Epoch Times is a multi-language, international broadsheet newspaper that publishes in print and online, headquartered in New York City. The company was founded in 2000 by John Tang and a group of Chinese-American Falun Gong practitioners. The newspaper covers general interest topics with a focus on news about China and human rights issues there. It draws from a network of sources inside China, as well as Chinese expatriates living in the West.[3][4][5][6] The newspaper and its staff have won over 10 media awards, including New York Press Association Awards for design excellence and National Ethnic Press & Media Council Awards for human rights coverage.

There exist differing characterizations of the relationship between the newspaper and Falun Gong. Some scholars have described the newspaper as the mouthpiece of the practice.[7][8][9][10] It has additionally been described as simply "sympathetic" to Falun Gong.[11] A spokesperson for the newspaper says it doesn't speak for the practice,[12] though the newspaper maintains a generally anti-communist editorial stance, including explicit opposition to the Communist Party of China.[7][13][14][15]

The Epoch Times is widely distributed in overseas Chinese communities, and has been publishing in Chinese after May 2000.[16] It is either sold or distributed free-of-charge in 35 countries, including various intranational regional editions. It has editions in English, Chinese and nine additional languages in print,[17] as well as 21 different languages on the internet.[18] Weekly print editions are additionally available. A typical issue includes sections for world and national news, opinion pieces, sports, entertainment, business, arts and culture, travel, health and automobiles.[19] Epoch Times websites are blocked in mainland China.[16]

History

Epoch Times was started in 2000 by John Tang and a group of Chinese Americans; the founders say they were responding to censorship inside China and a lack of understanding internationally about Chinese repression of the Falun Gong. In May 2000, the paper was first published in the Chinese language in New York, with the web launch in August 2000.[20]

In 2003, Epoch Times website and Epoch Times group of newspapers had grown into one of the largest Chinese-language news websites and newspaper groups outside China in the past two years, with local editions in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and major Western European countries.

The first English edition launched online in 2003, followed by the New York print edition in 2004.[20]

In 2000, 10 Epoch Times correspondents were imprisoned in China, but current staff of the Chinese-language edition work in Hong Kong.[21]

In 2011 Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada wrote, "since its launch in Canada in 2000, Epoch Times has become a popular source of information on issues and events of interest to the Chinese-Canadian community... With local editions published in Toronto, Vancouver, Montréal, Ottawa and Calgary/Edmonton, Epoch Times is today the largest daily newspaper of its kind in the country."[22]

Distribution

As of February 2012, 67 Epoch Times newspaper editions are published in print in 5 continents.[2] They are available in 11 languages and have a distribution of 1,315,000 copies in 35 countries.[20] Distribution varies from daily to monthly.

Epoch Times is available in 21 languages[18] on the internet. In Chinese there are websites for , and as well as the main website. Epoch Times receives 105 million page views per month from 20 million visitors.[23]

Reporters cover storeys that pertain to their own areas, contributing to a pool of articles for the different editions to share.

Launch dates and summaries

Language[18]Summary[24][25]
EnglishThe English language edition of Epoch Times started in September 2003 as a website, and went to print in New York in August 2004. It is now published in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Singapore and Malaysia.
ChineseThe oldest of Epoch Times editions, the Chinese paper has been in operation from May 2000, with the web launch in August 2000. The Chinese Epoch Times (Dajiyuan) is now the single largest Chinese language newspaper in the world, covering 35 countries across North and South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
FrenchThe French edition launched as a website in January 2005, and went into print shortly after. La Grande Époque is found in France, Canada (Montreal, Quebec province) and Switzerland after 2005 and changed its name for Époque Times in Quebec in 2012.
SpanishThe Spanish website of La Gran Epoca launched in early 2005. Circulation of the print edition began in Argentina one week before the website went live.
GermanThe German website of Epoch Times Deutschland launched in late 2004. It is now printed in Germany and a few neighbouring countries as Die Neue Epoche.
RussianThe Russian language edition started in December 2004 as a website, and later it went to print in St. Petersburg. The Russian newspaper is now distributed all over Russia.
UkrainianThe Ukrainian website of Велика Епоха (or Epoch Times) launched in May 2005. In March 2006, the Russian edition (www.EpochTimes.com.ua/ru/) of the Ukrainian site was launched for the Ukrainians who speak Russian.
BulgarianThe Bulgarian edition started in mid-February 2005, with a Bulgarian version of the "Nine Commentaries".
HebrewThe Hebrew edition started in December 2005. It is printed weekly and is mainly distributed in Tel Aviv.
SlovakThe Slovak edition started on 1 March 2006.
CzechThe Czech edition started on 6 October 2006.
TurkishThe Turkish edition started on 9 June 2011.
PortugueseThe Portuguese edition of started on 18 April 2012. The core team is based in Brazil, with a satellite office in Portugal.
ItalianThe Italian language edition website launched in December 2012.
PersianThe Persian edition launched on 12 January 2013. This edition serves those speaking Persian in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and additional countries.

