The Story of My Father
The Story of My Father

1

My father was born into an ordinary peasant family in Chaozhong village, Zhongjiang County, Sichuan Province. It was said that my grandmother had given birth to 12 children, but only 9 survived. My father was the second eldest son in the family. With numerous younger brothers and sisters to look after, he was naturally expected to share the responsibility of supporting the family.

I didn’t have a chance to visit my father’s home village until the 1980’s, when I was already a high school student. Several of my uncles were still living in the shabby, old mud wall houses inherited from our ancestors, with literally no furniture inside, nor electricity. People still relied on dim kerosene lamps in the night.

To me, this kind of family should have fallen into the “absolute poverty” category. However, in 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) categorized everyone in China into different classes after coming into power, my father’s family was classified as a “small land lessor.”

Jennifer Zeng (right) with her two sisters in the 1980's at Chaozhong village, Zhongjiang County, Sichuan Province in China. The mud wall house behind them was the family house passed on to many generations from their ancestors. Some of Jennifer's uncles and many of her cousins are still living in this house and village today.  (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)
Jennifer Zeng (right) with her two sisters in the 1980’s at Chaozhong village, Zhongjiang County, Sichuan Province in China. The mud wall house behind them was the family house passed on to many generations from their ancestors. Some of Jennifer’s uncles and many of her cousins are still living in this house and village today. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

I learnt the term “small land lessor” in 1973, when I was required to fill in the “personnel archive form” while enrolling into elementary school.  One of the items to be filled was the “family class category on your father’s side.”

At that time a “personnel archive” was set up for everyone when you first enrolled into elementary school.  All personal information was included in the archive files including all exam scores in the school, all the comments your teacher wrote about you, all your family situations, and all the good and bad things about you.

Everywhere you went, this archive followed. But you were not allowed to view the contents or know what was actually inside. It was only meant for the Party to know everything about everybody.

As a 6-year-old, grade-one student, I already knew that there were a “class of landlords” and a “class of poor and the lower-middle peasants,” but I didn’t understand what a “small land lessor” was. I then asked my mother, who immediately said indignantly, “It was unfair! There were so many brothers and sisters in your father’s family. Overall, they didn’t own much land. If it were calculated based on the average land area per person, your father’s family should have been categorized as ‘middle peasants’ at most. Only because they had hired people to help farming the land, they were categorized as a ‘small land lessor,’ which was unfairly high!”

In the 1990s'Jennifer revisited her relatives who still lived in the village. The old family house remained unchanged. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)
In the 1990s’Jennifer revisited her relatives who still lived in the village. The old family house remained unchanged. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

I didn’t fully understand mother’s explanation. However, I somehow already knew that it was a terrible thing if you were ranked  “high” in the “class category.”  At that time, the grandfather of a girl in our class was a landlord; and the entire class looked down upon that girl.

Once I went to her home, and unintentionally saw an old man in a black cotton-padded coat sitting in the corner quietly. I realized that this must be her landlord grandfather.  Immediately I was struck with fear, as if having seen a monster. I hastily made up an excuse and fled her home as fast as I could.

Fortunately enough, the social class category of my mother’s side was “poor people in the city,” which was part of the “proletariat.”  This gratefully evened up my father’s “high category” a little bit.

My mother’s parents got divorced soon after she was born; and she was adopted by another family. Actually, my mother’s foster father was once a “capitalist,” who owned a brewery and a shop in Zhongjiang County.  My father actually came to know my mother when he worked in that shop as an apprentice.

Later on, my mother’s foster father became addicted to opium. As a result, he spent all his wealth. When the CCP took power in 1949 and gave everyone a “social class category,” he was therefore classified as “poor people in the city.”

From then on he often boasted in front of my mother and my grandmother, “Do you think it would have been so easy for you to become part of the ‘proletariat’ if it weren’t for me?”

2

My father had some private schooling when he was young.  When he was older, he had to attend school, which was very far from home. Every day, he needed to finish all his homework at school, as his time after school belonged to family duties, including weaving a certain amount of fabric, which was to be sold at a farmers’ market every ten to fifteen days.

When he became a teenager, my father insisted on going to the capital city of the county to study. My grandmother didn’t want him to go, as he was much needed at home.  She figured: if we find him a wife and get him married, he would then stay, become a strong farmer for the family, and then raise his own children to carry on the family line.

Therefore, they managed to find a girl for him. When he went on an arranged blind date, my father saw that the girl had a “pig-belly” shaped face, and instantly disliked her. With much determination, he refused this marriage arrangement; and overtook many difficulties before he was finally able to go to the capital city, where he eventually met my mother.

When my father told me this story, there was always an unnoticeable trace of contempt on his face. I always thought to myself: How lucky! If father had married that “pig-belly” faced woman, wouldn’t he have been “trapped” in the countryside? If that were the case, there would have never been such a person as me in this world.  Therefore, I have never thought highly of anybody who had a “pig-belly” shaped face, no matter how others praised her for being beautiful.

However, I had never figured out: as a mere teenager, why my father could be so determined about gaining more education when the entire family was against this.

Profile photo of Jennifer Zeng's father at university. Ever since Jennifer's childhood, she has believed that this is how a handsome man should look like. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)
Profile photo of Jennifer Zeng’s father at university. Ever since Jennifer’s childhood, she has believed that this is what a handsome man should look like. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

My mother later told me that my father was the eldest student in his class. As a fourth grader at the elementary school, he was already 18 years old.  He studied very hard and showed various talents in different areas.  He was good at singing, playing musical instruments, basketball, swimming, calligraphy and writing.  The essays he wrote were spread amongst the students in the entire county as good examples; and my mother had also read them in school. So, my father was quite a figure even then!

3

In the 1960’s, at the age of 27, my father was admitted to the Southwest University of Political Science & Law in Sichuan Province; and thus became the first ever university student in his village. This caused quite a sensation among all the villagers.

As far as I can remember, father only told me one story about his university life, and that was about a secret skill for obtaining one more bowl of rice.

When my father was attending university, China was experiencing the so-called “Three Years of Natural Disasters.” It should actually be called “The Three Years of the Great Chinese Famine,” when 20-43 millions were starved to death, according to some scholars.

My father said, when it was mealtime in the university, everybody ate in the dining hall, with eight people sitting at each table. Rice was supplied in a big pot for everyone to share.

At that time every student was so hungry and was ready to fight for food like a wolf. As soon as the pot was placed on the table, everybody immediately put as much as rice as possible into his own bowl, and then ate with all their might.  However, my father only filled half of his bowl, so he could always finish earlier than others. Then he would fill his bowl with rice as much as he could, and enjoyed it with ease and leisure. In this way, he could eat half a bowl more rice than others.

When he told me this story, my father smiled with pride, and an almost unnoticeable trace of cunning, which one could only see on the face of a Chinese peasant.

However, I doubt how successful my father was with this kind of tactic. Mother told me that he suffered from hunger edema because of starvation and almost died in the hospital.

Jennifer's father in university. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)
Jennifer’s father in university. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

My mother also told me that life was extremely hard for my father then. His family couldn’t offer him any financial support. Every weekend he had to work very hard as a loader at the Chaotianmen Port in Chongqing City, to earn some money to cover his most basic expenses.

In 1964, my father graduated from university and was assigned to work as a teacher at Mianyang Finance and Trade Cadres Training School in Sichuan Province. At that time my mother had been teaching for several years in a remote village primary school.

4

Although my mother’s foster-parents were “proletariat,” her biological mother later married someone who was classified by the CCP as a “thug.” As a result, my mother also became an outcast. She wasn’t allowed to go to high school after graduating from junior middle school.  Going to university was even less possible for her.

As a very proud young girl, my mother felt too ashamed to face anybody. So she ran away from the city, hid in a remote village, and became an elementary school teacher there. At that time she was only 16 years old.

In 1965, my parents married each other, but they weren’t able to move to the same place. Their work places were about 100kms (about 62 miles) apart from each other. At that time, everything was controlled by the party; and nobody could just move to another place or change their jobs freely.

In 1966, I was born as their first child. And exactly at that year, the unprecedented “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” began.

In 1967, when I was only one year old, my father was accused of being a “black pawn of reactionary capitalist-roaders.”

At that time he had developed acute hepatitis and was hospitalized. However, nobody cared about his illness. He was dragged from the hospital to the big stage to be publicly denounced. His hands were painted with black ink to indicate his identity as the “black pawn of reactionary capitalist-roaders”.

After the public denunciation, he was ordered to write dozens of copies of “self-criticism,” and to post them at appointed places.

