Imagine waking up one morning to embark upon a 3,146-mile journey, by bicycle, from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. You’d have to have a very good reason for doing so, at least to stay motivated and push through the pain. That’s no easy feat.
Twenty-six teens from 15 countries united on June 1, 2015, for a cause close to their hearts. They called this mission “Ride 2 Freedom.”
To raise awareness about the Chinese regime’s brutal genocide of Falun Gong, which is a peaceful meditation discipline that grew too popular for the Communist Party’s liking, these young riders decided to do something big in a heroic effort to get their urgent message out there—an epic coast-to-coast bike ride.
Biking across America, however, isn’t your typical kind of ride.
“I knew it was going to be hard,” says Ghazal Tavanaei, a 21-year-old rider in a video documenting their ride… “it was a different level than I thought.”
“When you actually get on the bicycle and then climb the mountains and bike and you’re sweating and thirsty that’s when it’s a realization of how difficult it is,” said the crew’s team leader, Annie Chen, 19.
Riding along highways in the middle of the desert under the baking sun, with big trucks whizzing by … these kids were determined.
Their team spirit, no doubt, helped them through this.
Yes, they did struggle at times. And as the footage in the documentary shows, a few of them fell off their bikes en-route. Tears were shed, and some sustained injuries, which they called battle scars. But no matter what, nothing was to deter them from their mission.
They aimed to bring their message to then-president Barack Obama, hoping he’d sympathize with their cause, meet with them when they arrive in Washington, D.C., and raise the issue with China’s Party Chief Xi Jinping.
Ultimately, they wanted to stop the Communist Party’s inhumane persecution of Falun Gong.
Unfortunately, Obama refused to meet with the team when they reached Washington, D.C. on July 16, nor was any form of acknowledgement made.
Kindness along the way
Still, the youths met and talked with many people, including media, along the way. For them, they cherish the process more than anything.
And they have plenty of memories to share.
“In Nevada, there was a police officer who was escorting us and protecting us on the highway,” says Aila Verheyke, 11, the youngest biker. “And he even invited us to his house.”
That was Trooper Kelly Bryant of the Nevada Highway Patrol. He was on duty when he saw the youths on their journey.
“It was 95 degrees (approx. 35 degrees Celsius) today, and they were riding bicycles for many miles,” said Trooper Bryant. “I thought they might would like to have a break and get some cold water, and some refreshments, and get in some air conditioning for a little while.”
The team got to meet the trooper’s family and enjoy a well-earned break.
“It was really cool to be invited to a police officer’s house,” says Verheyke.
Each of these young riders practices Falun Gong and are well aware of what their fellow practitioners in China are subject to at the hands of a regime that does not respect freedom of religion. Several of the youths in the delegation have firsthand accounts of this.
“Aila Verheijke’s grandmother was tortured until she was blind and deaf,” reads a statement in an open letter to Obama.
During a two-hour press conference in Las Vegas, the team raised awareness outside a popular tourist destination. Jimmy Ma, 15, from China, talked about how his mother was jailed for a year and a half when he was a toddler.
“Because my mom practices Falun Gong she was thrown in prison,” says Ma in Chinese. A couple of Chinese tourists are seen looking on, shocked.
“Everyday I would for mom but I couldn’t find her anywhere. I asked my dad everyday, ‘where is mom?’ but he never told me the answer.”
In China, the Chinese regime rules all forms of media, and people only see, hear, and come into contact with what the Party wants them to know … even if that may be a fabricated lie. So, it’s shocking for the Chinese people when they come abroad and finally realize that their government has been lying to them the whole time.
Sadly, many remain in the dark, insisting to go by the disinformation churned out by overseas Chinese-language media, which are mostly manipulated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In the persecution of Falun Gong, the CCP has fabricated all manner of lies to turn public opinion against the peaceful practice and incite hatred amongst the Chinese people, making them numb to the fact that genocide and forced organ harvesting is happening in their own backyard.
China performs an approximate 100 million organ transplants per year, according to former Canadian Secretary of State (Asia Pacific) David Kilgour, human rights lawyer David Matas, and investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann, who co-authored Bloody Harvest—An Update, which concludes:
“The ultimate conclusion is that the Chinese Communist Party has engaged the State in the mass killings of innocents, primarily practitioners of the spiritually-based set of exercises, Falun Gong, but also Uyghurs, Tibetans, and select House Christians, in order to obtain organs for transplants.”
Let’s hope more stand up for this just cause and send that message of freedom out to people in all corners of the world.
Watch the documentary on the “Ride 2 Freedom” below: