She must be a fearless, tough lady, I thought as I was preparing to interview Ms. Li Wenxun, a woman who had escaped from the CCP’s tyranny. It turned out however, that Ms. Li was totally different from what I had imagined. She was petite, had an agreeable, smiling face, and spoke softly—a typical gentle woman. She sobbed as she was talking about how her loved ones risked their lives to save her and helped her escape from the CCP’s persecution. I was moved to tears by her story.
On Sept. 27, the Falun Dafa Association of Washington D. C. held a press conference at the Rayburn Building in the U.S. Congressional office complex to thank the U.S. government for its efforts in settling Ms. Li Weixun in America. At the conference Ms. Li told the media how she had been tortured to near death at a CCP detention center because of her faith in Falun Gong, and how she had managed to escape from China while on a medical parole.
In July, Mr. James Sensenbrenner, the influential chairman of House Judiciary Committee addressed a letter to the U.S. State Department, which is responsible for taking in refugees, urging it to deal seriously with cases of Falun Gong practitioners applying for refugee status. Meanwhile, Congress has expressed its concerns in many resolutions and hearings about the plight of Falun Gong practitioners.
Ms. Li obtained her freedom after years of hiding, homelessness and exile with the help of the American government and international refugee agencies. “While I am free today, my brother, a non-Falun Gong practitioner, was given an 8-year jail term for saving me and other Falun Gong practitioners. He is still being held in Dabei prison, and his hair has turned gray because of the suffering,” she added.
Ms. Li, 48, born in Liaoning on May 26, 1957, has a brother and three sisters. She and her husband both worked for the CCP branch at the Heavy Machinery Group in Shenyang City. How did she, an atheist and communist become a Falun Gong practitioner? Our interview began with that question.
“I was so happy that I wanted to laugh out loud”
“I ran into Falun Gong by chance in 1996,” Ms. Li started. “During the Cultural Revolution, my parents were persecuted. So, at the age of nine, I had to take up the responsibility of cooking and doing laundry for our family of seven. I was so little, that I couldn’t even reach the top of the stove. So I had to stand on a stool while my body swayed and legs quivered. I contracted tracheitis and rheumatoid syndrome from washing cloths in ice-cold water in the winters.
When I approached 40, the rheumatoid syndrome had made its way into my heart, causing insufficient blood supply to my brain and joint deformations at my waist, back, hip, wrists, ankles, and fingers. I even needed help from my husband when moving my body while asleep. In those 30-plus years, I felt I’d be better off dead than alive. None of the medicines I took proved effective, and I was so miserable that I decided that life for me was totally meaningless. “
“Plagued by chronic illnesses, I sought all sorts of treatments, including practicing qigong.”
“It was in the spring of 1996. One morning as I was taking a walk in Huaxiang Park, Shenyang city, I saw to my right, a group of people standing there, doing qigong exercises. One of them from the group greeted me as I walked toward them, and told me they were practicing Falun Gong. I told him I was interested, so another person from the group, a volunteer instructor, came over and taught me four sets of exercises right there.
“When I was doing the embracing the wheel exercise, eyes closed, I felt elated, a sensation indescribable coming from the deepest part of my heart. I was certain I would have burst into laughter if there had been no others present. Seeing the smile on my face, the instructor asked if I had seen anything. I told him I hadn’t, I just felt so relaxed and at ease, and sensed rather than saw brightness and whiteness.
“Later, people asked me how I had recovered from all my illnesses by practicing Falun Gong. I said I didn’t know how or when. All I knew was, as I was reading the book and doing the exercises every day, all my illnesses just vanished into thin air. Now I no longer suffer from my ailments and I don’t need my medicines.
“My family all marveled at my change. My sisters and my son started practicing Falun Gong too.”
Which Hand to Cut Off—Left or Right?
Reporter: Since 1999 when the CCP started cracking down on Falun Gong, the persecution has continued escalating. And yet, you had petitioned your way through the different levels of authorities. In the end, you were arrested in Beijing and sent back to your home town. What went through your mind in the face of losing your job and the breakdown of your family?
