The secret police had been tracking Xiong Huang across China for years. His location in Shanghai had been compromised, and already, wanted posters of him were lining the streets.
It was on April 20, 2003 when he decided to flee Shanghai. That night, he made a final call to his brother, saying he would call again once he was safe.
“I never received that phone call,” said Wanqing Huang, Xiong’s older brother who lives in New York.
It has been six years since that day.
As a practitioner of Falun Dafa, Xiong had taken on his shoulders the responsibility of exposing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) persecution of his beliefs. Daily, he would risk his life to pass out information pamphlets—telling the story behind the CCP’s propaganda and information blockade.
Wanqing, 31, was a PhD student in Idaho at the time, and knew clearly the dangers his brother was facing.
Stories of the thousands tortured to death or imprisoned by the CCP for practicing Falun Gong are still a haunting reminder of this reality. Recent reports of the Chinese regime using practitioners as living sources for organ transplants has only furthered the concern over Xiong's fate.
Prisoner of Conscience
The two began practicing Falun Gong in 1996—at a time when people across China were taking up the meditation practice in mass numbers.
A 1998 study conducted by China’s State Sports Commission estimated that over 70 millions people in China were practicing Falun Gong, based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Other estimates put the number at closer to 100 million by 1999. The CCP launched the first stage of its persecution campaign shortly after the poll’s findings.
When the persecution began, Wanqing was in the United States. Xiong was not so lucky, and was among the first to be arrested in the initial crackdown.
He was sentenced to a year-and-a half in a forced labor camp.
“He didn’t like to talk about it,” said Wanqing. “I asked him and he said there is no humanity there.”
Xiong said that in the winters, the guards would throw people into cold water. Beatings were also commonplace. “That’s a rule,” Wanqing said. “If you disobey their orders or something, they beat you and make you feel that you are weak.”
After his release, Xiong had to report to the local police department daily, where he was forced to write his thoughts.
“That’s normal,” said Wanqing. “If they say your thoughts are not with the government, sometimes they will even sentence you to jail.”
When asked why the CCP is so against Falun Gong, Wanqing said it is because the practice is based on truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
“This is against the CCP’s thoughts, against the CCP’s ideology,” said Wanqing. “It is something out of its control, so it is afraid of people living by the teachings of Falun Gong.”
The early years of the persecution were the most difficult to endure for many. At that time, all facets of the state-run media were filled with anti-Falun Gong propaganda day in and day out. It was in the face of this that Xiong stepped forward to spread the truth about the regime’s persecution of Falun Gong.
“My brother knows Falun Gong teaches people to be good people, and that we are good people,” said Wanqing.
“It is something good for society and people,” he said. “In China, people seek money fame and don't care about family, don’t care about friendship. But what Falun Gong teaches is to think of others and to be good toward others.”
In order to escape persecution for his beliefs, Xiong was forced into homelessness—which thus began his trek across China. “It was a hard decision for him because he did not have money,” said Wanqing.
Xiong would find work and a home temporarily in each city he went to. While there he would distribute information telling the truth, a truth that the CCP has gone to all ends to try and stamp out.
“Usually he would distribute 5,000 to 10,000 cds around the city,” said Wanqing. “The local authorities would then try to find him, so he would have to leave.”
Wanqing added that while his brother traveled across China, “the police would chase him, so he had to hide his name and hide his identity.”
Faced with death, torture, and horrors still unknown, Falun Gong practitioners have resisted the CCP’s machine of propaganda and terror in a peaceful manner that rivals that of Mahatma Gandhi.
Across China and the world, they set out daily to expose the Chinese regime’s persecution, and clear up the air of propaganda the regime conjured around their beliefs. Their approach has been one of rationally explaining their situation.
It was through this work that Xiong and an unknown number of others have been arrested.
A Brother’s Search
Since his brother’s disappearance, Wanqing has gone far and wide to uncover Xiong’s fate.
“I’ve spent a lot of effort trying to locate him and find information, but we’ve had no luck,” Wanqing said.
In the past several years, judges, and congress members have sent letters to China’s foreign ministry requesting information on Xiong's whereabouts, yet no response was received.
The information that has been obtained has only painted a darker picture.
Wanqing said he has lawyer friends in China with connections to the Shanghai police station where his brother was arrested. “They said the Shanghai station did arrest and detain him, but they don’t know where he was sent to,” Wanqing said.
Once, a Chinese reporter called the Shanghai police station. An officer answered the phone and told them “he knew the case very well,” Wanqing said.
When they tried calling the same officer later, he denied the previous claim.
Before Xiong’s disappearance, police would regularly harass his family in China—demanding to know his location. After the disappearance, the police put on a new face, and some have even brought gifts to his family.
“It is very strange,” Wanqing said. “I think they did something very bad to my brother so they dare not reveal it. They feel guilty so they try to comfort my family.”
“I still hope he is alive in the world, but the CCP is so…” said Wanqing, thinking. “If they control all information and media, it is hard for us to find out the truth about my brother.”
Wanqing adding that he knows the CCP is still sending Falun Gong practitioners to prisons and forced labor camps.
Falun Gong practitioners “are only asking for their right to freedom of belief,” Wanqing said. “The situation is still serious, so I hope more people will help those persecuted people in China.”