SAN FRANCISCO— “For 16 years, I’ve been living in the fear of being persecuted for my faith,” said Peiqi Gu, 30, who grew up in communist China. Her faith is Falun Dafa, a Buddha School practice of the mind, body, and spirit, which is freely enjoyed nearly everywhere in the world, with the notable exception of China.
Just one year before the persecution began, Gu, at the age of 11, took up Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong) with her mother. According to an official study, some 70 million other people in China were also practicing Falun Gong; Falun Gong sources say the number was over 100 million.
This traditional meditation system advocates high moral values associated with truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance as taught in the teachings of Zhuan Falun.
“I always can find very profound meaning about life, about the universe in Dafa, in reading Dafa,” said Gu, as well as how to be a good person, and how “to deal with tribulations and troubles of life.”
When the persecution started and the communist party-controlled T.V. began vilifying Falun Gong, Gu was in total disbelief. The programming aimed at instilling public fear of and hatred for Falun Gong in an attempt to justify the brutal persecution.
“I was shocked because it was absolutely the opposite of what I learned by … practicing and reading the Dafa book, because Dafa always tells you to be a good person, by following the principles of truthfulness, compassion—benevolence—and tolerance,” Gu said.
Gu and her mother set out to counteract the slander by telling others of their positive experiences with the practice. Yet, these actions placed them directly in harm’s way.
This is a story of a loving family sticking together, of a young college girl forging a path to spiritual freedom, and in doing so, strengthening her voice to dispel the lies against Falun Gong.
Education a Family Priority
For Gu’s family, education was a top priority.
“I am the only child in my family. I was a very, very super-spoiled girl,” Gu said.
“It’s funny, since first grade to twelve,” Gu explained, her mom was up first to start breakfast. Her dad waited until the very last moment before calling Gu to wake up to allow her as much sleep as possible. After eating or while Gu ate, her mom did her hair. Dad got her school bag arranged, and put her shoes on, then assisted her with a coat.
“Then … my dad would just open the door, so I could just run and go to school. And, my parents even moved to an apartment that was next door to my high school, so I just needed to walk five minutes to go to school and be seated in my classroom.”
School was a safe place until February of 2006, “that’s the day I will never forget, … my mom and I got arrested,” Gu said.
Arrest and Threats
Gu, her mom, and her aunt’s family were on holiday break at a hotel. “Six of us were arrested, and we were interrogated and questioned by the police separately,” Gu said.
“Then they figured out that only my mom and I practiced [Falun Gong], and [so] they released my aunt’s whole family.”
The arrest happened as a result of Gu and her mom giving out free DVDs to resort shop owners. The DVDs had information dispelling propaganda ploys by the government-controlled media to turn the public against Falun Gong.
Mom and daughter also talked to a shop owner about their personal experiences of becoming healthy and better people by living by truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
At the police station, Gu’s mom refused to tell the police where they had gotten the DVDs they were passing out. The police then “started to threaten my mom that they would stop my education and ruin my future,” Gu said.
After 48 hours in the police station, “they sent my mom to a detention center, and they asked my dad to take me home. The police … told my dad, who is not a [Falun Gong] practitioner, to take care of me because I [now] have a criminal record in the police system, and that if I ever do that [again]… I would definitely be arrested and they would stop my college education.”
“It was the first time I [had] ever seen my dad so desperate,” Gu said.
The threats were also hard on her mother. “My mom thought of killing herself because if they would stop my education, my mom could not forgive herself,” Gu said.
Gu’s dad reassured them that everything would be okay. He decided to ask if he could take her place if Gu should go to jail, then her studies would not be interrupted.
Impact on the Family
Historically, the communist regime instills fear that can pit parents and children against each other as well as other loved ones. The fear is well founded.
There are chilling consequences for talking about Falun Dafa in public or not renouncing the faith when asked to by communist regime authorities. These well-documented consequences include incarceration, leading to such things as “sleep deprivation, threatening family members, denial of access to sanitation or bathrooms,” Amnesty International reports.
“The ill-treatment escalates to severe beatings, 24-hour surveillance, solitary confinement, shocks with electric batons,…”rack” torture…” and hundreds of other forms of unbelievably inhumane tortures,” according to Amnesty.
Out of fear of retaliation by the government authorities, Gu’s relatives turned their backs. “They just abandoned us in that dark night; I will never forget. They just left and … never called my dad.”
Instead of coming up with solutions, “they gathered all our relatives together … cursing us and blaming us,” Gu explained.
“Nobody was willing to help us out, to get out of that situation. So, I felt that the whole family had collapsed.”
Ever since the day she and her mom were arrested, she said, “I’ve been living in the fear of being persecuted.”
“I couldn’t imagine [anything] worse happening to me. So the only thing in my mind during the four years in college [in China] I was thinking about how to escape, to get out from that place,” Gu said.
Several opportunities to live elsewhere came up and she took them. The final stop was the United States. With the help of U.S. Falun Gong practitioners, “I walked away from the fear little by little,” Gu said.
Dreams of Freely Practicing Falun Gong
After college, Gu tried several places outside of China to live. “I got a job and the company sent me to Laos, a … developing country. I told myself I would rather … live there instead of going back to China,” Gu said. No more worries of being abducted.
However, fear was still felt as her parents’ phone was monitored by local police.
Her job in Laos was with a hotel “where I found my interest in the hotel industry,” Gu said. And in 2014 she got accepted to a U.S. school to get a master’s degree in hospitality management.
The school granted her the opportunity to attend a conference in the Dominican Republic where for the first time since the persecution began she was able to practice Falun Gong openly.
“That moment was so beautiful. I just felt so relieved by sitting there and practicing with practitioners. I realized … the whole world welcomes Falun Dafa,” Gu said.
The practice “is originally from China, but unfortunately most of the Chinese people are unable to know the beauty of Falun Dafa.”
Gu decided right then to continue to do what she did in China, “keep telling others, especially Chinese people, what Falun Dafa is, [and about] the wonderfulness of Falun Dafa,” Gu said.
In May of 2016, she graduated with a master’s degree in hospitality management, which led to a good job as an accountant for a boutique hotel chain.
A New life in America
She recently had a reunion with father on his visit to the United States. She was so excited that after two years of being in the States, she finally got to see him.
“I have never [been] separated from my parents for that long,” Gu said.
Her dad couldn’t believe that his little girl was all grown-up, very independent, with school completed, a new life and friends, and a good job.
“He knows how hard I was trying to survive alone on the other side of the world by myself,” Gu said.
Gu’s family hope one day soon to be reunited permanently.