Ms. Li Weixun: After the persecution started on July 20, 1999, I went to the Liaoning province Party office twice to petition for Falun Gong, and wrote letters to the departments concerned. At the time, I still went to work and practiced Falun Gong at home, as usual. However, towards the end of October 1999, the CCP’s lies and slander about Falun Gong were all over the headlines, and I couldn’t stay at home any more. I set off to Beijing on November 9 to appeal for Falun Gong. Two days later, one of my sisters and I were escorted back to Shenyang and held in custody at the Danan detention center. They demanded I write a statement, promising not to go to Beijing to appeal again. They said they’d let me go once I did. Otherwise, they’d drag my family into this situation and let them talk to me.
The first time my husband saw me, his eyes filled with tears, he held my hands tightly and called my childhood name: “Fu, let’s compromise and stop appealing a while, can’t we do that?” I replied: “No, I cannot tell lies.
My husband and I grew up together; and we have always had a deep affection for each other. He knew I had not done anything wrong, but how could he withstand this sudden suppression that came from the government? At that time, he withheld his tears, not able to utter a single word. He gradually released my hands and slowly turned around and left.
The next day, my older brother and my husband brought my over 70-year-old mother from Tieling. I remember how startled I was that day as my brother and husband, holding my white-haired mother in their arms, appeared in the detention center. When I saw tears falling from my mother’s aged eyes, my heart trembled. Mother said to me: “Fu, write (the written guarantee) please, let us go home, please listen to me!” I held back my tears and said to my mother: “Mother, I did not do anything wrong, I cannot write.”
My mother then said: “Mother is kneeling down before you!” I hurriedly lifted my mother up by her arms and said: “Mother, do not be like this. I became healthy and happy all because of the Falun Gong practice, you know that. What I have done is all legal; it is what they do that is illegal.” Mother finally left in tears. As I watched mother leave, my heart was bleeding. I asked myself, how could this happen? A political party used the power at hand to violate the constitution, and turned around to coerce people to choose between their conscience and dear ones, what kind of atrocity and lawlessness is this!
It is like being seized by a robber, who wants to cut off your arm, and asks you to choose which one, the right or the left arm. There is no choice here. I want Falun Gong, I want my family and children also, but Jiang Zemin’s regime forced us to choose between what we were unable to choose, if this is not a hoodlum’s tactic, what is?
“Just go. Leave so you may survive.”
Reporter: Among them all, the pressure on your husband most likely is the greatest. How did he treat you?
Wei Xun: My husband and I, and many other relatives, all worked for the same company. Thus, all family members suffered great mental pressure and implication. They often asked to talk to my husband and wanted him to transform me (to renounce Falun Gong). He did not cave in to the pressure and protected me with all his might when he was outside of our home. After he would come home, he never said a thing but endured the pressure. Over time, he could not bear it any longer.
One day in 2000, my husband said to me: “Let’s get a fake divorce now, we will still be together after you leave.” I knew my husband's plight, the work unit compelled him to draw a clear line from me and he also worried about our children. But practitioners cannot lie, so I said no to my husband. He thought it over and stopped mentioning it.
Actually my husband also understood that his suffering was not my fault. His anger should not be aimed toward me because I was the victim. But the understanding of present day Chinese is all twisted; one could very well begin to blame the victim unknowingly.
I can understand my husband's pain; a virile and real man does not even have the right to cry. He swallowed his tears and started drinking alcohol when the sorrow became unbearable. Drunkenness enables one to cry out. Thereafter, my husband began to indulge himself in drinking, letting his anger out on me.
Later on, the police arrested me for printing Falun Gong materials. I was compelled to become homeless. One day in 2001, the long-term unbearable pressure finally reached the limit of his endurance. He proposed a divorce again and had the paperwork ready. My husband said to me: “I am not asking for anything but a normal life, now I have suffered enough fear, I cannot take it anymore.”
