WASHINGTON—It was an indescribable sound, so quiet and yet, so heart wrenching that it touched the deepest recesses of my being.
Where had it come from, here at a candlelight vigil in Washington, D.C. A thousand or so people had gathered to mark 11 horrific years of persecution against Falun Gong practitioners in China.
I looked around and caught it again but this time, I saw the source. It was a youngish man, Chinese, sitting among the many barely lit in the soft candlelight. He was sobbing, quietly, deeply.
As terrible as it is, for many Westerners, the persecution against Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) is a remote event, happening in China, a place far removed from the realities of their everyday lives.
But for millions of Chinese people, whether they are living in the mainland or not, it is a horror they are forced to live with every day.
So many have lost mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, aunts, uncles, friends, or colleagues.
Many others live in constant fear for the loved ones who remain in China, who may be incarcerated or are under threat of arrest at every turn. Some have experienced the horror of a Chinese labor camp, themselves.
Thousands of Falun Gong supporters from all quarters of the globe descended on Washington for a week of activities surrounding July 20, the anniversary of the day the persecution started, in 1999.
Earlier this day, during a rally at the Capitol, people of different political persuasions had spoken out to mark the anniversary of the persecution.
“I am here because it is important to be represented as a group. It is more powerful. And [I’m here] in the hope that people will learn the truth about the persecution,” said Ann Levasseur, who traveled from Montreal.
“We did a vigil in Montreal and we went to Ottawa when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited, because we are practitioners,” she explained.
Marie Helene Doucet, from Quebec, said she had come because she believed the U.S. government could do more to stop the persecution. “They can really do a lot if they want to … to make China know that the world knows that they [the Chinese Communist Party] persecute practitioners and that we cannot, American and Canadians, accept this.”
Monica Moise came from Israel. “I am originally from Romania, a communist state. The story is not new to me,” she said.
“Persecution is a terrible thing, but people don’t talk about it so I have come here because it [the rally] is an important thing to support.”
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