TOPEKA, Kan.—A pair of boys are cycling 3,000 miles to help orphans on the other side of the world. Chunjing Neumann, 13, from Virginia, and his best friend, 12-year-old Zachary Ware from Washington D.C. are part of Ride2Freedom.
They stopped in Topeka, the capital of Kansas, on June 25. In Topeka, Zach and Chunjing and their fellow Ride2Freedom riders toured the governor’s office and visited a local legislator’s office.
Kansas is roughly the halfway point for Ride2Freedom. It’s a group of youths between the ages of 11-25 who started in Los Angeles and are cycling to Washington, D.C. and then traveling to New York. Their mission is to raise awareness about the orphans affected by the persecution in China of Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, a peaceful traditional meditation practice. It emphasizes the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance, but the Chinese Communist Party has persecuted Falun Gong practitioners since July 20, 1999.
When the cyclists reach their final destination in the United States, several of them will fly to China to rescue five orphans.
For American-born Chunjing, the mission has a personal resonance. When he was very young, his father, who also practices Falun Gong, was detained in China, and Chunjing and his mother did not see him for two years. “My mom had to work really hard to support our family and to support me as a child.”
He wants to help other children who faced a similar situation but had a tragic outcome. “I ride for the second chance of children in China, and the great life that they might have here in America.
His father had gone to China to speak up for other Falun Gong practitioners in China. So had Zachary Ware’s father, Keith Ware, who is one of the adult coordinators of the Ride2Freedom. They were among the small group from Western countries who went to Tiananmen Square in 2002 to call for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong. They unfurled a banner and meditated on the famous square. Police beat and detained them. Ware was deported barefoot, after police stole his sneakers.
“Keith and my father are very close to each other,” said Chunjing. “They have some stories, when they got detained in China. They got detained together so they are very close to each other.”
Zachary and Chunjing have been friends for years, and they share a passionate empathy for the orphans of the persecution in China. Speaking of the orphans, Zachary said, “It’s just sad! Children walking around, their parents either dead or kidnapped.”
He described the danger that Falun Gong practitioners face in China. “The worst thing that the persecution does is plucks the practitioners off the street, throws them into a jail.”
The two friends are making a heroic effort to raise awareness of their cause. Chunjing misses Mountain Dew. Zachary wishes his father would let them ride down hills at top speed. But both are encouraged when people understand what they are trying to do.
Zachary said, “You have to live by truth, compassion, and tolerance.”
Cat Rooney contributed to this report
The Ride2Freedom team of 25 youth and 10 parents and other helpers who spent the Fourth of July in Chicago before heading to Philadelphia. However, once in Washington D.C., they will end the bike portion of the tour with a public concert and candlelight vigil, on Friday, July 17 at the Lincoln Memorial. They will then travel to New York City to the United Nations and then a select few will fly to China to rescue the five orphans.