In 1965, Jennifer's parents married each other; but were not allowed to live together. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)
In 1965, Jennifer’s parents married each other; but were not allowed to live together. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

As father was too weak to move at all, this grand task had to be accomplished by my mother, who was having maternity leave and staying with my father in Mianyang then. She tied me to her back with cotton tape, with a bucket of self-made flour paste in one hand, a big roll of dozens of “self-criticism” letters, which had been hand copied with a big brush pen in the other hand, and went out to post the letters. It took her the entire night to post them all.

When I was two or three-years-old, my father was relocated to a remote township called Hanwang in Mianzhu County, Sichuan Province. There were only about 30,000 people in the town, and it was also about 100 kms away from my mother’s school. The workplace for my father to “settle down to be reformed” was a cereal processing machinery factory, which was newly built on a barren floodplain, with barely anything inside it yet.

Jennifer's mother holding one-year-old Jennifer. In the same year this photo was taken, Jennifer's father was publicly denounced as a
Jennifer’s mother holding one-year-old Jennifer. In the same year this photo was taken, Jennifer’s father was publicly denounced as a “black pawn of reactionary capitalist-roaders” during the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,” and Jennifer’s mother had to tie Jennifer to her back and go out to post the “self-criticism” letters of Jennifer’s father, as required. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

5

My first sister was born when I was four years old. My mother couldn’t take care of two children on her own, as she also needed to work. So I was sent to my father, and started living on that barren floodplain with him

Every year my father would take me to visit my mother and sister. One hundred kilometers seems nothing for today. However, it felt very, very far at that time, especially because my mother’s school was located in deep mountains.

We needed to transfer between long-distance buses several times; climb over several mountains; and walk long mountain tracks before we could reach our destiny.

My mother told me that she nearly cried when she saw me for the first time after I had left her. My lovely, round face shrank so much that it seemed that only two big twinkling eyes were left.

What my mother couldn’t bear was that my father only knew to wash and wipe my two cheeks; and left all other parts uncleaned. As a result, my neck and the skin behind my ears were left very dirty. My two sheep horn shape braids were also unbalanced, with one higher than the other.  My mother felt extremely upset upon seeing her lovely daughter changed like that.

Jennifer's mother, her two friends and two-year-old Jennifer. As the first child in the family, Jennifer enjoyed some
Jennifer’s mother, her two friends and two-year-old Jennifer. As the first child in the family, Jennifer enjoyed some “special” treatment such as having a doll of her own. After her two younger sisters were born, her parents no longer had the ability to buy more dolls for her sisters. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

Once after we had finished our stay at mum’s place and were about to leave, my mother gave me a letter, and asked me to give it to my father when we arrived at our other “home” at Hanwang.

I felt extremely excited at being entrusted with such an important task; and didn’t know how I should carry the letter to match its importance. The excitement went on for quite a while, before I finally couldn’t bear such a big burden or hide such huge a secret any more.

And the consequence was that I couldn’t help revealing the secret to my father after we walked along the mountain road and were waiting for the long-distance bus.

After reading the letter, my father didn’t say a word. He abruptly put me onto his back and started walking back. Upon arriving at mum’s place, my father still didn’t say anything. He lied down in bed with a very stern and pale face.

Jennifer still lived with her mother when she was three years old. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)
Jennifer still lived with her mother when she was three years old. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

I was really terrified, not knowing what had happened. I also feared that my mother would scold me for not listening to her and giving the letter to my father too early.

Only after many years did I learn vaguely what had happened on that day. My mother actually asked for a divorce in that letter, as she couldn’t bear the hardship of not being able to live together any longer.

I heard that my father tried everything, including a suicide threat, to have my mother abandon the thought of divorce.

Mother was very well known for her beauty in Zhongjiang County when she was young, and had a lot of admirers.  My father was just one of them.

When he was in university, he kept writing beautiful letters and poems to her. Each time he wrote, he used a different font style. His handwriting and poems were both extremely beautiful and touching; and full of talent. His persistence and brilliant literary skill finally won my mother’s heart.

However, my mother had never expected that one day this brilliant talent would become a “black pawn of reactionary capitalist-roaders” overnight. How long did she have to suffer as the wife of a  “black pawn of reactionary capitalist-roaders”?

6

My mother was finally allowed to move and live with my father and me when I was in grade two at elementary school. At that time, I already had another younger sister. The five members of our family were finally able to live together in a small and crude bungalow type of house built on top of the floodplain.

Jennifer began living with her father when she was four. Her uneven braids and band in this photo were all the
Jennifer began living with her father when she was four. Her uneven braids and band in this photo were all the “artistry” of her father. The dress she wears was also hand-made by her father. Throughout Jennifer’s childhood, all the three sisters’ clothes were home-made. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

It was a time when people’s material and spiritual lives were both extremely lacking. My father was the only university graduate in his factory, while my mother taught at the primary school in the town. As an intellectual family, we belonged to the “five black classes.”

In a time when the “working class” was in charge of everything, our family was an “outcast” from whatever angle one looked at us. 

To avoid possible trouble my mother didn’t encourage me even to play with other kids. If I became involved in a fight with other kids, this could be interpreted as a “class struggle” and implicate my parents. The whole family would then have an even harder time.

During many hot summer nights, when other kids were playing and enjoying the cool air outside, I shut myself inside alone at home. As there were way too many mosquitos in the still “wild” floodplain, I had to hide inside the mosquito net to read in the suffocating heat, while watching my perspiration dripping and leaving wet circles on the pages.

Reading was the only enjoyment during my childhood. However, there were too few books to read. Many literary classics had been burnt as “poisonous weeds” before and during the “Cultural Revolution.”

In order to satisfy my desire to read, my father started writing children’s stories for me, and then gradually expanded his writing to other literary works such as novels. He was a great lover of literature.

My father wrote all his stories and novels on lined manuscript paper, and then bound them neatly with cotton thread, making them truly “thread-bound books,” with each of them absolutely the “only copy” in the world.

Most of the time, I was the first and only reader of my father’s literary works. Whenever my mother found out about my father’s writings, she would throw them into the fire, even if the stories were “pro-revolution” and catering to “the tide of the times,” such as “Little Red Guards Catching a Spy.”

My father never said a word when my mother burned his writings. However, he would always bite his lower lip in a unique way with an expressionless face, and this would always make me feel extremely anxious and scared.

The only happy time then was Chinese New Year. My father’s calligraphy was very beautiful, and all the big banners in the factory were all hand-written by him.  Many people would also ask him to write couplets for them to hang on their doors.  Every year when Chinese New Year was approaching, he would definitely write a couplet for our own house.

He was also a very smart craftsman. Apart from knowing how to sew clothes, he also knew how to do carpentry work and make furniture.  Many small pieces of furniture in our home were all made and painted by him, such as tables and stools.

When it was Chinese New Year, he would make beautiful things such as red lanterns or a rabbit shape light, with four small wheels underneath. My sisters and I would drag this rabbit light and swaggered through the street to show off this beautiful piece of artwork. All the children would look at us in admiration and awe, as they had never seen such a pretty rabbit light, nor could they ever dream about buying one from anywhere. Surrounded by those envious eyes, we felt extremely proud and wonderful!

7

One day when I was in the fourth grade in elementary school, a classmate suddenly whispered to me, “Jiang Qing is a big bad egg!”

I was really frightened by this “outrageous” claim. Isn’t Jiang Qing the “closest comrade-in-arms” and wife of “our Grand Leader Chairman Mao”?  How can she be a “big bad egg”? How dare my classmate make such a frightening statement? Wouldn’t she be immediately regarded as an “active counter-revolutionary”?

But this frightening rumor turned out to be true very soon. The “Gang of Four” headed by Jiang Qing was really brought down. I didn’t know that this also meant that “the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,” which had brought endless disasters to millions of families, and which had caused more than 7 million deaths, had finally ended. 

I only remember that as a member of the performing arts group in school, we were required to stand under the scorching sun to wait for the arrival of the “Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Vol. 5”, which would come from the faraway capital city of the county with big fanfare, loaded in big trucks and decorated with many red flags.

It was an extremely hot day. The sun was so fierce that even the tar on the road was melting. When the long convoy carrying “Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung” finally arrived, we were asked to sing and dance to show our joy. However, my shoes were glued by the melted tar, and I couldn’t dance or walk at all, making me feel like crying.

8

After a period of time, I suddenly heard that the legal system, including the public security organs, procuratorial organs, and people’s courts, which were all “smashed” during the “Cultural Revolution,” were all to be restored, and that people with professional knowledge were highly demanded. As a result, my father, who graduated from the Southwest University of Political Science & Law, was going to be transferred back to Mianyang and work at the newly established Justice Bureau!

Mianyang! That was the capital city of the region, second only to Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province.  I heard about this city a lot, but had never had the chance to visit it since childhood.  I felt very excited.