Other languages

  • Japanese - distributed in Tokyo and printed on a bi-weekly basis
  • Korean - distributed in specific areas of Seoul on a weekly basis
  • Indonesian - distributed in Jakarta
  • Romanian
  • Vietnamese, Swedish (internet only editions)

Editions

New York edition

Epoch Times' flagship New York edition is typically around 50 pages, divided into four sections.[26] Section "A" is primarily devoted to current events, with several pages devoted to China issues and politics. Section A additionally includes opinion pages, sports, science & technology, business and real estate.

Section "B" is Arts & Culture—covering classical art forms, exhibits and events. Section B additionally includes Style and an "Essence of China" page devoted to traditional Chinese culture, stories, and art forms. Section "C" focuses on health and fitness featuring mainstream medical science, alternative and Chinese medical treatments. Section "D" is Food which focuses on cooking and local restaurants.[26]

Other English editions

Outside of New York, additional English editions typically take the form of a 16–24-page broadsheet. The content is a shorter version of the New York edition, with a focus on each edition's local region.[17]

Chinese edition

Print editions range from 30 to 80 pages. A typical print edition includes sections on local & national news, China, world, health, science, autos, real estate, arts & culture, style, home, food, dining and special sections covering traditional Chinese culture & values.

According to the Canadian Circulations Audit Board, Epoch Times is the first and only Chinese-language daily newspaper in Canada to complete a circulation audit.[27][28][29]

Notable Coverage

Organ harvesting in China

In March 2006, Epoch Times published the allegations of three Chinese individuals who said that thousands of Falun Gong practitioners had been killed to supply China's organ transplant industry,[30][31][32] including a doctor, who said there were 36 concentration camps all over China.[32] Kilgour-Matas report stated "the source of 41,500 transplants for the six year period 2000 to 2005 is unexplained" and "we believe that there has been and continues today to be large scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners". Appendix 16 of the revised report refuted Harry Wu's negative comments.

In 2008, two United Nations Special Rapporteurs reiterated their requests for "the Chinese government to fully explain the allegation of taking vital organs from Falun Gong practitioners and the source of organs for the sudden increase in organ transplants that has been going on in China after the year 2000".[33] The Chinese government has consistently denied the allegations. The parliaments of Canada and the European Union, Taiwan, as well as the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives, have adopted resolutions condemning organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience.

Other reports

During the 2009 New York City Comptroller elections, Epoch Times alleged that Taiwan-born Democratic nominee John Liu is part of a "United Front" by the Chinese Communist Party to infiltrate the United States and subvert its government, democracy, and human rights in general.[34] The newspaper alleged that "the CCP works tenaciously and systematically to place its people [...] in key positions in corporations, academia, and government in the United States and additional countries."[35] Epoch Times additionally published an 8-page "special edition", and additionally featured on its website a section focused on coverage of Liu's reported ties with CCP officials.[36]

During Hu Jintao's visit to Canada in June 2010, the Toronto Star noted that Epoch Times had published several "hard-hitting" critical storeys on Hu's visit, like allegations of the local Chinese embassy's orchestration of welcome parades, as well as an alleged recording of a speech by the first secretary of education Liu Shaohua, in which Liu stated that embassy would provide accommodation and transport for over 3,000 participants in the welcome parade.[37]

Canadian media reported that the parliamentary press office made deliberate arrangements in relation to Hu's public appearances limiting Epoch Times' access to the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, even though the newspaper is an accredited member of the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery.[37] The paper carried an exclusive interview with outspoken Canadian Member of Parliament Rob Anders, wherein Anders alleged that the Chinese government used gifts and business deals in attempts to influence Canadian political decisions.[39][40]

Editorial stance

The editorial stance of Epoch Times is generally considered anti-communist, specifically opposing the Communist Party of China.

