by The Epoch Times practiced Falun Gong, but the idea that the company should decide what employees should and should not do in their personal capacity nevertheless seemed repulsive, they said.
“Nobody wanted” to sign it, Alvin said. But they did it anyway to keep their job.
“The team leader brought it to us for signature and said that the station needed it,” Alvin said. “We signed the contract after a quick look.”
On a trip to Seoul more than ten years ago, Michael, another former CGTN employee, walked past a photo exhibition about the state-ordered killing of Falun Gong practitioners in prisons for their organs. According to him, he was stunned by the sheer horror of what was happening.
“It’s an undeniable fact that they are being persecuted,” Michael told The Epoch Times. “In a country with freedom of speech and freedom of religion, everyone should have the right to believe.”
For some observers of China, such demands made on state-owned media came as no surprise.
Leaked internal documents previously obtained by The Epoch Times show that some local governments trained their Falun Gong personnel before traveling overseas to make sure they stay away from Falun Gong-related activities. Prior to a five-day working trip to Singapore in 2017, the Haikou City Government Department in southern China sent a confirmation to the city’s foreign affairs office confirming that the visiting staff member was not a Falun Gong adherent.
The Confucius Institutes, a controversial Beijing-funded language program set up at universities around the world, sparked protests over a decade ago over similar recruitment and placement practices aimed at Falun Gong.
Sonya Zhao taught Chinese at the Confucius Institute at McMaster University of Canada. Before coming to Canada in 2010, Zhao had to sign a contract issued by Hanban, the government agency that controls Confucius Institutions, promising that she would not practice Falun Gong.
Zhao was a Falun Gong practitioner and her mother was imprisoned in China more than once for her belief. During a year at the institute, Zhao hid her belief for fear that “if they find out about this, something will happen to me,” she told The Epoch Times at the time.
In 2012, Zhao filed a human rights complaint against the university, citing discriminatory recruitment practices. The University of Canada closed its Confucius Institute a year later, stating that they made the decision because “hiring decisions in China were not made in the way we would like to be hired.”
Recalling the incident with the Confucius Institute in Canada, Cook, a China analyst, said she was “not surprised that there is a situation in this regard.”
“Yet it is striking how blatantly discriminatory the CGTN agreement is -“ not only with respect to someone’s practice of Falun Gong, but also with regard to their religious and political beliefs and activities more broadly, ”Cook said.
“This demonstrates how deeply ingrained in the CCP system … this kind of restriction and violation of religious and political freedom is, and how it is not limited to the borders of China,” she said.
At least eight IT contractors have fired from CGTN’s Washington office in recent months, saying they were fed up with the alleged abuse and exploitative work environment.
James said the company treats Chinese speakers differently. When “so-called bosses” showed up, he said, they had to get up from their seats to show respect, even though employees who spoke other languages were exempted from this rule.
James, who grew up in Malaysia, said their mainland Chinese manager once made fun of his Chinese language skills.
“He said I didn’t speak Chinese well, that I was so stupid and didn’t know such and such,” he told The Epoch Times. “He nagged at our job and threatened to keep our paycheck.”
The mental stress was so intense that Michael and some of his colleagues considered seeking psychological therapy.
Evan, another former IT professional at CGTN, believes it was all about control for the company.
“Since we can speak Chinese … they constantly remind us that they are the boss and have the greatest say. They can dictate to us every move we make, ”he told The Epoch Times.
Li Xin’an contributed to this report.