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Airline Captain Makes 'Painful Choice'

A statement by Yuan Sheng, China Eastern Airlines

The Epoch Times
Aug 11, 2006

Yuan Sheng is interviewed at the JFK Airport in New York. (The Epoch Times)

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- Chinese Airline Pilot Seeks Asylum Thursday, August 10, 2006

My name is Yuan Sheng. I am 39 years old. I was born in Zhangqiu, Shandong Province. After graduating from the Civil Aviation Flight University of China in 1989, I began working for the Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines. This is my 18th year as a pilot there, with more than 12,400 hours of safe flying on record.

Work and Family

In many other countries, it takes an experienced captain until their 50s or 60s to have a record as high as mine.In the last 18 years, I have never had any accidents and won a silver medal for safe flying.

I am an introvert and don't talk much. All I wanted was to do a good job at work. I have led many flights in different aircraft, such as the MD-11 and A340-600. Since 1995, I began flying the Shanghai-Los Angeles route on a regular basis. I now earn more than 30,000 yuan (US$3,600) a month.

I have a 12-year-old daughter who is very mature for her age. She gets very good grades in school. She will be going to junior high this year. My wife works for a good company and is very kind and understanding. Overall, my work and family life are both quite good.

Sudden Danger from Spreading the Nine Commentaries

I was a co-captain for flights MU583/586 on August 8. The flights, which are between Shanghai and Los Angeles, have two sets of crews. The total flight time is about 12 hours each direction. The route from Shanghai to Los Angeles was mainly the responsibility of my partner. I would fly the return flight from Los Angeles to Shanghai.

At about 2 p.m., I had some free time since I did not have a lot of preparation work to do in Shanghai. The passengers, who numbered over 310, had begun boarding.

I saw a young man in charge of ground safety check standing around, so I went up to him and greeted him. His accent showed he was from Shandong Province, which is also my hometown. So I began chatting with him about the Epoch Times book, Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, the withdrawals of Chinese people from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and the persecution of Falun Gong in China. I also suggested that he quit the CCP. We chatted for over half an hour before he left.

Soon afterwards, he returned with four uniformed airport police. I heard one policeman asking the young man, "Who told you all this? Where is he?" I then asked the young man, "What did you tell them?" "Everything you told me," he said.

The four airport police then called the local emergency number, and two local police arrived. The first thing they did was confiscate my work I.D. They also said loudly, "You definitely can't leave today! This issue concerns state security. It's too serious!" They asked the crew to close the airplane door and leave me with them. By then, all of the passengers had boarded. After hearing that I was held by the police, the crew members came to talk to the police. They said, "What's wrong with talking about Falun Gong?" They also told the police that they could not leave without me, and it would be too late to find someone to replace me.

The local police called their supervisor. Shortly afterwards, a man in black civilian clothes came. He saw that there were many people surrounding me. He was also concerned about the liability for delaying a plane with more than 300 passengers.

He pulled me aside and asked for the name of the political commissar of my work unit. We just got a new political commissar, whose name I could not remember. So he asked me to write down my name, home address, and phone number, and said, "You have to tell us all the details of this matter when you return from the United States." He returned my I.D. and let me leave on the airplane.

Yuan Sheng's pilot license (The Epoch Times)
Details from Yuan Sheng's pilot license (The Epoch Times)

The Past and Future are Turbulent in My Mind

Upon boarding the plane, I was very sad. The crew all came to see me and tried to help me be at ease. We have a rule that pilot is not allowed to be moody; otherwise they need to be replaced. So my colleagues wouldn't be worried, I told them, "I am fine." I could not help but think, how I would face going back. I was in a daze, thinking about what I should do.

I started practicing Falun Dafa at the end of 1997, near the beginning of 1998. I was in my early 30s at the time. Due to flying for a long time, and spending more than twenty days overseas per month, I was always jetlagged, I could not eat normally or sleep well, I felt tired even if I just walked a few steps on flat ground, and my teeth were all loose! I felt life was not interesting, and the future was bleak.

Once we flew to LA, a former colleague who had immigrated there came to visit us, and brought a copy of Zhuan Falun and introduced Falun Gong to me. He said, "This is very effective for keeping fit, and is practiced by many people." I read the last chapter first, which talked about physical exercises and Qigong (traditional Chinese mediation exercises). I felt that it made sense, because I used to play basketball and run to keep fit, but my health was deteriorating.

After returning to China, I woke up at 4-5 a.m. due to jet lag. In order to not disturb my family, I took a walk outside. I found that people were practicing Falun Gong in our neighborhood. They taught it to me very warmly, and thus, I started learning and practicing. Although I did not join much because of my work limitations, very soon, my health improved dramatically, and I had my confidence in life back.

