“We often talk about how truth will prevail … but lies are sometimes more powerful. … If you don’t make a conscious effort to seek out truth, to speak the truth, sometimes you can be surrounded by lies to the point that you can no longer tell [them] apart.”Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Leon Lee
January 9, 2022
The Movie Chinese Communists Hate the Most?
By Janet Levy at American Thinker
Some films are chilling because their fiction penetrates the agonizing core of reality. The soon to be released Unsilenced, from award-winning Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Leon Lee, is a prime example. It brings into sharp focus the oppression unleashed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on Falun Gong, a movement that emphasizes ethical conduct, qigong exercises, and meditation. Fearing that Falun Gong would overtake it in popularity, the party has since 1999 been persecuting practitioners with arrest, torture, forced labor, menticide, and execution. But an underground resistance has established itself, led by ordinary Falun Gong practitioners pushed by extraordinary circumstances into heroic acts.
The film’s lead character, Wang (played by Ting Wu), is based on Wang Weiyu, a survivor of China’s prisons and labor camps. Wang and his friends pay a heavy price for fighting back. But with the help of journalist Daniel Davis (played by Sam Trammell), they succeed in getting the word out on the plight of the Falun Gong. Leading the crackdown against them is the sadistic Secretary Yang (played by Tzu-Chiang Wang).
Although Lee has been living in Canada since 2006, he is no stranger to Falun Gong or the CCP’s atrocities. His documentary Human Harvest (2014) exposed China’s demonic removal and sale of organs from prisoners and inmates at labor camps. Many of these are Falun Gong practitioners. The documentary was broadcast in more than 25 countries and won the Peabody Award.
His Letter from Masanjia (2018) is an equally heartrending true story of a note found in a box of Halloween decorations by an Oregon resident. The writer of the note is Sun Yi, a Falun Gong practitioner held at an infamous labor camp where the decorations were made. Tracing Sun Yi after his release, collaborating with him via surreptitious Skype calls, and instructing him on how to use a camera, Lee put together the story of what happens in the CCP’s labor camps. Sun Yi risked it all and later made his way to Indonesia, since China allows travel there without a passport. He died in 2017 in Indonesia, most likely poisoned by Chinese agents.
Lee’s company, Flying Cloud Productions, remains committed to bringing “human rights violations to light in both documentary and narrative filmmaking.” His films are among the most pirated in China, and he often receives emails from anonymous Chinese viewers stupefied by the content they hasten to share, evidence that Falun Gong may be reigniting hope in the People’s Republic.
The filming of Unsilenced, which took place in Taiwan, was replete with challenges. During production, Taiwanese fighter jets scrambled to intercept Chinese planes intruding Taiwan’s airspace. Many film professionals shied away from the production, cast and crew used aliases or remained anonymous, and a few actors quit after being threatened. Lee was under constant pressure to recruit new talent and scout for alternative locations as filming permission would suddenly be withdrawn. There were post-production hitches, too. The owner of the Canadian production company wouldn’t risk listing his name in the credits. Chinese students at Boston University were enlisted to protest a screening of the movie. The film is as much a testament to his persistence as that of its protagonists.
Unsilenced is fast-paced, as befitting a gritty political thriller. It juxtaposes the resolve of the Falun Gong members against the machinations of the CCP apparatus, directed by the ruthless Secretary Yang. American reporter Daniel Davis has fortuitously returned to China ten years after being thrown out for his coverage of the Tiananmen Square uprising and is again drawn into the fight against a brutal regime. The film pieces together Davis, Wang, and his friends’ ordeals in a way that leaves audiences shaken.
The story begins in 1999, a time when Falun Gong, rooted in traditional Chinese culture and upholding truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance, was esteemed and broadly accepted in China as a meditative, spiritual practice. It had some 100 million practitioners, including many party officials, and claimed more adherents than the CCP. This perceived threat triggered the hardline atheist CCP’s top brass to establish the Stasi-like 610 Office to eradicate Falun Gong. The agency would coerce friends and relatives to denounce Falun Gong followers, subject them to psychological and physical torture to make them recant, force them to do hard labor, harvest their organs, and murder those too hard to break.
The film opens with Wang and his girlfriend Li, and Xia and her uninitiated boyfriend Jun, biking to a park for a free Falun Gong teaching session. They are enthusiastic, idealistic students at Tsinghua University, Beijing. A car carrying Secretary Yang is held up in a traffic snarl caused by the well attended session, and his associate remarks how Falun Gong has more followers than the party. This foreshadows rising tension — and trouble for the group.
Back at their university lab, Wang and Jun are denied a grant request for their collaborative research project. Wang’s academic adviser cautions him that there are rumors that the CCP may begin to act against Falun Gong. Wang is incredulous, for the government has so far been supportive of the movement and counts many practitioners in its ranks.
When Falun Gong members are rounded up, beaten, and arrested, Wang naïvely assumes that since they are well-meaning citizens, there has been some misunderstanding. He convinces a few student practitioners to take their case to a government appeals office. When they arrive, there’s a large demonstration in progress, comprising family and friends of Falun Gong members in custody. Coincidentally, Davis, who has returned to China to work on a book on traditional Chinese culture thanks to conciliatory efforts of the Chicago Post on his behalf, passes by. With him is his assistant-cum-minder Min (played by Anastasia Lin).
Remarking that this is the largest demonstration since 1989, Davis starts photographing the protest. But he’s ushered away by police to the office of a CCP official he knows from his coverage of the Tiananmen Square massacre. He is not so subtly threatened and allowed to go. Recognizing that the CCP’s treatment of Falun Gong is a tragic repetition of Tiananmen, he importunes the Chicago Post to let him cover the emerging story but is asked to stick to his original assignment. He later discovers a recording device in a teapot gifted to him by his assistant and realizes he’s being trailed and recorded.
Back at the rally, an official calls for volunteers to speak to government representatives. Wang and Xia are among the volunteers and they are assured that all those who have been arrested will be released, that qigong has never been banned, and that they should tell the demonstrators to go home. They return to the crowd and ask the protesters to disband.
However, government broadcasts report that thousands of Falun Gong had attacked the CCP headquarters and interfered in government operations. The incident is compared to the Tiananmen Square riots, and a campaign of disinformation is unleashed to discredit Falun Gong. The group is described as supporting murder and self-immolation. A new CCP decree declares the group illegal, and Falun Gong practitioners are hounded, expelled from universities, and unable to find work. It’s clear the CCP has declared all-out war to destroy the group.
Wang and his friends realize they have been deceived, and their struggle to fight back and expose the CCP’s crimes against Falun Gong to the world intersects with Davis’s efforts in nail-biting action. Lee’s masterful production is an eye-opener to the inner workings of the CCP and the challenges faced by journalists and activists countering its propaganda.
Fortunately, the real-life Wang Weiyu escaped to the U.S. after a long prison sentence. He remains deeply committed to helping those left behind to suffer in China — not just Falun Gong, but also other religious groups, ethnic minorities, and political dissidents.