However, the Party didn’t arrange for my mother to go as well, as there was no “manning quota” for my mother in Mianyang.

Although my parents absolutely didn’t want to be separated again, it was a good thing to be able to return to the bigger city from the remote small town, and to do a job that suited my father’s professional training.  Isn’t there an old saying in China that “people should walk towards higher places”?

Furthermore, my parents believed that if my sister and I could go to Mianyang to study, we would have a better opportunity to attend a good university in the future.

For the
For the “bright future” of two generations, Jennifer’s family once again split into two parts. Jennifer and her eldest younger sister went to Mianyang with her father; whilst her mother and youngest sister stayed at Hanwang. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

On the contrary, if we stayed at such a small town as Hanwang, we wouldn’t get very far in society. In my mother’s words, the only street in town was so short that one could even cover it from the start to the end when one fell down to the ground.

Although I had always been the No. 1 student in Hanwang Elementary School in terms of exam scores, my mother never failed to remind me, “It’s just like being a general amongst a group of dwarfs.”  She would also always remind me to remember that “there are higher heavens beyond this one, and there is always someone better.”

So, in order that two generations of our family could have a better future, after just being reunited for several years, our family was once again split into two: my older sister and I went to Mianyang with my father; whilst my younger sister stayed at Hanwang with my mother.

9

The Justice Bureau in Mianyang had just been established. It had neither its own office building, nor dormitories for the staff. Instead, both its office and dormitories for staff were rented from a hotel building. My father lived in the male dormitory; my sister lived in a dormitory for female staff, whilst I became a boarder and lived in the student dormitory of Mianyang Nanshan High School. So the three of us lived in three different places. 

Nanshan High School is located halfway up on a hillside, and is somewhat isolated from the world. It was said that in the Qing Dynasty the imperial examinations were held there, so it has quite a long history.

When I returned “home” on the weekends, I squeezed into and shared the same single bed with my sister.  There were many other female colleagues of my father in the same dormitory room.

Occasionally, my father would cook some food for us in his office with an electric cooker, and this would be our special treat. My sister and I could only “fight” to get our food at the school canteen, which only supplied terrible food.

Thus, until I graduated from high school, for more than three years, my mother hadn’t managed to move to Mianyang and join us. We could only travel back and forth to visit each other during our school breaks. My mother often said, “It’s so hard to earn money, and we only end up spending it all on the road!”

10

The good news was, my father’s career seemed to have taken off. Firstly, I heard that a law firm was set up underneath the Justice Bureau, then I heard that my father was transferred to the law firm and had become a lawyer. Then one day I suddenly heard that he had been ranked as one of the “Top 10 Lawyers in Sichuan Province”!

I heard that my father’s most brilliant performance was that he fought three lawyers on the other side alone. The other party he had to fight was an Honored Teacher with national recognition and was very famous. That was why he was able to hire the three very good lawyers at one go to defend himself. However, my father defeated them all and won that case brilliantly.

These “legends” made me very proud. On the one hand, I really wanted to visit the court and watch my father’s heroic moments of debating with numerous persons at the same time. On the other hand, however, I could hardly imagine how a somewhat dull person like him, who could spend a whole day without saying a single word, could have become an outstanding lawyer, as a good lawyer was supposed to be very eloquent and good at debating.

Once I asked him, “I heard that you never lost any case. What’s your secret?”

He replied with a secretive smile, “I never take a case that I can’t win.”

When he said this, his smile was as innocent as that of a child. At the same time, it was also as cunning as would usually be seen on faces of Chinese peasants.  It didn’t make him look like a “Top 10 Lawyer” at all.

11

After I finished my second year in high school, and was about to start the third and last year, I needed to choose between liberal arts and science as my future major. I was doing equally well with both courses.

Many people said that it was better for girls to choose liberal arts as female minds could do better in those fields. If girls study science, they can’t compete with boys. Apart from knowing that I wanted to go to Peking University to study, I really didn’t know what major to choose.

My father said with much determination, “Choose science. No matter who is the chairman of the country, 1+1 always equals 2.”

After saying “1+1 always equals 2”, my father once again bit his lower lip in that unique way with an expressionless face, just as he did when my mother had burned his literary works. This once again made me feel very scared.  I silently obeyed and chose science without any second thought.

12

In 1984, my dream of going to Peking University came true. My major was of course science, and geo-chemistry in particular. At the time when I needed to leave my high school forever, I found that I had accumulated many things during the past three years.  My father rode a tricycle to the school to help me move my belongings. It was very hard to ride uphill, and my father was soon wet through in sweat.

Drenched in sweat, he rode and laughed, “I am a happy pedicab-man!” And mixed in his laugh, was a very undetectable trace of effort to flatter himself.

My father was a very typical Chinese peasant intellectual, who seldom expressed or showed his emotions. Nor did he ever say any sweet words such as “I love you” to his three daughters.  However, his flattering smile at that moment, when he said that he was a happy pedicab-man, has been warmly engraved in my heart ever since.

For me, that was his way of showing his fatherly love and care.

13

When I was in the sophomore class, I received a letter from my father saying that he had joined the Party. His tone was very formal, with a little bit of excitement.

I was very surprised by this. Because of the special political environment in China, I remembered that my parents never discussed politics or state affairs at home. Nor would they ever discuss their political views with their daughters. When I chose my future major in high school, my father’s “famous” sentence that “1+1 always equals 2” was the only statement I ever heard that included a little dose of politics.

Why did my father join the Communist Party? Did he still have hope for this Party? Or was it because he wouldn’t be treated as a different species afterwards? Sadly enough, I never had a chance to discuss this with him.

This photo was taken in Yuanming Yuan (Old Summer Palace) in Beijing when Jennifer was a graduate student. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)
This photo was taken in Yuanming Yuan (Old Summer Palace) in Beijing when Jennifer was a graduate student. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

14

 When I was in my junior year of university, mobilized by the political instructor, I also handed in my application to join the Party. Recalling the motivations now, I found there could have been two.

One was my father’s move to join the Party. Ever since my childhood, my mother always said that I was my father’s favorite, and that he liked me most amongst his three daughters.

Accordingly, I also held my father in high esteem. I cared a lot about what he thought and chose. I thought to myself: after experiencing so many hardships, he was still willing to join the party. It must because that he still had hope for the party.

Another reason was that I was somehow convinced by this saying: even if the Party was not good enough, it could be changed for better if more good members joined it and improved it from within.

If we explore further, there could actually be a third reason. I had always been a so-called  “student-of-three-excellent-qualities” since elementary school. Living in a society where everything was under control of the Party, I had always thought that one should be excellent in everything, and to join the Young Pioneers, the Youth League, and then the Party was a “natural” path that a good student and a good citizen should take.

Thus, I became the first Party member in our class. When we graduated one year later, there were only two Party members in our class of 30 students.

15

Later on I graduated, began my career, married; and had a child. Everything went smoothly on the path that was designed and hoped for by my parents. I had not only entered the best university in China, gained a master’s degree, but also successfully entered the Development Research Center of the State Council, a workplace that many people wanted to get into but couldn’t. At the same time, I also enjoyed love and a happy family of my own.

This photo was taken on Jennifer's 17th birthday and was displayed at the
This photo was taken on Jennifer’s 17th birthday and was displayed at the “Education Achievement Exhibition” held in the People’s Park in the center of Mianyang City. Her hair in the photo was cut by her father. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

At that time my parents were so proud of me; and they had good reasons. My photo was part of the “Education Achievement Exhibition in Mianyang in Celebration of the 35th Anniversary of the Establishment of PRC [People’s Republic of China],” which was held at the People’s Park in the center of the city. It was said that every day thousands upon thousands of people visited the exhibition, and my photo caused quite a sensation.

There was an old saying in China that “Inside an embroidered pillowcase was only grass,” which means that good-looking people are usually very stupid inside and have no wisdom. So people felt it was hard to believe that a girl who was as attractive as an embroidered pillowcase could actually be admitted by Peking University.

I had already left Mianyang when the exhibition was on; and didn’t know anything about all this until letters of strangers from Mianyang suddenly flooded me. Some people expressed their admiration, and some asked me to share tips on how to do well in school. I didn’t understand why all these letters arrived until my family told me about the “Education Achievement Exhibition.”

16

July 2, 1997 is a day that I will never forget. On July 1 of that year, China took back Hong Kong, and set that day as a public holiday to celebrate. When I went back to work on July 2, one of my colleagues put a set of books on my desk and said, “Here you are, ‘Zhuan Falun’!”

It was a package posted from Mianyang by my sister. The wrapping paper was already broken; that was why my colleague was able to see the title of the book.

I had liked to read very much since I was a child. When I was studying in university, I read books on all sorts of topics, including philosophy, religion, supernormal capabilities, qigong, the Book of Changes, etc. I studied almost everything.

