Citing the country’s free speech rights, a library in Norway is refusing to give in to communist China’s demands to remove a book that is censored in China, a report said.
The coaches and managers of a Chinese Olympics ski team that was training in Norway requested that the library remove a book about Falun Gong, whose practitioners have long been persecuted in China. The library refused.
“We have freedom of speech in Norway, so that was completely out of the question,” Anne Marken, library manager in Meråker library, told local media Adresseavisen.
China launched its persecution campaign against Falun Gong in 1999 as the spiritual discipline consisting of slow-moving exercises and moral teachings rose in popularity. The Chinese regime feared the Falun Gong movement was a threat to its authority.
“Practitioners in China have faced arrests, torture, arbitrary sentencing, and forced labor since,” Eva Fu noted in a Jan. 6 report for The Epoch Times. “As the persecution began, books containing information about Falun Gong and its teachings were confiscated and burned.”
Minghui.org, a United States-based nonprofit dedicated to documenting the persecution of Falun Gong, has confirmed over 4,300 deaths as a result of the persecution campaign, Fu’s report noted.
Books on Falun Gong remain banned in China. Propaganda sites on China’s highly-censored Internet defame the practice of Falun Gong.
The incident in Norway occurred as some 40 Chinese cross-country skiing athletes, together with 15 coaches and managers were in the Scandinavian nation for training to prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which Beijing is hosting.
Marken said that the delegation leaders asked the library three times to pull the Falun Gong book from shelves. The Chinese also made inquiries about removing two or three other books in the library’s collection.
“They have said that if any of the Chinese ski teams are caught with the banned books, they risk being sent to a labor camp or prison in China,” Marken said.
In response, Marken told the delegates that “the books in the library are open to them. We cannot remove the contents of the library because of such requests.”
Marken said that a few days after the first inquiry by the Chinese delegation, library employees discovered that the book in question was rearranged on the bookshelf to appear hidden behind other books. On Dec. 18, library staff found several delegates filming the books on the shelves, bringing adverse reactions from library visitors.
“Any country or organization that deals with Chinese delegations … will likely be subject to communist infringements on their freedoms,” Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center, told The Epoch Times. He said that the Chinese authorities have consistently pressured Western officials and groups to remain silent on the Falun Gong persecution in China.
“What this incident also makes painfully clear is that the Chinese regime’s persecution of the tens of millions of people inside China who practice Falun Gong remains among the most sensitive subjects for Chinese officials and a top priority to keep quiet,” Browde continued.
The communist regime in Chinese “has also sought to export censorship overseas and silence voices critical of its leadership,” Fu’s report said.
In October, a number of United States companies, including Apple, the National Basketball Association (NBA), and video game developer Blizzard, drew criticism for bowing to Chinese pressure by removing content related to, or silencing support for, the ongoing Hong Kong protests.
Also in October, Chinese authorities denied visas to a United States congressional group after they refused to cancel a stopover in Taiwan. A United States representative criticized the regime’s act as “visa blackmail.” Beijing claims sovereignty over the island, despite it being a self-ruled democracy.
On Dec. 19, China called off two business delegation visits to Sweden, after the country’s culture minister presented a free speech award to Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swedish publisher who is imprisoned in China. Gui ran a bookstore in Hong Kong that published titles critical of the Beijing leadership.
“The message is clear: when dealing with Chinese delegations, you will be pressured to follow the Chinese Communist Party,” Browde said.