Right around July 20, 1999, as soon as I flew back to Shanghai from the United States, my employer forced several of our Falun Dafa practitioners go through brainwashing sessions, forced us to read newspapers articles that slandered Falun Dafa, and other propaganda. My boss talked with me everyday, and told me if I refused to write the guarantee letter to give up Falun Gong, I would be not allowed to be a pilot.

I was very sad; I had cried one day, and that was the only time I had cried since I grew up. Why wasn't I allowed to practice such a good thing? The most painful thing is, I wrote the guarantee letter to stop practicing under much pressure from my employer and my family.

I heard of many persecution cases of Falun Dafa practitioners right around my neighborhood. Around the time of the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC), on the surface there was no suppression of Falun Gong, but many secret arrests were being made, including several on Wuzhong Street near my home.

Another example happened in the neighboring building next to our Airline Office Building. A custodian found a copy of the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party in an office, and a large amount of policemen came to arrest a Falun Dafa practitioner in that building without any due process of law.

Nowadays in China, if you tell policemen Falun Dafa practitioners are being mistreated, the policemen will not care. People all know the Falun Dafa practitioners are being brutally tortured after so many years of persecution. The most serious incident policemen deal with now is the Nine Commentaries. Having one copy of the Nine Commentaries amounts to a four year prison sentence.

In order to arrest practitioners who pass out the Nine Commentaries, policemen intentionally direct some neighborhood administration workers to trick people. They pretend to be interested in the Nine Commentaries, but once you speak about it, they turn around to report you. I know many Falun Dafa practitioners that have been deceived like this. These people appear to have nothing to do with it, listening to you clarifying the truth while they were holding their young kids. As soon as you finish your words, you have been arrested, your family members do not even know where you are detained, and you go missing from then on.

I thought a lot on the way from Shanghai to the United States. I often traveled to the United States before, but I never thought about staying here and not going back. I have a very good life in China and I have a family, which makes leaving China rather difficult.

Last Choice: Stay

The more I thought about my situation, the more uneasy I became. The CCP is frightened of the Nine Commentaries and Chinese people withdrawing from the CCP, which is the most sensitive and dangerous topic in China. Several years ago, our crew was staying in a hotel in LA, and the TV in the room showed how the Tiananmen Self-Immolation incident was fabrication. I thought that what the TV program said was very convincing, and spoke about it with my roommate. I did not pay much attention to it at all, since I only said two sentences. I was surprised that upon returning to China, my boss talked to me several times, and forced me to agree to not talk about Falun Gong issues anymore.

I realized how dangerous my situation was, and thought of staying. It was so sudden, that it even shocked me. I want to ask my family for advice. I called home, and my daughter was still very happy. I thought that policemen had not done anything to my family yet, since they would normally wait till I go back, arrest me as soon as I passed customs, and then ransack my home. I was sure that I would never see my family again.

When I spoke to my wife, I knew it was too sudden, so I told her briefly that I was in trouble. I spoke about the Nine Commentaries and withdrawing from the CCP, and that policemen were about to arrest me. Luckily I had pilot duty, and the passengers had boarded, so they let me go. I told her I probably could not back down now.

On the morning of August 10, 2006, some Falun Dafa practitioners in New York welcome Mr. Yuan Sheng at the JFK Airport. (The Epoch Times)

I hung up the phone, and let my wife think it over. After a while, I called again. My wife replied crying, "Needless to say, it's not convenient talking on the phone; please make your own decision."

My wife knows that there is no legal justice for Falun Gong in China because policemen can arrest at will. There is very heavy suppression on spreading the Nine Commentaries. Although my family would suffer from heavy pressure if I stayed, at least I would be safe. If I go back, they would not be able to see me, and I might be tortured in prison just like other Falun Dafa practitioners. She rather that we separated for a period of time, so we still had hope.

Therefore, I decided to apply for asylum. Some media reported the reasons of my staying, and were intentionally vague about the fact that I am facing the CCP's severe persecution due to spreading the Nine Commentaries and persuading people to withdraw from the CCP. The World Journal [a Chinese newspaper] did not interview me, but published an irresponsible article on the front page. I cannot understand why.

I Am Responsible for My Own Actions

The flight MU586 is scheduled to arrive in Shanghai at around 6:30 p.m. on August 11, 2006. I hereby declare that my staying is a forced painful personal decision about personal faith and freedom of speech. I am responsible for my own actions. I ask the government officials to be kind to my colleagues, and do not implicate them as part of my actions.

I call for the government to not mistreat my family members. They are not Falun Dafa practitioners. The suppression is beyond imagination to family members who do not practice. At the same time, I call on the international society to pay attention to the persecution of Falun Dafa practitioners in China. The CCP dares to commit the crime of harvesting live Falun Dafa practitioners' organs. What evil will it not commit?

Click here to read the original article in Chinese