On the one hand, I believed that there must be some ultimate truth in the universe for it to maintain stability and harmony, and I wanted to know what that ultimate truth was. On the other hand, I was very much puzzled about what people should do with their lives. Shall we just live for the sake of living, pursue fame, self-interest and honor, and then just wait to die?

Most of the time, I didn’t know which path to follow. I didn’t want to fight my way up by all sorts of means, like many others around me were doing. I felt that path would be too tiring, and it was totally against my nature.

However, I also didn’t want to lag behind, be bullied or looked down upon by others as a result of not striving hard enough. I didn’t know what to follow or what to adhere to, and was bewildered most of the time. My success on the surface might have looked glorious for others. Yet, it couldn’t in the least solve the problems within my own heart.

To make things worse, I encountered a medical accident and experienced two severe hemorrhages when I gave birth to my daughter, and the blood transfusion caused me to contract hepatitis C, which is incurable. After that, life felt like an endless sinking into a bottomless pit of despair. I had to lie down in the hospital for years without being able to look after my daughter, or even being able to witness her growth.

In early 1997, I decided that I would not be enslaved by my diseases any more; and went back to work.  I had worked for just one year when I was knocked down by my poor health. Women are usually likened to flowers, and I felt like a withered flower cast down to the ground overnight, before being able to fully blossom. I didn’t want to bury my remaining life inside a hospital, no matter how long that life would be. I wanted to “pretend” that everything was normal, and I wished to live a “normal” life.

This was, after all, just a wishful thought. In reality, my life was more tiring than that of Lin Daiyu, one of the mistresses of “Dream of the Red Chamber,” who dared not make any mistakes. Whilst Lin was afraid of being ridiculed by others in an unfamiliar environment as a helpless orphan who had to rely on her relatives, I was afraid of being humiliated by my diseases. 

I was so weak that whenever I wasn’t careful enough, or whenever there was some kind of epidemic disease around, such as the flu, I would always be the first to be knocked down.

Therefore, in July 1997, after having experienced so much, I really didn’t believe that anything would help me anymore. So I opened the book “Zhuan Falun” half-heartedly and with an absent mind.

Jennifer meditating in a park in Shenzhen City in 1998. This is the only photo of Jennifer doing Falun Gong exercises taken before the crackdown on Falun Gong. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)
Jennifer meditating in a park in Shenzhen City in 1998. This is the only photo of Jennifer doing Falun Gong exercises taken before the crackdown on Falun Gong. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

However, when I reached page 4, where the origin of human life was revealed, I suddenly felt being strongly grasped by the content. From then on, I didn’t have any time to make any judgment about any remaining part of the book. Instead, I hurriedly finished all the four books my sister posted to me in one go, which had me exclaiming again and again while reading: “Oh my god, so it is like this!!!”

I could say that the inspiration “Zhuan Falun” brought to me was much greater than that of all the other books I had read combined together. I found answers to all my questions about life, the cosmos, and even human society. I was no longer puzzled, and had gained an understanding about the purpose of my coming to this world. I immediately decided to practice Falun Gong.

I also learned that my mother and sister had been practicing Falun Gong for about one month through the introduction of a friend. They felt the practice was very wonderful and so eagerly mailed the set of books to me.

17

My mother and youngest sister were only able to move to Mianyang and joined my father and eldest sister after I had left home for university. In order to be able to move to Mianyang, my mother had to give up her nearly 30 years’ career as a teacher, as well as the so-called “merit payment based on the length of teaching,” which was not a small figure for her, as none of the schools in Mianyang City would accept her due to lack of permission to hire.

After my parents’ many years’ efforts and begging for help, the leaders of the judicial system finally agreed to help and to resolve this issue “internally.” As a result, my mother was finally given a position at the Mianyang Intermediate Court, and started off as a court clerk, the lowest-level position within the court.

I always admired my mother for her toughness. As a middle-aged woman in her forties, in order to live together with the family, she was not only brave enough to start a new career from the entrance level, but was also brave enough to become a college student like her daughter. The only difference was: while I was studying in a “normal” university, she was studying in the amateur “Open National Adult College for Court Cadres.”

My mother worked very hard. It was not that easy for her; and her memory wasn’t as good as younger people.  However, she did very well and successfully graduated several years later. This not only made up for the humiliation she had suffered for not being allowed to go college because of her  “bad” “social class category”, but also enabled her to gradually be promoted from a clerk to a judge; and finally a chief judge.

Jennifer's mother was finally allowed to join her father after Jennifer had gone to Beijing for university. This family photo was taken during Jennifer's school vacation when she traveled back to Mianyang. The uniform worn by Jennifer's father was actually for police officers, though he was a lawyer. At that time the legal system in China was still in the initial process of re-establishment, and lawyers were wearing police officer's uniforms. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)
Jennifer’s mother was finally allowed to join her father after Jennifer had gone to Beijing for university. This family photo was taken during Jennifer’s school vacation when she traveled back to Mianyang. The uniform worn by Jennifer’s father was actually for police officers, though he was a lawyer. At that time the legal system in China was still in the initial process of re-establishment, and lawyers were wearing police officer’s uniforms. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

18

In 1997, my 64-year-old father had already retired. When my mother and sister first started practicing Falun Gong, he didn’t follow along, nor did he believe in it. However, he went to the park with them. While my mother and sister practiced the Falun Gong exercises, he went to do ballroom dancing as a form of exercise.  He had become obsessed with dancing ever since he retired. 

One day, after he finished dancing, my mother and sister were still doing their Falun Gong exercises. So he stood there and waited. Suddenly he saw a huge Falun (which should be invisible, in another dimension) as big as a swimming pool!

He was completely shocked.  Amazed by the “seeing is believing” scene he observed, he began devoting himself to the practice of Falun Gong as well. He often shared with us what he had seen with his third eye:  when he practiced the third Falun Gong exercise, he could see a cluster of small Faluns moving together with his arms.  He said that he called it   “a cluster” as they looked exactly the way copper coins used in old times were strung together.

When talking about this, my father looked as happy and as innocent as a child who was sharing his secrets.  My sister and I agreed that father’s third eye was open because he had a side of well-preserved nature that had not been polluted. It was also the reason why he could see many supernormal things as soon as, or even before, he started practicing. 

After a period of time, my father especially called and told me that his presbyopia (farsightedness) had gone!

He said that although he had officially retired, he was still invited to work for the law firm on some cases. One day, he saw many tiny pieces of paper on the table in his office while he was cleaning it, and thought to himself, “Who would have cut the newspaper into such small scraps?”

Suddenly he found that he could see clearly the tiny characters on the classified advertisements! Those characters were so small that he could absolutely not see clearly without his presbyopic glasses before. How could he suddenly see so clearly without his glasses?

He thought it was just temporary, so he dared not tell anybody.

He tested himself on the following day to see if he could still see those tiny characters clearly without the presbyopic glasses, and yes, he could!

He tested himself continuously for two weeks until he was sure that he could now get rid of the presbyopic glasses. He only called me and told me this good news after he was 100 percent sure of the fact.

However, after he happily shared this good news with me, he added very seriously, that as a cultivator of Falun Gong, one should not develop any attachment, and shouldn’t show off or become too complacent.  Therefore, he didn’t go boasting about this everywhere. Actually, he only ever revealed this in private to family members and the assistant at his practice site.

This photo taken in 1989 was the last one of Jennifer with both her parents. The hanging bridge in the background leads to Jennifer's high school, Mianyang Nanshan High School. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)
This photo taken in 1989 was the last one of Jennifer with both her parents. The hanging bridge in the background leads to Jennifer’s high school, Mianyang Nanshan High School. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

19

Getting rid of presbyopia was just one of the wonderful things that happened to my father after he practiced Falun Gong. For example, his blood pressure had been very high for years, with the systolic pressure often higher than 200. He had been relying on hypotensor to maintain his blood pressure, but dangerous things still often happened.

Once both he and my mother went out on bicycles. While my mother was riding behind my father, she suddenly saw him fall off his bicycle and drop onto the ground. My mother was scared to death. My father had passed out while riding because his blood pressure was too high. Since then, my mother never allowed him to ride a bicycle again.

However, my father’s blood pressure soon returned to normal after he practiced Falun Gong, and he no longer needed any hypotensor. Many other diseases including chronic pharyngitis and nasosinusitis all disappeared as well.

In the summer of 1998, I traveled from Beijing to Sichuan with my daughter to visit my parents. I was extremely surprised when I set sight on my father who was waiting for us at the platform of the train station, as he looked at least 10 years younger!

