According to the newspaper itself, ''The Epoch Times'' was founded in New York in May 2000, following the arrest of a small circle of journalists in in 2000. On August 12, 2002, ''The Epoch Times'' launched its first daily in Washington, D.C..
In 2006, Eugenia Chien wrote in the journal ''New Media America'', that "''The Epoch Times'' now distributes in over 30 countries worldwide, with a weekly circulation of 1.5 million. Its circulation, like many ethnic newspapers, is not audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. The newspaper's English edition launched in New York in 2004 and rapidly grew. In New York alone, the newspaper has a 150,000 weekly distribution, in addition to 40,000 home deliveries, according to the newspaper." The term Dafa disciple refers to practitioners of Falun Dafa; "validating the Fa" refers to resisting the persecution of Falun Gong in mainland China, at the same time .
According to Li, ''The Epoch Times'' is one of “three major media groups”—Sound of Hope and New Tang Dynasty TV are the other two—which most concern the Chinese Communist Party, because ''The Epoch Times'' has become “the platform and facilitator for the Nine Commentaries.” In 2005 Li said "if you want to do better, you need to cooperate and coordinate well, carry out each task responsibly and attentively, and through your collective effort make that media outlet stand out. If all of you do well, the media outlet is bound to do well, and it will have a greater effect."
Blocked from being accessed electronically or distributed in China, the Chinese version of ''The Epoch Times'' is mainly being distributed in overseas Chinese communities for free. It claims to have a weekly distribution of over one million copies in 30 countries worldwide. The paper has associated media services, including the television station New Tang Dynasty TV, the radio station Sound of Hope, which together with ''The Epoch Times'' form the Epoch media group. ''Minghui'' and ''Reminbao'' are two other news sources used by few if any other media, and that help contribute stories from a Falun Gong perspective.
As of April 2006, ''The Epoch Times'' was available in ten languages for its print editions and in 17 languages on the Internet. In August 2004, an English language edition of ''The Epoch Times'' was launched in Manhattan. English editions are distributed in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States. and editions were launched in late 2004. There are two language editions in Japan: Chinese language edition and Japanese language edition , office is located in , Tokyo.
More recently , , , , and editions have started up in print.
Also in 2006, Epoch Times reporter Wang Wenyi made international headlines by yelling protests at and during a White House lawn press briefing concerning the crackdown of Falun Gong. The Epoch Times later apologized, and Wang Wenyi asserted that she undertook the action on her own. On 5 July 2006, Dr. Wang attended a media conference at the National Press Club with two recently released Falun Gong prisoners by her side to accuse China of secret organ harvesting. "The civilized world must shout to China," said Wang."
Awards and Recognition
In May 2005, ''Die Neue Epoche'' received a special media prize from the International Society for Human Rights for "extensive and regular reporting about violations of ." In August 2005, the English version of the paper was awarded the top award by the Asian American Journalists Association for the category "Asian American Issues - Online." In September 2005, the Chinese version of the paper was recognized during the National Ethnomedia Week 2005 in Canada as a "strong defender of human rights and free democratic values."
''The Epoch Times'' originally targeted Chinese readers living abroad and reported on various alleged persecutions and abuses by, as well as the inner workings of, the CCP . The paper's reports on China are highly critical of the Chinese government, and its tone and commentaries towards the Chinese Communist Party are largely negative. It often refers to China's government as "Communist China" in its reports, including non-political articles. It has since grown to report on civil rights issues worldwide, and now appeals to a somewhat wider audience. The English edition represents itself as a general-interest newspaper that, although it maintains a large amount of China-related content, offers twelve other sections, including travel, science, sports, and regional and international news.
The paper is unique in giving a large amount of attention to Falun Gong's campaigns, particularly their attempt to sue former Chinese President Jiang Zemin under civil legislation for genocide. However the case failed to attract major media attention outside of the newspaper, and later the paper's stance shifted from being anti-Jiang Zemin to anti-CCP. According to tax records, the chairman of the paper's board, Kangang Xu, is a top Falun Gong spokesperson. A US Congressional report lists the newspaper as a Falun Gong affiliated media source.
It was one of the first newspapers to carry in-depth coverage of SARS, well before the Chinese government publicly admitted that there was an epidemic that went on to cause some 350 deaths. The paper also counters what it considers to be CCP propaganda through its own opinion pieces. The paper is very vocal in supporting dissidents, Falun Gong practitioners, pro-independence Taiwanese, American conservatives and all other traditional opponents of the CCP; their views are often expressed in the opinion page.
The Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party
In November 2004, the Chinese version of ''The Epoch Times'' published and heavily promoted a series of editorials and a booklet entitled "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party" . The editorials purport to give an alternate exposé of the CCP through its history, from its ascent to power under Mao Zedong to its present-day form, as well as a condemnation of communism in all of its forms. In it the CCP was criticized as an illegitimate institution who employed underhanded tactics to gain power. Later in the series, however, the direction seems to shift between the CPC itself, its leaders, and allots an entire chapter on the "personal jealousy of Jiang Zemin" and his attacks on Falun Gong. The Nine Commentaries won the “Asian American Issues - Online” category at the 2005 Asian American Journalists Association convention held in August 2005. The "Commentaries" were subsequently rendered into other languages.
According to China's Sina News, while praised by some Chinese dissidents as having an adverse effect on the political control of the CCP, the contents of the commentaries are disputed by some critics who call it historical revisionism and Falun Gong propaganda. Because such text is banned in China, the paper has been reported to often send unsolicited copies, disguised as lottery winnings, sexually explicit material, and free game or music downloads via email or Internet pop-ups to spread their message inside mainland China.Inaccurate reference: the Sina News didn't mention the Epoch Times or the commentaries at all
In December 2005, the author of the "Nine Commentaries" was identified as Zheng Peichun, a Chinese dissident, who was arrested on the charge of crimes against the state and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. The paper has published a follow-up to the ''Nine Commentaries'', entitled the ''The Real Story of Jiang Zemin'', which portrays former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who Falun Gong believes is , in a completely negative lights, calling him a "lowlife who betrayed his own nation", depicting Jiang as a power-hungry political opportunist who sold China to foreign powers and created domestic chaos.
CPC Renunciations and Controversy
''The Epoch Times'' claims that the publication of the "Commentaries" and its subsequent call to CCP members to "erase the beastly brand" has caused more than 35.4 million CCP members to resign as of April 2008. ''The Epoch Times'' obtains this number by tallying renunciation statements submitted to them via Internet, fax, email, or telephone. This methodology is not scientific and widely disputed, and may not reflect the actual number of CCP resignations within China since anyone regardless of Chinese citizenship or CCP membership could submit their name and be counted as a person who has claimed to have renounced their CCP membership. Submissions include anonymous and unverifiable online signatures, duplicate signatures, and public declarations for people inside mainland China unable to access the website due to . The count also includes any renunciations of past or current association with any CCP-affiliated organization. At their Chinese language renunciation website, it was stated that "the evils of the Communist Cult will be punished by God at Judgment Day", and called on members of the CCP to burn Communist memorabilia. These renunciations are not recognized as valid and official by the CCP, as they are not conducted through the proper channels via the party.
This campaign calling for the renouncements of CCP members is also called the three Renouncements since it also encourages members of the two major subordinating organizations of the CCP, the Communist Youth League and the Young Pioneers of China, to renounce their memberships.
Worth noticing that according to the Constitution of the Young Pioneers of China , only children between the age of 6 and 14 are eligible to be a member of the YP. Those who exceeds this age limit exits the YP automatically. Similar age restrictions applies to the Communist Youth League as well . However, many participants renounces their membership of the YP and CYL even though they exceeds the age limits of these organizations and are no longer members. For example, the founder of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi renounced his membership of CYL in 2005 at the age of 54 and was included in the tally.
Some says that the three renouncements has nothing to do with Falun Gong, but is just an independent campaign launched by ''Epoch Times''. However, Fei Liangyong, Chairman of the Democratic China Front and senior member of Chinese Free Culture Movement, explicitly mentioned that the three renouncements campaign was indeed initiated by Falun Gong in his speeches and his various interviews with Falun Gong related media such as ''Mingjian'' and ''Huiyuan''.
At their English language version of the renunciation website, the cumulative count of people who have allegedly quit the CCP appears as a sidebar to the Internet form which captures English language denunciations of the CCP. An official ''Epoch Times'' statement appearing at the bottom of the page appears to conflate denunciations done by non CCP members on this page with the renunciations done by CCP members on the Chinese language page: "All ''The Epoch Times'' Offices worldwide will provide assistance to anybody who wants to denounce/renounce the Communist Party .
During the summer of 2005, two diplomats, Chen Yonglin and Hao Fengjun, defected from the Chinese embassy in Canberra, Australia. The cases received international attention, and Chen Yonglin received some attention from ''The New York Times''. According to ''The Epoch Times'', their actions had been influenced by the Nine Commentaries. More recently, in a story beginning October 26th, 2006, Jia Jia, Secretary General of the Shanxi Provincial Expert Association of Science and Technology, has made ''Epoch Times'' headlines due to his supposed renunciation of the Communist Party of China.
According to ''Epoch Times'' interviews, his actions were directly influenced by the Nine Commentaries, and Jia asserts considerable discussion of the Commentaries and government dissatisfaction within China. Deutsche Presse-Agentur and Voice of America are among other media that picked up the story, interviewing Mr. Jia themselves.
Orville Schell, dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, said "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." Liu says the journal's credibility as media professionals has been damaged by the Wang Wenyi incident. James Bettinger, professor of Communications at Stanford University and the director of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, said that their consistent writing about Falun Gong in the same perspective, without critical examination Falun Gong, contributes to people's perception that it is not credible.
Arthur Waldron, a leading China scholar and Lauder Professor of International Relations in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania says he finds ''The Epoch Times'' "particularly striking," and believes it is obvious that "its reports are drawn from a network of correspondents inside China, a network that the authorities have not been able to destroy." He recommends those who want to get a sense of what is really going on in China should "pay at least as much attention to ''The Epoch Times'' as they do to the ''People’s Daily.''"
The paper denies all accusations of bias, stating that "We are not funded by Falun Gong, we don't speak for Falun Gong, and we don't represent Falun Gong."