Gong Xiaoyan, originally from China’s Qingdao City in Shandong Province, has settled and worked in Silicon Valley for many years now. But in her mother country, the persecution of the peaceful meditation practice, Falun Gong, hits close to home.
Falun Gong is a self-improvement spiritual practice that was introduced in China in the early 1990s. With truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance as its core principles, the practice’s benefits to physical and mental health led to its widespread popularity, with more than 70 million adherents in China by 1999, according to a state survey. Practitioners say their numbers reached more than 100 million.
But Falun Gong’s popularity was perceived as a threat to the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian ideology, and the Chinese regime launched a nationwide persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in 1999. The official press office for Falun Gong, the Falun Dafa Information Center, estimates that millions of Falun Gong adherents have been arrested and detained since the persecution started, often enduring torture and abuse while imprisoned.
After enduring a decade of persecution, the Gong family in China again faces danger.
In Oct., Gong’s family home in Qingdao City was raided by police. Gong’s parents were taken away by local police. Gong’s mother was allowed to go home the next day, but her father Gong Piqi has since been incarcerated at the Pudong Detention Center in Jimo District, Qingdao City.
Police also ransacked the home, confiscating Gong father’s notebook computer and over 157,000 yuan (US$23,600) in cash, Gong said. In China, Falun Gong practitioners regularly suffer this kind of unlawful treatment at the hands of the authorities, as documented by Minghui.org, a U.S.-based website that tracks the persecution of Falun Gong in China.
Gong explained that the latest round of persecution was carried out by the provincial authorities, executing a new directive from top officials, the “door knocking” campaign that began in March this year. Typically a team of two policemen go in pair knocking on the doors of every home that belongs to a known Falun Gong practitioner. The policemen will probe if the person still practices Falun Gong. If the person is not at home, their workplaces, friends, and relatives are also visited. Anyone found in possession of Falun Gong-related literature or materials is detained.
According to related reports on Minghui.org, over 20 Falun Gong practitioners in Qingdao City were kidnapped and had their homes ransacked on Oct. 16, the same day as Gong’s parents, as part of the “door knocking“ campaign. Many of the practitioners are elderly, some over 70 years-old.
Pudong Detention Center has denied the lawyer representing Gong Piqi from visiting him, but what worries Gong Xiaoyan most is her father’s health. Not much detail is known of her father’s situation, but Gong has received some bad news. “I couldn’t believe in less than two weeks, my father can’t walk,” Gong said at a gathering to appeal her father’s imprisonment in front of the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, California on Oct 26th.
History of Persecution
Gong’s whole family started to practice Falun Gong in 1995. Gong Xiaoyan still remembers her father finishing overnight the entire length of “Zhuan Falun,” Falun Gong’s main text of teachings. He was overjoyed to have found his path in life.
Since the persecution started in 1999, the family’s peaceful lives were disrupted. Young Gong spent her days in fear. She watched on as her mother got taken away to the police station every so often. Her mother would be gone for a few days, sometimes a few weeks. She knew no security while growing up.
This is not the first time Gong Piqi, now 62, is being incarcerated for his faith. From May 2005 to April 2006, he was kept in a brainwashing center run by Qingdao City’s 610 office—a Gestapo-like police set up to exclusively carry out the persecution of Falun Gong. He was forced to listen and read propaganda defaming Falun Gong. Gong recalled visits to her father during that time, accompanied by her grandmother who was over 70 years old. Her mother was also serving a prison sentence for refusing to give up faith in the principles of Falun Gong, truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. “I was crying inside. My dad’s hair turned white, he needed support to walk or stand, and his hands were shaking.” These memories torment Gong Xiaoyan now.
Gong Piqi served in the Chinese military all his life before the persecution. “In the environment where the whole nation is in pursuit of corruption, and when it was even worse in the military, Father stood out after he began practicing Falun Gong,” Gong Xiaoyan said. Before practicing, her father smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day. Every night, there were lavish feasts and drinking parties thrown for military officials. Luxury brand gifts were given as bribes. After practicing Falun Gong, her father quit smoking and drinking, and steer clear of bribes at his workplace—rare in the military.
Persecution of Good People
“Yet, to be a good and decent person, one needs to pay a price nowadays,” Gong Xiaoyan said.
Gong also recalled many of her close acquaintances suffering severe persecution. The Gong’s neighbor, Liu Jiming, recovered from various chronic illnesses after she practiced Falun Gong. The Liu family became happier and more harmonious as a result. yet Liu was arrested by local authorities for refusing to give up her faith, and later died in detention.
Another family friend, Zou Songtao, a PhD candidate at a local maritime college, used to give Gong Xiaoyan math tutoring lessons. He was also arrested for practicing Falun Gong. Zou was beaten so severely that he fell into a coma and died after three days in prison, Gong recalled. Zou’s wife, who was also detained, went missing not long after. The couple had left behind a one year old daughter, Gong said.
Back in China, Gong has a classmate and neighbor Yang Jin. Yang’s mother also practiced Falun Gong. “She used to keep me company when our mothers were both in detained in 2005. We comforted, encouraged, and looked after each other. Now my father is in detention again, her mother is also suffering imprisonment,” Gong said.
In an effort to rescue father and other Falun Gong practitioners, Gong recently sent a letter to the White House and President Donald Trump’s office, calling for attention to the ongoing human rights violations against Falun Gong adherents in China. “I hope President Trump will speak up publicly on this issue, because previously the Obama administration seemed to have been largely silent and made no real efforts. I hope President Trump will raise the issue openly and help Falun Gong practitioners to gain the freedom to practice in their own country.”
Gong hopes that one day there will be freedom in her motherland. “I would also like to appeal to [China’s leader] Xi Jinping, as part of a new generation of Chinese leaders, to end this persecution sooner rather than later.”