I could understand his pain, I said calmly: “If there is someone else, I would not stop you. Marriage is a serious matter that it is not just up to you and me. I believe you would come back to me eventually.” My husband asked me with a deep sigh: “What belongings of ours do you want?” I said to him: “Why would I want anything if I don’t have you anymore?” That evening, my husband left with the divorce agreement. He never mentioned divorce again, he knew he could not break the love between us, he also knew the fault was not ours.
Later on when I was leaving China, my husband saw me off at the airport. He shed tears quietly and said to me in the end: “Just go – so you may survive.”
Pursuit of Truth Even at the Cost of Life
Reporter: Can you describe in detail how you escaped death after being captured for the fourth time and tortured to the point of paralysis?
Wei Xun:: On January 13, 2002, the Falun Gong truth clarifying center which I was operating, was exposed, my fellow practitioners and I were kidnapped to the Xilingkong police station in Shenyang City. We were not allowed to sleep for four days and nights, they interrogated us about the source of our information and other people involved.
In order to protest against the illegal kidnapping, I went on a hunger strike. As I did not do anything wrong, I refused to answer their questions, so the police then handcuffed my hand behind my back against the chair, lifted my handcuffed arms and pulled upwards, the handcuffs cut into my flesh and blood oozed out; they stepped on my toes with the heels of their leather shoes, kicked my knees and lower legs, then used a one inch metal rod to hit my lower shin bones. I gritted my teeth and endured the torture without saying a word.
The next day two new hatchet men showed up and threatened to torture me. They asked me to kneel but I refused, so they used both hands to grab hold of my shoulders and neck and pushed me down. But I still refused to kneel so they grabbed my blouse and pushed me down, one kicked my lower leg from behind, but I still did not kneel, one of the bigger men then used his arm to hit me hard on the back and neck.
At that time, it felt as if my whole chest had burst open, after continuous beatings, my head dropped and I fell to the ground. Subsequently, they grabbed my blouse and dragged me along, forcing me into a kneeling position, but I had no strength to stand up, both my legs were numb and paralyzed.
Reporter: One’s body is made of flesh; faced with such brutal torture, did you feel pain?
Wei Xun: At that time, I did not think about pain, my only thought was I was a practitioner, everything I did was right, Dafa had given me a new life and I cannot do anything that would harm Dafa or my fellow practitioners. I could deeply feel my strong righteous thoughts sustaining me.
“While I lay in my husband’s arms, wasted away to a skeleton, I knew I made it out alive”
“On the third day, they changed the two policemen again, one of them told me “I beat Song Hengjie to death.” Another added: “Beaten to death is considered as suicide and beating someone to death has no consequence.” Song Hengjie was a Falun Gong practitioner who lived in the same area as me. In 2001, he was tortured to death and the police lied, saying that he had committed suicide.
“The criminal policeman that murdered Song Hengjie, fiercely pulled me in front of him, and started to slap my face. Facing the murderer, I had already put life and dead aside, and I felt very peaceful inside. I looked at him quietly. I felt that the air was frozen, it was so quiet, the hand of the murderer stopped half way, he could not put it down. “
“Without achieving their goal after several turns of torture, they sent out the notice of arrest on February 9 and wanted to sentence me. I refused to sign my signature on the document. The procurator said, “We’ll sentence you even without your signature.” Latter I was informed they had sentenced me to 16 years in prison in my absence.
“Under this terrifyingly dark situation in China, the only way to get out of prison is to be bailed out for medical purposes. Because of the long period of torture in the detention center, my upper limbs became paralyzed, On February 17, lumps showed up all over my body, and I felt unbearably itchy. After 20 days, my legs became paralyzed also; both my hand and feet were so swollen it felt as if my skin was going to break open. Several days after that, my jaw became so tight that I could not speak or eat, and fell into unconsciousness, the hospital issued a notice that I was terminally ill. In order to shake off their responsibility, the Shenyang Municipal 610 Office approved my bail for medical purposes at the time. When my relatives carried me to a car, I was as thin as a skeleton; I lay in my husband’s arms and realized that I had finally made it out alive.”