In my memory, my father had always been skin and bones; and had never put on any weight.  As a result, his wrinkles were very deep.  He also started going bald as early as in his thirties, and children started calling him “grandpa” when he was less than 40 years old. He always mocked himself about this.

Jennifer's father at his 60th birthday in October, 1993. The wig he wears was a gift from Jennifer. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)
Jennifer’s father at his 60th birthday in October, 1993. The wig he wears was a gift from Jennifer. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

After practicing Falun Gong, he had put on at least 10 kilograms (about 22 pounds). As a result, his wrinkles became much less obvious. That’s why he looked 10 years younger when I saw him.

After staying with my parents for two days, I noticed another very important change that had happened to my father, which was the way he walked.  There was a scene in Thomas Hardy’s novel “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” which impressed me very much.

The “bad guy” in the book, Alec d’Urberville, who raped Tess years ago, later became a priest. Once while he was preaching, Tess, who was among the congregation, suddenly saw and recognized him. At that time they had not seen each other for about 4 years. It was obvious that Alec didn’t recognize Tess yet, with her appearance and outfit having changed. She wanted to walk away quietly.  “But the moment that she moved again he recognized her.”

From this scene we learned that the way one walks carries more of a person’s characteristics than his/her appearance and outfit. Therefore, that’s why I was so surprised when I saw the way my father walked after he practiced Falun Gong for just one year. His steps were completely different. They were no longer heavy, slow or sloppy, like an old man’s. Instead, they became swift and as light as a swallow.

I could see that even he, himself had not realized this change. Only his family members who were very familiar with everything of his could notice this change at first sight. And this kind of change could only happen when great changes had occurred at very deep levels, levels more microscopic than the level of his body’s physical cells.

20

I also observed two photos underneath the glass on my father’s desk. One was taken before he practiced Falun Gong, in which he looked very old and as thin as a skeleton. The other one was taken after he practiced Falun Gong, in which he was meditating with very straight back, and with fair, radiant, and full cheeks.

Besides these two photos was a poem he had written. I remember the last line was, “Forever charging forward despite all the odds and hardships.”  He wrote that poem to show his determination to cultivate until the very end. He said whenever there were visitors in the home, he would definitely show them the two photos as the best evidence to show Falun Dafa’s benefits.

I had never seen a happier, prouder, and more talkative father. During that summer, father had talked far more than in his entire life before.

21

However, good times did not last long. In July 1999, an overwhelming persecution was instigated against Falun Gong. Before I even had time to make any sense of it, I had been imprisoned several times for being a Falun Gong practitioner.

My parents-in-law, who lived with us, were almost terrified to death. After failing to convince me to give up Falun Gong, my mother-in-law thought of my parents. She believed that it was they who asked me to practice Falun Gong. Therefore, only they were able to make me give up.

So she called them and asked them to do so. However, it was obvious that things didn’t go as she had expected. She hung up the phone and shouted in despair: “I will go to Sichuan to fight your parents to death! I don’t want to live anyway!”

I was very scared, fearing that she would really go to Sichuan to make a scene at my parents.  On the other hand, I couldn’t help thinking bitterly, ” If you really don’t want to live any more, why don’t you go fight with Jiang Zemin instead!” (Jiang Zemin was the head of the Chinese Communist Party who launched the campaign against Falun Gong in July 1999).

My mother-in-law was a women cadre before she retired. During the Cultural Revolution, she had been dragged onto a stage to be publicly denounced, with her arms twisted backwards and up into the air. This particular gesture had a nickname, “going by air”, which could still be seen in many pictures taken during that period of time.

After being targeted and tortured like this, she had to take the entire family to the countryside to avoid being “struggled against” again. This experience had somehow turned into a deep fear and a sense of compliance towards the CCP.

Like many other Chinese people who had been living in fear and obedience for too long,  she couldn’t understand why I didn’t become as fearful as her. Nor could she forgive me for not willingly accepting the reasoning that “the arm is no match for the thigh” and therefore submitting myself to the CCP’s authority.

22

In the autumn of 1999, I heard from other Falun Gong practitioners that several former members of the Falun Dafa Research Society would be put on trial soon. One of the “crimes” they were accused of was that they had incited 10 thousand people to go to Zhongnanhai to appeal for Falun Gong on April 25, 1999.  As I happened to be one of the 10 thousand people on the day, I planned to go to the court to testify that I went there of my own accord, not incited by anyone else.

After learning my thoughts, my father told me that my plan wouldn’t work at all. As one of the lawyers in the city, he had been notified the following policies regarding Falun Gong practitioners’ cases:

  1. Falun Gong practitioners are different from ordinary criminal offenders. Therefore, while ordinary offenders can be bailed out by their lawyers; Falun Gong practitioners cannot.
  2. The overall direction of Falun Gong practitioners is already wrong. Therefore, when defending Falun Gong practitioners in court, lawyers should not fight as hard with the prosecutors regarding the “trivial” issues such as whether the evidence is adequate, or whether the facts are solid enough, as they do in other cases.
  3. The attorney’s defense must be approved by the authorities beforehand. While arguing for Falun Gong practitioners, the attorney can only read from the approved defense without saying anything else.

I didn’t feel surprised by this. Nevertheless, on Dec. 26, 1999, I still went to the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court, hoping to attend the trial. However, the street was filled with police, and, like another one thousand other Falun Gong practitioners, I was arrested before I could even get a glimpse of the court.

Before being sent to the detention center, I asked the police officer at the local police station, “How long do you think we are going to be detained this time?”

He replied, “I don’t know. We’ll need to wait for the instructions from higher authorities.”

“Waiting for instructions from higher authorities” was indeed the real essence of the CCP’s “rule of law.”  When I was in jail, some fellow inmates once asked, “Your father is one of the top 10 lawyers of Sichuan Province. Why don’t you ask him to defend you?”

 As a matter of fact, not only was my father one of the top 10 lawyers in Sichuan, my mother had also become a chief judge at the intermediate court in Mianyang City by then, with my sister being the director of the Policy Research Department of Mianyang Fucheng People’s Court.

But none of these would be of any help.  Not only that, but my sister herself was also dismissed from the Party and her workplace, after she went to Beijing to appeal for Falun Gong after the crackdown.

Furthermore, she was also on the national wanted list of the Public Security Ministry. My parents were virtually under house arrest. They were not only often summoned to their workplaces to be “educated,” but were also under 24-hour surveillance by CCP informers living just downstairs. All their movements were closely observed and then reported to the authorities.

Jennifer with her mother in early 1999. This was the last photo taken before the persecution of Falun Gong began. Jennifer never expected that the persecution would occur. Nor did she realize that she would never have another chance to take a photo with her father. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)
Jennifer with her mother in early 1999. This was the last photo taken before the persecution of Falun Gong began. Jennifer never expected that the persecution would occur. Nor did she realize that she would never have another chance to take a photo with her father. (Provided by Jennifer Zeng)

 

23

In April 2000, I was arrested for the fourth time; and then sent to the Beijing Female Labor Camp with a one-year Re-education through Forced Labor sentence.  None of the following was able to prevent this from happening: my father’s “top 10 ” status, his  “1+1=2″ theory, my brilliant halo as a ” talented woman from Peking University,” as well as the fact that I once worked for the Development Research Center of the State Council.

When my father asked me to study science, he believed that studying science would help to prevent me from recommitting the same error he had made. However, he didn’t expect that “plans always fall behind changes,” and that I would end up in jail for practicing meditation and trying to be a better person—not for doing anything political at all.

Every day within the labor camp was a battle between life and death. Every day I was either experiencing for myself or witnessing all kinds of the most unimaginable, inhuman, and vicious  crimes.  Amidst the unprecedented barbarous physical torture, mental destruction, and a war to destroy our will power, I had been pushed to the edge of total collapse countless times.

However, with a very strong determination to survive so that I could expose all this evil, I did manage to escape the devil’s den by a hair’s breath (Please refer to my autobiography “Witnessing History: One Woman’s Fight for Freedom and Falun Gong” for more details) and was released in April 2001. In order not to be sent to the brainwashing center again, I had only five days later to leave my home and live in exile.

At this stage I learnt that my sister, who was on the national wanted list, was “hiding” and working in a small bar in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province some 100 kilometers away from Mianyang. As she couldn’t apply for a temporary residence permit with her ID card, she was nearly caught several times when the police went to the bar to check residence permits. It was very dangerous for her to continue to stay there. I decided to find her a safe place so that she could leave as soon as possible.

I took the train to Chengdu to meet her. The bar she worked at was extremely small, with her as the only attendant. So she had to do everything alone, from serving the customers to acting as the cashier.  Everyday she worked until midnight. As she had no other place to stay, she had to wait until all the customers left before she could push the tables and chairs to the corner to make a bed on the floor for her to sleep.

