WASHINGTON—Some lucky people in the nation’s capital had a first look at the documentary Free China: The Courage to Believe, which had a private showing at the U.S. Capitol. The 53-minute documentary has won four international awards.
Directed by Michael Perlman of Tibet: Beyond Fear, and produced by Kean Wong of NTD Television, Free China tells the story of two prisoners of conscience and how they survived against physical torture and enormous pressures to recant their beliefs.
“There are not enough human rights fighters in Congress,” Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett told The Epoch Times. She is the Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
Swett said that Free China is “a truth-telling film.” It “lifts the curtain on what is really going on in China—the horrible religious persecution of Falun Gong, the appalling practice of organ harvesting, and the slave labor in [the re-education through labor camps] and prisons. Tragically, we have a Western press that so often turns a blind eye to the stunning revelations of human rights abuses going on in China on an ongoing basis. I think this film can be a powerful tool for telling the truth and spreading the story. I hope it is going to be widely seen.”
Swett is the daughter of the late Congressman Tom Lantos and President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.
After the showing, a panel discussed the film. Sixteen term Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) led off with the statement, “With story-telling of the film, [it] puts a human face on China’s human rights abuse and arbitrary detention of dissidents, harvesting of organs from live prisoners of conscience, and export of products made by prison labor to the West. The film also examines how Chinese citizens are awakening to demand their rights of conscience in the intense Internet censorship and the end of censorship that is so prevalent in China today.”
The sponsor of the film screening at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 20 was the Congressional-Executive China Commission (CECC).
Rep. Smith is chairman of CECC. The week before, he co-chaired a congressional hearing on “Organ Harvesting by the Chinese Communist Party.” The day before the screening, Smith co-sponsored a Dear Colleague letter with Congressman Robert Andrews (D-N.J.), asking the State Department to release any information it may have that relates to organ transplant abuse in China.
In Free China, Jennifer Zeng, a mother and former Communist Party member, and Dr. Charles Lee, an American Chinese businessman, practice the spiritual beliefs of Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa). Both get caught up in the forced labor camps ubiquitous in mainland China.
There, they have to endure a life of torture of electric batons, forced feedings, risk having their organs harvested, and working all day on products exported to the West. They manage to survive without bitterness and become determined to end the persecution of their fellows and help China become free.
Both Zeng and Lee were in attendance at the Capitol preview. Lee said that in prison he held two letters for two years that sustained him during the time. One was from the late Congressman Tom Lantos and the other from Congressman Smith. Lee said, “I knew so many people were working together to stop the persecution.”
Courage to Believe
In addition to all the physical abuse, Zeng and Lee were subjected to the communist party’s brainwashing techniques to make them renounce their beliefs. If one breaks down, the practitioner will have to write slandering articles in the labor camp that are recorded.
Furthermore, one is used to break the will of other practitioners. One doesn’t have a choice in the matter. Renouncing your beliefs is shown in the film by willingness to “reform” others, especially newcomers, an ordeal that is particularly troublingly to the conscience. Hence, the words in the subtitle of the film “Courage to Believe” were chosen for a good reason.
Zeng is the author of the best-selling book, Witnessing History: One Woman Fights for Freedom and Falun Gong. In the film, she recounts going from being upper class society and Party member to prisoner in one day. On her first day in prison, she was made to squat down and look down at her feet in the hot sun for 15 hours. When she challenged the requirement, she was taken away and tortured with electric batons. Her whole world began to collapse, she said.
After she was released, she fled to Australia, to avoid being detained again. About one year ago Zeng moved to New York, where she is now a New Tang Dynasty news reporter. Later her daughter and husband were able to join her.
As an American citizen, Dr. Lee led a comfortable and secure life. But he wanted to do something to break through the propaganda machine of the regime that brainwashes most of China’s 1.3 billion people. He had an idea on how to do it, but on his second visit to the mainland, he was arrested and sentenced to three years. He was released in 2006. Lee is a medical doctor by training and continued his medical studies at the University of Illinois and Harvard Medical School.
Products Made from Prison Labor
Zeng knitted rabbit dolls, hats and scarves. It took her 10 hours to make one rabbit, for which, of course, she was not paid. Lee was forced to make Homer Simpson slippers for export to the West.
Film director Michael Perlman said the film shows that products illegally made and exported that made him wonder how many other products are out there that we don’t know about. He said he spoke to Congressman Smith about the law that disallows goods made with prison labor, and Smith told him that the law is like Swiss cheese, with many holes.
“No goods made with prison labor should be imported in the United States,” Perlman said. Consumers need to be educated and pressure needs to be brought to get enforcement and legislation to end this, Perlman said.
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