“Initially, they wanted to send me to a hospital for medical treatment under supervision. I insisted on going home. The 610 Office ordered the local police, Neighborhood Committee, and my previous work unit, to assign people to monitor me 24 hours a day. Initially, they wanted to monitor me in my bedroom, but were firmly refused by my husband, so they moved in next door and stayed there night and day, in order to more conveniently monitor me. They finally demanded that my home’s front door be left open day and night.
“They gradually relaxed their surveillance 20 days after I went back home. At midday, I planned to escape when I was home alone. My older brother called me. He said, “You wait at home, and I’ll see whether there are any police at the gate of the yard. You can leave after I call you.”
“After his call, I escaped detection by the surveillants. While I was on the main street, I immediately saw a police car parked across the street. A cab came. I waved at it, but it did not stop. Then, a second cab drove over and stopped. After I opened the door, I saw my older brother sitting inside. He helped me to go to Tieling by train to hide at a relative’s home.
“Although I had escaped, my family was implicated. They became innocent victims. My sister-in-law was caught and interrogated by the police that day. Her arms were beaten and injured by the director of the Street Police Office. She was detained there until nightfall. Afterwards, they searched the homes of my mother, my older brother, my husband’s sister, etc. They also searched all my relatives’ homes and sent six people to keep my mother’s and older brother’s homes under surveillance.
“Seeing all my relatives and friends worried and scared for me, I felt heartbroken. When I lived in a distant relative’s home, my nephew’s friend visited him one day. My older brother thought he was a plainclothes policeman, he became extremely terrified. Seeing my older brother’s panicked expression, I knew that I had no choice but to leave and wander around.”
Nine Family Members Were Arrested or Forced to Flee China
“At the beginning, I did not want to leave China, because people there needed to know the truth of Falun Gong. Then, one fellow practitioner told me, “If you have the chance go abroad, why don’t you expose the CCP’s darkness and let all people in the world realize the persecution perpetrated by those evil scoundrels? Maybe it is your mission.” As a result, I agreed to allow my older brother to help me go through the process of going abroad.
“With my older brother’s help, I went to Thailand. One day, I heard that the police discovered my older brother’s efforts in rescuing Falun Gong practitioners. The police viciously beat my brother. One of his legs was seriously injured and was paralyzed.
“At first, the public security wanted to sentence him for the serious crime of, “Subverting the Nation.” Then, because of all of my family members’ efforts, he was sentenced to 8 years of imprisonment for “the Crime of Interfering with the Execution of the Law.” In just a short time, nine members of my family were either arrested or escaped. My younger sister was sentenced to 3 years in the Longshan Forced Labor Camp. I was sentenced to 16 years of imprisonment, and my older brother 8 years. My sister-in-law escaped from China. My other younger sister and my sister-in-law’s two sisters and their husbands were all arrested. My mother said that she did not know how she survived the Chinese New Year that year. She was heartbroken.
“Afterwards, my mother told me over the phone that my older brother’s hair and beard turned white overnight after he was imprisoned in the jail. His legs and arms were numb after severe beatings.”
Parted Heaven And Earth
Reporter: Now that you are in the U.S., how does your family feel about it? Are they happy?
Wei Xun: Many people think that it’s wonderful to live in the U.S. But for my family, it’s like the separation of heaven and earth. We live in distant places, and can no longer see each other. Breaking up with my family is extremely painful. I remember the night my son arrived in Thailand, a 23-year-old adult; he lay in my bed and leaned close to me. He said, “Mother, it would be so great if I had not grown up. After you left, I didn’t know when I would see you again” My mother also cried during our phone conversation, “Fu, you went farther and farther away. Will I see you again in my lifetime?” It was hard for my husband to choose to stay, because he has to take care of our old mother at home.
When I think of my family and my fellow Falun Gong practitioners in China, I cannot help crying. Though I live in the U.S., my heart is concerned about people in distant China all the time. My family, my fellow practitioners, and my fellow countrymen still live in darkness.
After I came to the U.S., I was pushed onto the stage of the world. Actually, I am only a common Chinese woman. I am only an unknown Falun Gong practitioner. But since history has chosen me to stand on this stage, I think that I have the responsibility to disclose the persecution of Falun Gong in China.