The newspaper counters what it considers to be Chinese Communist Party propaganda through its own opinion pieces and reporting. The newspaper covers causes and groups opposed to the CCP, including Falun Gong, dissidents, activists, and supporters of the Tibetan government-in-exile. The paper additionally reports on Falun Gong-related news, including the group's attempt to sue former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin under civil legislation for genocide, not covered by most additional overseas Chinese-language newspapers.

In 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that "three new U.S-based, Chinese-language media outlets that provide provocative reporting about the Communist Party, government oppression and social unrest in China [namely Epoch Times, Sound of Hope, and NTDTV] have ties to the Falun Gong spiritual movement." When interviewed, executives at each outlet said they didn't represent the Falun Gong movement as a whole.[5]

Epoch Times additionally runs mainstream newswire storeys and in a few places can resemble a community newspaper.[41] Zhao said, "While mainstream newspaper typically treat Web versions as an extension of the already-existing print version, Epoch Times website serves as the master for all its worldwide papers."

In a few cases Epoch Times operates in a hostile overseas environment, in which "overseas Chinese media companies choosing to remain independent or publish non-approved content become the targets of an aggressive campaign of elimination or control." In one instance Chinese diplomatic officials made threats against media for reporting Falun Gong-related content; in additional cases, advertisers have been regularly threatened not to support Epoch Times in any way. Communist Party authorities have additionally been accused of resorting to "militant methods" against the newspaper and its staff members, including, it is alleged, of attacking staff and destroying computer equipment.

The newspaper reported that in 2005 the Communist Party "exerted hard and soft pressure" on printing houses in Hong Kong, forcing the paper to stop printing, after it reported on Tibet, human rights, Falun Gong, and was the first media to break the storey on SARS. The newspaper was additionally briefly banned from Malaysia after coming under reported pressure by the Chinese Communist Party.[14]

Relationship to Falun Gong

English Epoch Times chair Stephen Gregory said in 2007: "It's not a Falun Gong newspaper. Falun Gong is a question of an individual's belief. The paper's not owned by Falun Gong, it doesn't speak for Falun Gong, it doesn't represent Falun Gong. It does cover the persecution of Falun Gong in China."[12] Associated Press reporter Nahal Toosi wrote that it is "technically inaccurate" to say that the Falun Gong organisation owns the Epoch Times. Notwithstanding a large number of Epoch Times staffers are Falun Gong practitioners. Toosi noted that "many observers" have said that Falun Gong uses the newspaper as part of a public relations campaign.[12]

Canadian scholar Clement Tong wrote that the Epoch Times "operates as a mouthpiece for" the Falun Gong, notwithstanding the absence of an official statement of affiliation with the movement.[8]

In 2008, David Ownby, director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the Université de Montréal and the author of Falun Gong and the Future of China said the newspaper is set up by Falun Gong practitioners with their own money.[42] He describes Epoch Times as wishing to be taken seriously as a global newspaper rather than being judged on the basis of its strong association with the Falun Gong.[42] "Epoch Times is a newspaper with a mission," he wrote "that of reporting on issues bearing on human rights throughout the world, which allows for considerable focus on China and Falun Gong."

While a large number of individuals involved in the production of the newspaper practise Falun Gong, according to Zhao Yuezhi, the media seeks to present itself as "public interest-oriented" and "independent of any political and business groups ... objectively and fairly reporting facts and truth". Its reporting on Chinese affairs most often highlights negative news about the Chinese government and coverage of Falun Gong in a sympathetic light. In this view, the paper articulates Falun Gong's views on a range of issues, and might be part of a de facto media alliance with democracy activists in exile.[43]

Joseph Lian Yi-zheng, a political commentator and columnist based in Hong Kong, highlighted Epoch Times coverage of Chinese politics in a New York Times op-ed, saying "the spiritual movement [Falun Gong] has most often proved correct in its analysis of power plays in Beijing. According to a recent article in Epoch Times, a Falun Gong publication, even as Mr. Xi [Jinping] has tried to muffle so-called small channel news, political gossip supposedly leaked from the inner circles of the Communist Party, the Jiang faction has continued to feed Mr. Lee and his partners juicy storeys about the Xi family."[45]

