Banned since 1999 and considered an evil cult by China’s ruling Communist Party, the Falun Gong spiritual movement has learnt to be creative in getting its message out to the Chinese people.
In past years the group – which combines elements of Buddhism, mystic Taoism and qigong breathing exercises – has hijacked television stations and distributed flyers in secret on the street. But lately it has turned to the thing that underpins China’s booming economy: the Rmb banknote.
In recent years bank notes in circulation in Beijing and Shanghai have had hand-written messages from the group scrawled across them. But these days their technology has improved markedly.
Our picture (click to enlarge) shows a normal one Rmb banknote (top), a banknote with a hand-written message, and the latest innovation (bottom): a one Rmb banknote discovered in circulation by beyondbrics with a Falun Gong message printed onto the note so that it looks like part of the original design.
But the message is highly inflammatory:
“Falun Dafa’s (another name for Falun Gong) spirit has spread across the world, cultivate truthfulness, compassion and forbearance and your morality will be raised to a higher level,” reads the curved inscription floating over the landscape in the banknote.
Along the bottom of the note it reads: “A great cataclysm is approaching, the Chinese Communist Party is destined to be destroyed by heaven, the lives of those who resign from the Communist Party will be quickly saved! Free hotline in America for those who wish to quit the Party: 001-514-342-1023.”
The year of this banknote is the same as the year the spiritual group was banned in China.
A call to the hotline reached a sleepy-sounding Chinese-speaking operator in Montreal who said she was a believer in Falun Gong and available 24 hours a day to accept resignations from the Party over the phone.
She said she didn’t know how the banknote had been printed and that it “wasn’t convenient” to reveal the size of her phone-answering team.
One problem with this method of proselytizing is the fact that many of China’s richer coastal cities, such as Shanghai and Guangzhou, do not widely use one Rmb notes, preferring coins instead.
This means the potential audience is presumably limited to poorer areas and northern cities like Beijing, where small denomination banknotes are circulated in greater numbers.