Zheng Aixin had everything going for her. She was a well-known artist, accomplished in oil painting and calligraphy, while her husband, Li Zhengtian, was a philosopher, designer, and an award-winning painter and art professor.
The couple enjoyed fame and recognition and lived a comfortable life in Zhuhai, a coastal city in southern China.
But that life came to a crashing halt after Zheng was arrested for practicing Falun Gong, an ancient spiritual discipline based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance that has been targeted for elimination by the Chinese regime since July 1999.
She was first arrested in March 2001 and sent to a brainwashing facility, where she was tortured. Soon after she was sent to a forced labor camp for a year.
She was released the following April, but because she refused to give up Falun Gong, authorities transferred her to another brainwashing facility. When she still persisted in her belief, she was sent back to the same labor camp for another two years.
According to Minghui.org, other Falun Gong adherents who were incarcerated at the same time as Zheng remember her as a beautiful and elegant woman with a gentle temperament. Yet this talented artist was humiliated and brutally tortured at the camp.
When she continued to refuse to quit practicing Falun Gong, she was singled out for more severe treatment. She was constantly monitored and deprived of sleep, kept in solitary confinement, not allowed to bathe, and was beaten with a high-heel shoe.
In 2003, her husband was interviewed by the media after winning first place in an international creative design competition held in Japan. He took the opportunity to plea for Zheng’s freedom.
He told reporters that his health was deteriorating and he needed his wife at home to take care of him. Not long after, in April 2004, Zheng was released before her term was up.
But Zheng’s problems were far from over. After her release, the couple was placed under round-the-clock police surveillance. They could not appear on TV or be reported on in newspapers. They could not leave the country.
Zheng was not allowed to travel to hold exhibits or do other things, and her phone was tapped.
Without the freedom to express herself and unable to live her artistic life to the fullest, she felt tremendous mental pressure and became very depressed.
The frequent arrests and incarceration of her mother, Yang Huanying, also a Falun Gong practitioner, only added to Zheng’s pain. Her health rapidly went downhill. In 2011, a new wave of arrests of local practitioners, many of whom she knew well, contributed to her anguish.
Her health continued to deteriorate, and she passed away in 2012 at the age of 45.
Zheng’s Mother’s Ordeal
Zheng’s mother also went through hell due to the persecution campaign.
Between September 2000 and September 2003, Yang was repeatedly detained in brainwashing facilities, drug rehabilitation centers, and detention centers, from stints of two weeks to a year.
She was sentenced to 18 months of forced labor in March 2005. She was forced to watch slanderous videos about Falun Gong for five months straight. She was deprived of sleep and made to stand in the scorching sun for three hours at a time.
A year after her release, Yang was arrested again and illegally sentenced in May 2007 to another 18 months of forced labor. She was watched by criminal drug addicts who swore at her. The guards took turns to pressure her to give up Falun Gong.
When she refused to renounce her faith, she was made to stand for long hours. Her legs swelled up and she lost a lot of weight. She could not take care of herself and had to be carried to the toilet.
After Yang was released in October 2008 and recovered her health, she left home to avoid being arrested again.
In 2015, on the third anniversary of her daughter’s death, Yang filed a lawsuit against Jiang Zemin, the former head of the Chinese Communist Party who launched the persecution campaign in 1999 that has caused so much suffering for Falun Gong practitioners and their families.
Yang said the persecution led to her daughter’s passing. She concluded in her complaint letter: “I used to have a happy family—a loving husband and four children who treated me well. I could have spent my old age in the company of five grandchildren.
“Yet, because I practice Falun Gong, my daughter died and my family was torn apart.”