Nine commentaries on the Communist Party

Since November 2004, the Chinese version of Epoch Times has published and promoted a series of editorials and a booklet titled "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party"[46] (traditional Chinese: 九評共產黨; simplified Chinese: 九评共产党). The editorials expose the CCP's most often violent political campaigns through its history, from its ascent to power under Mao Zedong to its present-day form. The CCP was criticised as an illegitimate institution which used underhanded tactics to gain power. The commentaries allege that the CCP "destroyed traditional Chinese culture" and brands the CCP an "evil cult".[47] According to Ownby, the Commentaries are a condemnation of Communism and direct indictment on the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party in ruling China. While acknowledging the "unnecessary violence" the Chinese Communist Party has inflicted, as a professional historian Ownby finds that the lack of balance and nuance in tone and style makes the editorial resemble "anti-Communist propaganda written in Taiwan in the 1950s." The commentaries won an award in 2005.[48][49]

The Nine Commentaries have been translated into more than 30 additional languages[46] and released as a DVD.[50] The Nine Commentaries have been credited by the newspaper and prominent leaders of the expatriate Chinese community, with sparking an exodus from the CCP and its affiliated organizations.

Epoch Times website hosts a "CCP Renunciations" service, encouraging Chinese to quit the CCP and related organizations.[51]

The number of people who have resigned from the Communist Party of China or its affiliate organizations, is published in Chinese editions of the newspaper. The counter stood at over 190 million on 16 January 2015.

Assessments

David Ownby stated that the newspaper's articles are "well written and interesting, if occasionally idiosyncratic in their coverage." According to Ownby, it has been praised and additionally been criticised for a perceived bias against the CCP, and support of Falun Gong practitioners and additional dissidents like Tibetans, Taiwanese independence advocates, democracy activists, Uyghurs and others. The paper, therefore, is most often assessed in light of its connexion to Falun Gong, rather than a thorough analysis of its editorial content.

James Bettinger, a professor of Communications at Stanford University and the director of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, said "Even if Epoch Times isn't associated with Falun Gong, if they consistently write about Falun Gong in the same perspective, or if there are no articles examining Falun Gong, people would perceive it as being not credible."[41] Orville Schell, dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, said in 2005 that "It's hard to vouch for their quality because it's difficult to corroborate, but it's not something to be dismissed as pure propaganda."[5]

"Bold, encouraging, thoughtful, Epoch Times has become one of Canada's premier publications. For ten years now, the award-winning newspaper has been building bridges between communities and covering the storeys that are shaping our world... Epoch Times immense success is a testament to the public's appetite for a fearless independent voice. I'd like to commend Epoch Times for a decade of journalistic excellence", wrote Peter Kent, Canada's Minister of the Environment, former journalist, producer and anchorman.[22]

Jiao Guobiao, a former Beijing University journalism professor who was dismissed after criticising the Central Propaganda Department, proposed that even if Epoch Times published only negative information highly critical of the CCP, the weight of their attacks could never begin to counterbalance the positive propaganda the party publishes about itself. In addressing media balance, Jiao noted that the Chinese public lacked negative, critical information regarding their country. As such, he noted for a need of media balance based on the principles of freedom, equality, and legality, and that media balance "is the result of the collective imbalances of all".

The paper has additionally been lauded by a few political commentators and media experts. Ethan Gutmann has characterised Epoch Times as a leader in political analysis of the Chinese regime, saying "With the "Chinese Regime in Crisis" series, Epoch Times has finally and indisputably arrived. Any China expert who wants to save face by pretending the paper doesn't exist can continue to do so—for a little while anyway—but they had better be reading it in secret."[52]

According to Ming Xia, political science professor at the College of Staten Island, Epoch Times represents part of Falun Gong's effort to expand to non-practitioners, and "is part of the Falun Gong strategy to embed itself into the large civil society for influence and legitimacy".[53]