Under such circumstances, it was impossible for me to stay with her at the bar as well. So we went to a small motel nearby. At this stage, we hadn’t seen each other for more than a year; and there was so much we wanted to share with each other.

We talked for the entire night until dawn. When daylight broke, we both felt very hungry. So we walked out to get some food. At the front door of the motel, we came across a young man. His facial expression abruptly changed as soon as he set sight on my sister. Then he quickly turned back and rushed away.

My sister also recognized him: he was a classmate of my sister from ten years ago, when they were studying at the police academy. And he was currently a police officer in Chengdu city, and obviously knew very well that my sister was on the wanted list with 30K yuan (approximately US$3,600, a sum greater than the average annual income in China at that time) reward money on her head.

We immediately checked out and left the area. Having nowhere to go, my sister had to return to her bar although we both knew it was very risky. In the meantime, I decided to secretly travel back to Mianyan. I could visit my parents, after having been imprisoned for more than one year, and I could also try to find a place for my sister to go from there. I believed that I could only seek help from a fellow Falun Gong practitioner, as I didn’t think there would be any other people who would take the risk to offer assistance to a “wanted criminal.”

24 

When I saw my parents after only one year’s separation, I was as surprised as I had been in 1998, when I saw the huge change in my father after he practiced Falun Gong.  However, this time, the surprise was totally opposite of the one before. It deeply pained my heart. 

My father had relapsed into a thin, bony, and silent old man. What was more terrifying than the change with his appearance was that, through his gloomy face, I could see that his soul seemed to have withered, without any sign of life. He was no longer the father I saw over a year ago, when his face had glowed with a youthful radiance while proudly boasting that “four out of five members of our family all practice Falun Gong!” 

He was obviously too scared by the overwhelming propaganda campaign and the suppression and had stopped practicing Falun Gong. He no longer talked about anything related to cultivation, either. He even failed to ask me anything about what had happened to me, how I had suffered in the detention center and the labor camp. Perhaps it was because he dared not ask, or perhaps he was not interested.  For an old man whose soul had dried up, it wouldn’t make any difference anyway.

I only heard him mumble once, “I am almost 70, and can’t afford any mishaps. What if they confiscate my house? What if they stop paying my retirement pension?” 

As to my mother, I noticed that much of her hair had turned grey. Initially, she always talked about her three beautiful and talented daughters with much pride and excitement. However, now with two of her three daughters having become the enemy of the Party, all her pride and happiness had gone. She also looked like a lifeless plant wilted by the frost. 

25

Because of the special circumstances surrounding my sister and me, it was very difficult for us to communicate with each other. I dared not use my parents’ home phone or my cell phone to call her directly, as that could bring immediate danger to her. I had to call her beeper number using a public phone, and then wait there for her to return my call.

After receiving my beeper message, my sister needed to try to find an opportunity to leave the bar first, and then find a public phone to call me back.  She had to be very careful, so each time she called, she tried to use a different location.

After overcoming all sorts of difficulties and challenges, I finally found a place to go.  I asked my sister to buy two train tickets from Chengdu, one for herself and one for me. As the train started from Chengdu, it was easier to buy a sitting ticket from there. When the train stopped as Mianyan, I would board from there and join her. 

I did exactly as we agreed. However, when the train arrived and stopped at Mianyan, my sister didn’t come down with my ticket as I had expected. 

I felt something very ominous, but still managed to get on board with my platform ticket.  I went straight to where our seats should have been and found two peasant workers sitting there. I asked them whether they had seen a young woman with such and such an appearance when they first boarded the train.

They immediately cut me short in a panic and said, “No, we didn’t! We have been here from the very beginning!” I knew that they were worrying that I would say that those two seats were not theirs and drive them away. 

Failing to find out any clue, I had to push my way to and fro within the very crowded train, trying to see if I could find any trace of my sister while knowing too well that the possibility was miniscule. After about one hour, the train arrived at the next stop, which was more than 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) away. I had searched from the first to the last car of the long train a couple of times, but still didn’t see any trace of my sister. 

Not knowing what to do, I got off the train. It was about 3:00 am in the morning; with heavy rain pouring down. Everything was so dark, and so strange. Standing in the pouring rain, my heart kept sinking and sinking. 

Finally I decided to call a taxi and go back to Mianyang. How could I leave alone without knowing exactly what had happened to my sister? 

As soon as I entered my parents’ home, I saw a lot of luggage scattered everywhere on the floor. My mother was trying to sort them out; with her hair in a mess. 

Upon seeing me, she didn’t ask why I ended up returning. Instead, she said to me with a dull and blank face, “Your sister was arrested yesterday. This is her luggage; your brother-in-law just got it back from the detention center. And this is the receipt of the confiscated items that were found with her when she was caught.” 

I took the receipt and looked at it with a blank mind. It says, ” A number of copies of Falun Gong books; two train tickets to Taiyuan; and a storage room ticket for luggage…” 

My father suddenly grabbed my bag from the ground, rammed it into my hand, pushed me out of door; and shouted loudly, “Hurry! Go! Don’t wait until the police find out who was planning to run off together with your sister!” 

I was dumfounded for a while. Then I clenched my teeth, took a last look at my mother’s newly dull eyes and grey hair, then turned around abruptly and quickly walked away.

26

Later on I learned from my mother that it was indeed that police classmate of my sister who had reported upon her, so that he could gain the 30K yuan reward.

After he alerted the authorities, police officers from Chengdu and Mianyang worked together and launched a blanket search for my sister, while I was trying to find a place for her to go.  On the day when we had planned to leave, my sister left the bar in early morning; and stored her luggage in the train station, as the train wouldn’t leave until late at night.

She decided to utilize her spare time to visit several classmates in Chengdu, whom she dared not meet before.  She wanted to say farewell and tell them about Falun Gong and why it was being persecuted. But, alas, she ended up being caught on the bus, before she ever saw any of her classmates. 

All this was reported in great detail by the “Rule of Law” newspaper in Mianyang. Local police celebrated my sister’s arrest as a big achievement, since she was on the national wanted list. So they boasted about themselves in every detail in the newspaper.

I couldn’t imagine how many police officers they had deployed in order to catch my sister in a big city with a population of more than 10 million. How did they manage to locate her while she was just randomly on a bus without any previous plan?  As far as I am know, she didn’t have a cell phone with her either, which might have been used to trace her. I could never figure this out.

27 

Several days later, I arrived in Taiyuan alone.  The friend who waited for me there still took me to Mountain Wutai, a famous Buddhist site, according to our initial plan.

Standing on top of the mountain, thinking about my sister who should have been there together with me, looking at the sacred Buddhist site being turned into a chaotic tourists’ destiny, and listening to the sutras chanting played with cassette recorders in the shop that sold travel souvenirs, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a tremendous feeling of sadness and sorrow. I couldn’t help but cry.  Deep within my heart, I suddenly felt connected with a poet of more than a thousand years ago, who wrote this famous piece:

Before me, where have all the Sages of yore gone?          
Behind me, where are their successors (– Tell me, m’friend)?
O Heaven and Earth, how boundless and without end!
I’m all alone, down my cheeks tears keep rolling on.

Yes, the irony and sadness was, while ancient and sacred Buddhist temples and sutras could be traded for money a million times, genuine cultivators of Buddha principles were not even allowed to exist in the vast space between heaven and earth.

However, while I was feeling extremely concerned for my sister, I had never realized that the moment when my father pushed me out of the door would be the last time that I would ever set my eyes upon him.

28

Four months later, I was lucky enough to be able to escape to Australia, and formally begin another stage of my life in exile.  With the help of local Falun Gong practitioners, I settled down quickly and continued to write my autobiography, “Witnessing Histroy: One Woman’s Fight for Freedom and Falun Gong,” to expose the atrocious CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong.

The book was translated into English by the biggest publisher in Australia, distributed worldwide, and raised a lot of attention internationally as the first book written by a labor camp survivor since the crackdown of Falun Gong began.

Several years later, New Tang Dynasty Television, the largest independent global Chinese-language television network, co-produced a documentary called “Free China: the Courage to Believe” with me as one of the main characters. This film won numerous international awards after its release, and I was invited to many cities and countries to give speeches. Because of all this, I received a lot of media coverage. As a result, my parents in Mianyang also received “extra attention” from the National Security Bureau.

In the beginning, the national security police only “invited” my parents to tea regularly. Later on they gave them more pressure by asking them to go abroad to convince me into returning to China to “take a look and see how great the motherland has turned out to be.”

I am aware that when a Falun Gong practitioner returns, they will force him or her into revealing as much information as possible about overseas Falun Gong practitioners. Ultimately, the returned practitioner becomes a spy for them thereafter.

