Finding Truth, Finding Compassion, Finding Courage

The documentary 'Finding Courage' shows one Chinese family’s story of persecution at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party
January 13, 2021 Updated: January 14, 2021

Imagine being jailed, persecuted, and tortured for more than a decade. Imagine having your tortured sister’s lifeless body being withheld from you for almost 20 years, by the very people who tortured you. Imagine your school-age nephew being kidnapped to force you to sign over your sister’s body to authorities. Now imagine having the grace to continue to smile, love life, and to practice the very spirituality for which you were persecuted. When you watch the beautifully shot and immaculately scored film “Finding Courage,” you won’t have to imagine.

The mostly somber Yellow River, the “cradle of Chinese civilization,” is known to change into a raging torrent so quickly that it is also known as “China’s sorrow.” Likewise, Falun Gong, a spirituality once embraced by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), was suddenly targeted, faster than the Yellow River changes its moods.

“Ruin their reputations.
Bankrupt them financially.
Destroy them physically.”
—Taken from a 1999 edict by CCP General Secretary Jiang Zemin

“My parents brought Falun Gong into our home in 1994. We all became practitioners. Then one day in 1999, the CCP began the persecution. It all changed so quickly,” says Leo Wang, whose wife, Sophia, adds: “We were a happy, hardworking family, both of us mechanical engineers. We were respected and practiced our faith openly. Kefei, Leo’s sister, was arrested in August 2001. And then Leo …” her voice trails off.

“One day Leo just didn’t come home.” The CCP rarely, if ever, calls family members to tell them of arrests; families are often left to wonder what happened. It is the same dark spirit that allows CCP functionaries to illegally cremate prisoners without alerting the families.

“I was so scared. I didn’t know what happened to my husband,” Sophia says.

Twenty days later, a fellow inmate called to say that Leo was alive. The inmate told her that he had never seen anyone so badly beaten. He told Sophia to prepare herself for Leo’s death.

“My world fell apart. The sky fell in on me,” Sophia says.

It was a full year before Sophia and their young son, Martin, were allowed to see Leo.

“Attorneys weren’t even allowed to help, or they would lose their licenses,” Martin says. “For six months, I didn’t sleep. All I could think of was my father. The first time we saw him, he said he was OK, but he looked so very bad.”

Finding_Courage_Leo
Leo, Yifei’s brother, tries to cope with his post-traumatic stress after suffering 12 years in prison. He’s built a replica of the chair he was tortured in to help tell his story. (Swoop Films)

The most hunted of CCP targets are those Falun Gong practitioners who own or have access to printers, and who create Falun Gong books and materials.

“Leo did his printing work, and I did mine, but we rarely discussed it with each other,” says another of Leo’s sisters, Yifei. “We thought that if we were caught, we couldn’t be forced to divulge much information.” Leo maintained the copiers, while Yifei helped produce and distribute printed materials.

The CCP arrested both sisters at the same rally. They were beaten, and their flesh was burned with an electric baton. Yifei’s husband, Gordon, who is a journalist, was able to obtain his wife’s release.

Seated; Leo and Yifei Standing Sophia, Martin and Gordon
The “Finding Courage” family (L–R): (seated) Leo Wang, Yifei Wang; (standing) Sophia, Martin, and Gordon. (Courtesy of Mark Lentine)

As seen in the film, Gordon’s courage and tenacity paid off when he surreptitiously filmed scenes inside jails, further risking his own arrest by filming inside Longfeng Morgue. Together, Gordon and their young daughter Ava helped Yifei escape to America, while they stayed behind. Unfortunately, Gordon could do nothing to free his sister-in-law.

Four months later, Kefei Wang was dead.

Authorities allowed Yifei a brief glimpse of her sister’s partially frozen, semi-nude body. “Parts of her body were black and swollen. I said, ‘Kefei, Kefei, don’t scare me like this. You can’t be dead!’”

Kefei had been beaten and tortured in an unsuccessful attempt to force her to “name names” and denounce her practice. Guards had poked her eyes with needles to deprive her of sleep. She never talked.

“I was scared, but I never gave up my practice,” says youngest sister Tifei, adding: “The world must know what happened to our sister. This cannot happen to people. I remember that after they began the persecution, we kept the lights to a minimum. People who once were friends now kept their distance because they knew we were practitioners. I myself had been in a CCP labor camp for two months.

“Our home wasn’t much better. We were so scared all the time. Our home was a kind of second jail.”

When asked about CCP-controlled China, Leo Wang says simply, “I now think of China as a prison—a prison full of prisons.”

Finding+Courage+-+labor-camp-secret-fiming
A still shot from secret footage taken inside a Chinese labor camp. (Swoop Films)

Leo Wang says that of those he met in prison, he convinced up to 200 to take up the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Some of them were guards, but most were prisoners. Some guards actually began referring to him as “Mr. Wang.”

Once he was released, it took Leo a year to relearn how to walk.

Stephanie Li is interpreter and spokesperson for the family, and executive producer of the film. She and her own sister are both practitioners. Her sister was also arrested by the CCP. “These kinds of things are happening time and time again,” she said.

Finding+Courage+-+Yifei-with-flyers
Now that she’s in a free country, Yifei Wang can pass out literature about the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of Falun Gong. (Swoop Films)

A Warning to America

“For decades, we, the good Chinese, have tried to warn America about the CCP,” Li said. “Few listened. We know the CCP has infiltrated this country. We knew it decades ago. We know what they’re capable of.”

With news of Eric Swalwell’s purported ties to a CCP spy, New York University’s ties to Chinese communists, and the State Department’s warning that “the CCP poses a real threat to American sovereignty,” Li’s warning is prescient, to say the least.

The Chinese have a saying concerning the Yellow River, “For 30 years the river flows east and for 30 years the river flows west …” For 19 years, Kefei Wang’s body has remained frozen in Longfeng Morgue while her family waits and waits for the tide to turn, and for someone to have the compassion to return her body to them.

Yifei Wang promised her sister and her dying father that she would find the courage to demand answers for her sister’s death. “Who did this to her? They must be held accountable. We will never give up until they free our sister’s body.”

Kay+Rubacek+Swoop+Films+Finding+Courage-Kefei
Kefei Wang committed no crime, but she ended up in a Chinese prison. For refusing to give up her faith, she was tortured to death. Kefei is one of the hundreds of thousands of estimated victims of the persecution, each with a family and a story behind their name. (Swoop Films)

A Chinese proverb says, “Dripping water chisels through stone.” If that is the case, then “Finding Courage” is the first drop in what the Wang family vows will become a never-ending torrent in the fight to free their sister’s body from the stone wall of the CCP.

To view the film, see FindingCourageMovie.com and use the code “finding courage” for a 25 percent discount. Listen to Mika Hale sing the film’s theme song, “Courage Is Found,” at http://ept.ms/CourageIsFoundTo join in the fight to free Kefei Wang’s body, visit FreeSistersBody.com

A native of South Philadelphia, Mark Lentine has written for and helmed publications on both coasts. He now resides in Hemet, Calif.