Epoch Times's credibility has been criticised by a few scholars for an anti-communist bias, particularly regarding the Chinese Communist Party and mainland China issues, as well as for being a "mouthpiece" of the Falun Gong movement.[7][9][13][14][15] James To, a New Zealand political scientist, described the Epoch Times as the "primary mouthpiece" of the Falun Gong, writing that it "lacks credibility", notwithstanding the newspaper posing a "viable threat to the CCP" by publishing articles about the party's negative aspects. In his book Blocked on Weibo: What Gets Suppressed on China's Version of Twitter and Why, University of Toronto Research Fellow Jason Q. Ng referred to the paper's coverage of mainland China issues as "heavily biassed against the Communist Party" and thus its reportage "should be viewed skeptically."[54]

In 2010, Epoch Times successfully defended its reporting in the Canadian court system,[55] when a publisher they had reported on, Crescent Chau, sued for libel.[56] The justice in charge of the case ruled that the paper had acted in the public interest, and that the particular article expressed "legitimate concerns and constitute an opinion which is drawn from a factual premise". In examining the case, John Gordon Miller, a Canadian journalist and media professor, noted that the paper's articles "appear to be thoroughly and professionally reported".[56]

Awards

  • 2005 National Ethnic Press & Media Council Award – Epoch Times was given this annual award for being "a strong defender for human rights and democratic values." The paper was additionally acknowledged for being the first to report on the coverup of the SARS virus by Chinese authorities in China.[58]
  • 2005 Asian American Journalists Association National Award – Epoch Times was awarded for "excellence in coverage of Asian American Issues" for its editorial series, Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party. According to the newspaper itself, The "Nine Commentaries" prompted millions of Chinese people to quit the Communist Party because it provided "the first in-depth look at the true nature and history of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)."[48]
  • 2005 International Society for Human Rights Award – In May 2005, Die Neue Epoche, the German-language edition of Epoch Times, received a special media prize from the International Society for Human Rights (IGFM) for "extensive and regular reporting about violations of human rights in China."[60]
  • 2012 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee MedalEpoch Times was awarded this commemorative medal, which honours "significant contributions and achievements by Canadians."[61][62] Canadian publisher Cindy Gu was nominated for the medal by the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness for raising awareness of human rights abuses in China and the organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners.[63][65]
  • 2012 National Ethnic Press and Media Council Award – The Chinese edition of Epoch Times was given this annual award for, "Excellence in editorial/free expression, best concept and visual presentation."[66][67]
  • 2012 New York Press Association AwardEpoch Times won first place in the category "Best Special Section—Advertising, Division 2" for a special section produced for Asia Week New York in March 2012. "A great special section has five strong components: a great cover, appealing design, good art, strong content, and well designed complimentary advertising. This section has all five," said the NYPA judges. "In all, this is one of the nicest sections I have ever seen produced by a newspaper."[70]
  • 2012 Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi awardEpoch Times China reporter Matthew Robertson won this award in the category of Non-Deadline Reporting for a series of articles he wrote on forced, live organ harvesting in China.[71][72]
  • 2013 Newswomen's Club AwardEpoch Times New York reporter Genevieve Belmaker won the Front Page Award from the Newswomen's Club of New York for reporting about the impact of Hurricane Sandy, in the category of newspapers with a circulation of less than 100,000 per day.[73][75]
  • 2013 Top Minority Business Enterprise AwardsEpoch Times Chinese edition CEO in the Washington region, Jenny Jing, won the TOP MBE Awards' "Business Legends" award on October 30, 2013.
  • 2013 New York Press Association AwardsEpoch Times English edition staff reporters, photographers, and designers won 16 awards . Six of the awards were for the first place, including top honours for overall excellence in photography, design, and advertising. Reporters Joshua Philipp and Zachary Stieber won second-place awards for best feature series and in-depth reporting.[76]
  • 2014 New York Press Association AwardsEpoch Times English edition staff reporters, photographers, and designers won 25 awards. 10 first places prizes, six for second place, five third-place finishes, and four honourable mentions. For the second year, the design department won first prize in the Richard L. Stein Award for Overall Design Excellence, and the John J. Evans Award for Advertising Excellence [77]
  • 2014 Society for News Design AwardsEpoch Times English edition designers won 2 awards of Excellence in the Best of News Design Creative Competition. Epoch Times won for its Dine and Unwind section and a feature storey on indigenous Scandinavian art, “Sami Stories Are Harrowing, Heartening[78]

  • Falun Gong related groups