Once, before the Middle-Autumn Festival, a time when Chinese families traditionally come together, the director of the National Security Bureau in Mianyang even personally sought my mother for a discussion.

He said to her, that they sincerely invited me back to China and would ensure my safety. He even said that he could write a guarantee statement and give it to my mother. They were actually still forcing her to contact me to pass on their “invitation.”

The police writing a guarantee statement to me? I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry. When I was detained in the labor camp, they nearly tortured us to death in order to force us to give up our beliefs by writing a guarantee statement that we would not practice Falun Gong.

Now they want to write a guarantee to me? If they were really willing to “guarantee” my safety, why don’t they just release all the countless imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners in China? Why are they still committing the inhuman crime of killing Falun Gong practitioners on demand for their organs? Even the Nazi regime has never done such a thing as forcefully mass harvesting human organs to be used  as merchandise for profit. This brutality has gone far beyond any normal human’s imagination.

The police writing a guarantee statement for me? No way. I asked my mother to tell them, “Sorry, but I don’t think I will go back.”

When the police heard this, they forgot to put on their disguise; and viciously threatened my mother, “If she refuses to come back this time, never dream about coming back again!”

Most of the time, it was my mother who warded off the police harassment. I learnt from my mother that father always had only one sentence for the police when they asked me to go back to China: “The time is not right yet.”

Every time when I called home, it was always my mother who answered the phone; whilst my father seldom talked with me. When he did talk, he always simply said that he was fine, and asked me not to worry about him.

However, I learned from my mother that he was not doing too well. His blood pressure went up again, he had cataracts in his eyes and his eyesight had turned very bad. Sometimes, when he tried to fill his cup, he poured the water outside of the cup as he couldn’t see clearly.

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In August 2014, after being separated from my father for more than 13 years, I suddenly heard that he was in a very critical condition and had been sent to the hospital with heart and respiratory failure.

While the entire family was feeling extremely worried and helpless, police officers lost no time to appear at the hospital, and said to my mother in a tone as if they had just won a big war, “Need your eldest daughter to come back? Well, we can still offer help.”

Offering help? Several years ago, when I went to the Chinese Consulate in Sydney for some attestation service, instead of offering me the service, the officer gave a pile of documents and asked me to write down details including all my Falun Gong activities in Australia, as well as all the information I knew about other Falun Gong practitioners. After I did what they wanted, they would then stamp the documents for me.

Faced with this kind of scampish blackmail, what could I do except walk away? So if I really asked for “help” this time, wouldn’t they give me a thicker pile of paper sheets?

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On Oct. 27, 2014, my father passed away after living in misery for many years. When he departed from this world, none of his three daughters were able to be around him.

I wept silently in a far away and foreign land. When my father’s situation deteriorated rapidly, I once wanted very much to rush to the Chinese Consulate to see if I could get a visa to return to China. However, my supervisor stopped me and said that he didn’t think my father would want to see me return and put myself in danger.

And the police didn’t even spare my parents when my father was dying, as they thought that would be the best opportunity to force me back. Being pushed by them into a corner, my mother clenched her teeth and said: “Don’t push us. We don’t need her to come back. After her father dies, I will just incinerate the body and then sprinkle the ashes into the river! If she has filial piety, she can try to remember her father in her heart; if she has no filial piety, that is also fine! We don’t need her back!”

Mother’s “ruthless” words really hurt my heart. But what could I say? Under the ruthless CCP regime, if my mother were not tough enough, how could she survive all the atrocities that could have killed her many times over otherwise?

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After more than one month, I still couldn’t get over my grief and regret. I was extremely upset that I couldn’t be at his side when he was dying. I was even more upset that I had not tried hard enough to persuade him to take up Falun Gong again, as I knew that the home phone was tapped.

I was afraid that if I did, I would bring more trouble to him. As it happened, on the night before he passed away, I had been still planning that I would overcome my fear the next day and ask him to take up Falun Gong again for his health.

However, early the next morning, the first thing I learned about was his death. If he had resumed his practice of Falun Gong, I’m sure he wouldn’t have passed away like this! I didn’t know how I could make up for all the losses.

Finally I thought about something, which was, to publish a declaration on his behalf to quit from the CCP at The Epoch Times Quit the CCP website. Although he had told me before that he had already withdrawn from the party, I was not sure how he did it. Therefore, I thought it was necessary for me to publish a declaration on his behalf.

I sincerely believe that people’s souls live beyond their physical bodies, and they will go to other dimensions. Therefore, it was necessary to help my father to clear the “mark of beast” left on him by the CCP, as he was once a CCP member.

This was also perhaps the only thing I could do for him at this stage. It really pained my heart to think that my dear father, who was once so talented, so upright, and so kind-hearted, died in such miserable circumstances. He was even denied the chance to see his daughters on his deathbed. Wasn’t all of this caused by the CCP? I was very confident that my father’s soul would want me to declare his wish to cut any lasting ties with the party.

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On Nov. 29, 2014, I published the following declaration on behalf of my father at the Quit the CCP site on The Epoch Times website. As I was still very upset because of my father’s death, I could only write a very simple, and therefore not satisfactory declaration:

Quit the CCP Declaration for My Late Father Jiang Shengzhi

My late father Jiang Shengzhi once practiced Falun Gong; but was forced to give up because of the CCP’s persecution. He died of illnesses recently after suffering miserably for many years. The practice of Falun Gong once benefited my father greatly, and he looked at least 10 years younger because of it.  It is impossible to know how many people like my father have been killed either directly or indirectly by the CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong!

Although my father had chosen to withdraw from the CCP before, he had not published his declaration at the Epoch Times website. Hence, I hereby solemnly declare on his behalf that he would like to quit the CCP and its related organizations, and I do believe that his soul in heaven would like to see me doing this for him.

Jiang Shengzhi’s eldest daughter Zeng Zheng

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I had always wanted to write something to commemorate my father; but always hesitated, as I didn’t know where to start.

In April 2015, the number of people who have published their declarations to withdraw from the CCP and its related organizations exceeded 200 million. To celebrate this occasion, The Epoch Times launched a composition competition and called for article submissions. I thought to myself, let me commemorate my father via participating in this competition. Apart from this, I couldn’t think of any better way.

Therefore I wrote this long article in tears.

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As for myself, I published the quit CCP declaration below on Dec. 15, 2004, about one month after the publication of “Nine Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party.”

Quit the CCP and Become a Clear-Minded Chinese

When the CCP started the crackdown on Falun Gong, it announced that “no Communist Party members are allowed to practice Falun Dafa.” At that stage I chose to continue to practice Falun Gong without any hesitation. As a result, I was illegally imprisoned for more than one year. I had thought that as I had not paid any party dues and had not involved myself in any party activities for such a long time, I should have been considered as having automatically withdrawn from the party according to the CCP’s regulations. Therefore, I had always thought that I already had nothing to do with the CCP whatsoever.

However, after reading the “Nine Commentaries on Chinese Communist Party” recently, I was struck by so many new realizations that I felt I needed to ponder how I was “trapped” into the CCP in order to really clear away the poisonous damage it left on me. At the historical moment of  “disintegrating the CCP with universal laws,” I needed to make a clear stance.

The earliest thing I remember in my life was when I was four years old. At that time, I had started trying to imitate the dancers after watching the revolutionary ballet “White-haired Girl,” one of the eight “model revolutionary ballets” during the Great Cultural Revolution, and my mother was very proud of my dancing talents.

Not until more than 30 years later, after I had arrived overseas, did I learn that the story portrayed in the “White-haired Girl”, a story about how the CCP saved this white haired girl from the “old evil society,” was a complete lie. Not only was it a lie, but it was also related to the so-called “Land Reform” campaign, in which more than 100,000 landlords were killed, with their lands taken away by the CCP. In order to glorify this “Crashing the Landlords and Sharing their Land” campaign, the CCP fabricated that story to make it look great.

I was very much astonished when I learned the truth: to realize that the first memory in my life was actually related to the huge lie and ruthless campaign that had killed more than 100,000 people.

I don’t remember exactly when I joined the Young Pioneers of China (once also called the “Little Red Guards”). According to my mother, it was when I was in the first grade of elementary school. As I did very well with my studies and was very obedient, I was among the first group who joined the “Little Red Guards.” For many years, I had been very proud of this, as I thought it meant that I was doing very well in school, and it should be regarded as an honor.

I only felt alarmed after reading the “Nine Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party.” As a six year old child, who wasn’t even able to remember everything, I was already dragged into the evil CCP’s system, as the Little Red Guards” was officially entitled the “reserve team” of the CCP.  I didn’t know how many times I had sung the Little Red Guards theme song “We are the Shining Future of Communism.” The Communist Party has established communism as its state religion, and everybody was forced into it ever since he or she was born.

