Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

Canaries in a Cold War: A Heart-wrenching Story of Unfathomable Evil, Media Compliance and Unwavering Resilience

Alina Wang
A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights, politics, tech, and society.
Published: February 15, 2022
This award winning documentary by filmmaker Mathias Magnason will be featured on NTDTV on Feb. 20 and 26.

In this compelling documentary, singer-songwriter James H. White travels to Washington D.C. in the winter of 2021 hoping to write a song about the Beijing Winter Olympics to highlight the Chinese regime’s widespread abuse and violation of human rights.

Once there, White meets with three sisters who suffered years of persecution at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). After hearing the gut-wrenching stories of this family, White then travels across the pond to London where he uncovers a complex and sinister web of deception, censorship and media compliance. 

Calling it the “biggest cover up in modern history,” White recalls his meeting with the sisters and how they underwent harrowing accounts of torture and abuse in a Chinese prison for upholding their faith in Falun Gong. 

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline practiced by tens of millions of people in China and around the world since its introduction to the public in 1992.

The CCP began a massive campaign to eradicate the popular faith in July 1999. The persecution saw millions of adherents incarcerated over the following decades, with thousands of Falun Gong practitioners dying as a result of torture, with the number still on the rise today.

Hung for hours and beaten while tied to ‘dead man’s bed’

The story first zeroes in on the oldest sister, Ma Chunmei, who now lives in Virginia with her husband Kim Eng. Chunmei was first arrested and locked up in a Chinese prison for 45 days after going to Tiananmen square to peacefully protest the CCP’s persecution against Falun Gong. She was then arrested again and placed into detention for one year where she was tortured, force fed and forced to do slave labor for 19 hours a day.

“Four or five policewomen beat me,” she said as they punched her in the face repeatedly, bloodying her nose and mouth. The sisters also said they were hung for hours from the ceiling with their feet dangling off the ground and were shocked with an electric baton for several hours while they were tied down on what is called the “dead man’s bed.” 

During this form of torture, the victim’s arms are handcuffed to the headboard and legs tied with nylon ropes. The ropes are then wrapped tightly around the person’s body, from legs to chest, constricting the victim’s breathing. The person usually cannot walk or even stand after undergoing this form of abuse. 

The middle sister, Chunlin, was arrested five times after protesting in Dalian and was also subjected to harrowing accounts of torture, abuse and forced labor for practicing Falun Gong. During one torture session, she was forced to sit on a hard stool for a week straight until her bottom turned black.

The sisters also spoke about 18 female practitioners who were placed into a men’s prison cell where they were subjected to rape at the hands of male prisoners. One young woman even had a child as a result of these assaults but did not know who the father was. 

In addition, the sisters also had large vials of blood drawn from them, which is unusual for routine medical procedures such as health checkups. However, the large amounts of blood are consistent with tests needed to secure a match for organ harvesting. 

Compliance in the form of silence

After hearing the sisters’ stories, White travels to London where he meets with Sir. Geoffrey Nice, who presided over the independent China’s Tribunal. The UK-based Tribunal was tasked with investigating “reports of thousands of transplant tourists going to China to purchase organs.”

According to their website, the scale of the Chinese transplant industry, together with other evidence, suggests that the CCP is involved in forced organ harvesting and selling for profit organs from murdered prisoners of conscience. The main victims of this atrocity are members of groups arbitrarily detained by the government for political reasons — such as Falun Gong adherents, Tibetans, Uyghur Muslims, and house Christians. 

After the release of the tribunal’s findings, the Chinese government banned Nice and other members from traveling to China. However, the tribunal’s findings are consistent with the fact that thousands of Falun Gong practitioners are still being targeted and killed for their organs in China today.


White also highlights his experience meeting with Ethan Gutmann in Los Angeles, an investigative journalist who, in addition to his work covering organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners, also highlights the systematic cover up and genocide experienced by Uyghur Muslims and other groups in China.

Gutmann says the media is complicit in covering up what he describes as a “mass crematorium” experienced by prisoners of conscience in Chinese prisons.

The CCP has a long track record of targeting religious faiths and minorities for violent assimilation to its atheist ideology. According to findings from the U.N., more than one million Uyghur Muslims remain jailed in concentration camps across remote parts of western China.

The film also sheds light on how 90 percent of American media outlets are owned by six corporations with deep business ties with China, resulting in reduced coverage of atrocities committed by the CCP. 

“Emboldened by Western capital and innovation, the CCP is slowly turning our own system against us,” White says in a voiceover. 

‘A very challenging project’

The film’s director, Mathias Magnason, said the project was a challenging endeavor and took six months of editing, writing and scoring to complete. “After completing the shooting in New York, Washington and London, I was already over budget and the story had grown much larger than I initially planned,” Magnason told Vision Times.

But the importance of telling this story inspired the crew to overcome all obstacles and see the project through.

“The story that eventually took shape during this process was very inspiring and carried me through to the finish line,” Magnason said, adding that “When we hear about human rights abuses happening in China, we often don’t think it has anything to do with us, but I think this film changes that idea.”

Stream Canaries in a Cold War here or watch it on NTD Television cable on Sunday, Feb. 20 and Saturday, Feb. 26.

Watch the trailer here: