SAN JOSE, Calif.—San Jose resident Jianhua Lu returned home on Wednesday afternoon, having spent years being persecuted in China for her belief in the spiritual practice Falun Gong.
Upon her arrival at Terminal A of San Jose International Airport, she was given a warm welcome by several dozen friends and family members, including her sister Stephanie who embraced her, both in tears. The two hadn’t seen each other in 10 years.
"I am so glad to be back with my family. I missed them so much. The kids were so small when I last saw them," Ms. Lu said happily, surrounded by her sister, niece, and nephew.
Ms. Lu is a practitioner of Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline which became very popular in China in the 1990's for its health benefits and teachings. The Chinese communist regime, alarmed at the large number of practitioners, started a brutal persecution in July 1999.
Concerned about the hardships endured by those in China, Ms. Lu returned to the mainland in December 1999 to appeal to the regime to stop the persecution. As a result, she was persecuted herself, being thrown into labor camps and prisons including the notorious Masanjia Labor Camp, which some have described as a “hell on earth.” She suffered through the same torture methods which have been inflicted on Falun Gong practitioners throughout the country.
After several years of persecution, Ms. Lu went on the run, traveling thousands of miles to Tibet and later Thailand, where she spent the last three years.
Upon her arrival Wednesday afternoon, she was greeted by a very special supporter, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, who came in person to welcome her.
Mayor Reed had been involved in the effort to rescue Falun Gong practitioners since his days in the City Council nine years ago when he wrote letters on their behalf and urged the U.S. Congress to pass resolutions for Falun Gong.
"It is ironic and wonderful to have her here on Veteran's Day," said Mayor Reed, a veteran himself.
"This demonstrates the difference between living in the USA where you have freedom of association, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech, and China, where you don't. It was a terrible thing to have a U.S. citizen and San Jose resident imprisoned in China for basic human rights activities we take for granted here in the U.S. I am so happy to see her released back to freedom," concluded the Mayor.
Ms. Lu was outspoken and seemed in good condition after the ordeals she had been through. "I have benefited so much from Falun Gong; I couldn't have made it without my belief in this practice. My release further demonstrates the failure of the persecution and the drive of the Chinese regime to eradicate Falun Gong in China."
When asked what she will do next, Jianhua said she will spend time with her family, enjoy the freedom to practice Falun Gong, and be thankful for being given another chance in life.