The “Great Cultural Revolution” began in the year I was born, and lasted for 10 years. Therefore, throughout my childhood, what I was exposed to were all the CCP’s propaganda about how “Chairman Mao” was the great savior of Chinese people, and how “great, glorious and correct” the CCP was. Literature works, music, dance, fine arts (if those “revolutionary propaganda pictures” could be called “fine arts”), films, and so on, were all tools to propagandize that “The Great Cultural Revolution is absolutely great!”

Dragged inside the Party’s cultural surroundings, I unknowingly received many things that the Party wanted to instill in me, though I was a kind-hearted and simple person by nature.

I joined the Youth League in middle school. On the surface, it seemed that this time I joined it with full awareness. However, when the entire society was tightly controlled by the CCP, when every student was made to believe that joining the Youth League was a glorious thing, and it indicated you were doing very well, could one make any better judgment?

I was admitted to Peking University in 1984, and experienced a rare and relatively open and relaxed period when different kinds of theories and philosophies were allowed to spread. Many people did manage to rethink and reflect on the “Great Cultural Revolution.” However, under the Party’s persuasion, like many other Chinese people, I also believed that since the Party had “corrected” its own mistakes, everything would be brought back on to the right track, and tragedies like the Great Cultural Revolution would never happen again.

I became the first CCP member in my junior year in the university. I think the following two reasons played an important role in this:  1.  I was somehow convinced by the theory that the Party could be changed for better if more good people joined it;  2.  My father was finally admitted into the Party the year before after his constant efforts for more than 20 years of trying to be accepted.

When I learned he joined the Party, I was greatly shocked. I thought, as someone who had experienced so much, including political discrimination and persecution, he still didn’t give up his efforts. He must have had a very good reason for doing so. Therefore, I should follow suit.  

Now when I look back, I suddenly realized how unfounded this reason was. How could I be convinced by such a reason back then? I actually knew very little about father’s experiences, except the fact that he was labeled as the “black pawn of reactionary capitalist-roaders,” relocated to a remote small town, and re-educated there for many years. 

My sister was born when I was four years old. As my mother, who was not allowed to live together with my father, couldn’t look after two children at the same time as she still needed to work to make a living, I was sent to live together with my father.  

However, until I left my hometown for university, in more than one decade’s time of living together with my father, I never heard him talk about any of his experiences during the Cultural Revolution, nor did he ever make any comments about any state affairs, despite the fact that he graduated from the department of politics of Southwest Politics and Law University. 

The first political comment I ever heard him make was this, “No matter who is the chairman of the country, 1+1 will forever equal 2.” On the other hand, liberal arts are too easily affected by politics. Therefore, although many people said that girls should study liberal arts, I still chose science because of my father’s insistence. 

I learned a little of my father’s misfortune during the Cultural Revolution only recently through my mother. In 1967, he was hospitalized after developing acute hepatitis, but was still dragged out to be publicly denounced.  His hands were painted with black ink to indicate his identity as the “black pawn of reactionary capitalist-roaders.”  Large amounts of his hair were pulled out. As a result, he became bald-headed as early as in his thirties.

Meanwhile, my mother had to look after my father, who was nearly tortured to death, while I was only one-year-old. She also had to put up my father’s written “self-criticism” everywhere according to the requirement of the “rebels,” with no single spot to be ignored, or any copy being put in the wrong place.

I couldn’t imagine my father’s feelings after suffering all of this. In my memory, my father seldom talked.  However, when he wrote to me to tell me the news about having joined the Party, for the first time ever, I sensed his excitement. And this in turn influenced me deeply.  

As my father’s family background category was “small land lessor,” he fell into the politically wrong class ever since he was born.  Because of his “wrong” family class, no matter how hard working and how talented he was, he had always been struggling at the bottom of society. Perhaps being admitted into the Party could help rid himself of this inferiority complex of being politically wrong? Or did it have other meanings for him? Maybe he would never discuss this with me, as talking about politics was not safe in China, even within one’s family.

Many people don’t realize that the fear and loathing they have toward politics are in fact the terror and hatred they have toward the CCP’s history of killing. Part 3 of the “Nine Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party,” “On the Tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party,” enables one to see more clearly and comprehensively that the CCP’s politics has been about how to kill and crackdown on people.  

In democratic countries, voting is a citizen’s obligation; and that is also “getting involved in politics”. What is there to fear or loathe? It is the CCP that has imposed a connotation of suppression and killing on the term “politics,” and that is why so many Chinese people hate the mere mention of “politics.”

One year after I became a formal Party member, the Tiananmen Square massacre happened. I was extremely shocked.  As many students from Peking University were very active in the movement, it was said that the Peking University would be a main target for further crackdowns. Many different and horrible rumors were passed around, such as the army would occupy the campus, and no student should sleep on the upper level of a bunk bed to avoid being hit by stray bullets, and so on. The authorities of the university strongly suggested that we don’t stay on campus.  

I was very much terrified, as I couldn’t find a place to stay. In the end, I ended up sleeping on a very hard desk in the office of a friend.  During the night, I opened the office door to find my way to the restroom. Suddenly I thought I heard terribly loud bursts of machine-gun shots, and was nearly frightened to death.

However, when I tried to find out where those gunshots came from, I realized that it was just the croaking of many frogs, as my friend’s office was located in the suburbs, and very close to a pond.

It took me several days and a lot of effort to be able to buy a train ticket so that I could escape Beijing-the city of the massacre, which was already under martial law.  When arriving at the Beijing train station with three friends, I found it was as chaotic as if it were the end of the world.  Many trains were cancelled or delayed. Dark smoke was still rising from the burnt tanks and military trucks.

We sat underneath a bridge near the train station; anxiously waiting for information regarding the departure of our train. As we had nothing better to do, we drew a portrait of Li Peng, whom we believed had ordered the army to kill the students, and then threw small pieces of stone at the portrait to see who could hit it with more precision.

After all the “noise” was suppressed, all the student party members were required to write up “thought reports” at great length with all the details about ones’ thoughts and deeds during the student movements. When trying very hard to keep myself out of trouble, I never seriously reflected on what kind of role the CCP had played in this tragedy.  As a female science student, I was never very much into politics. Like many other people, I “forgot” this massacre soon enough: when all is said and done, nobody in my family was killed anyway.

Many people had tried to change the Party through joining it. However, a ruthless reality smashed all their dreams.  Disappointed by the failure, many people had long since given up this kind of thought and effort. Almost everyone agrees that the CCP isn’t good, but people usually feel helpless as it still seems so “strong.”

Only after I finished reading the “Nine Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party” did I understand the reasons:  As stated in the “Nine Commentaries,” the CCP is a somewhat “abstract,” independent, foreign, and evil specter that attaches itself to people, who could only be controlled and manipulated by it. How could one change it by joining the party?

That also explains the reason why after ten general secretaries of the CCP were all “knocked down” by the Party, the Party itself still “thrives in prosperity.”  

That is also the reason why within the CCP’s doctrine, the Party’s interest is always above everything. Any human being, including all the party members can only be its tools, without being able to change any part of it.  Any attempts to change it, or illusions that it can be changed, will surely be proved to be a failure, and what accompany all the illusions will surely be tragedies for the Chinese people, and even the world.

I am very grateful for the Epoch Times’s “Nine Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party.” It enabled me to reflect on my initial motivation to join the CCP, helped me see through the Party for what it is, and therefore to clear away more thoroughly its poisonous elements within me.

The best way to rid oneself of a foreign evil specter is to firmly deny its existence, and to proactively break away from its control and influence in mind as well as in its organizational forms.

The Chinese nation has been occupied and possessed by the CCP evil specter for too long and is therefore critically “ill.” For an ill person, or for somebody who is controlled by a foreign specter, nobody would ask, “What will this person do without his illness or specter?”

Therefore, it is completely unnecessary to worry about who can lead China without the CCP. A China without the CCP will surely regain its vitality, just like a sick person who was suddenly cured.

Hence, I hereby solemnly declare my withdrawals from the CCP, the Youth League and the Young Pioneers, and that my applications to join the CCP, the Youth League and the Young Pioneers, all the thought reports I wrote after joining the CCP, as well as all the written materials in my profile held by the CCP, are null and void.  Only by withdrawing from the CCP can I become a really clear-minded Chinese citizen.

***

 Jennifer Zeng is the author of “Witnessing History: One Chinese Woman’s Fight for Freedom and Falun Gong.” Before she was persecuted in China for her faith, she was a researcher and consultant in the Development Research Center of the State Council, the State Cabinet. Her story is featured in the award-winning documentary “Free China; the Courage to Believe,” co-produced by New Tang Dynasty Television and World2Be Productions. Zeng has a blog and posts to Facebook.

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