Father’s Day, once again, won’t be as happy for some as for others. While families across the United States and many parts of the world are busy planning special celebrations for their dads, there are many grief-stricken homes worrying over their beloved dads who are incarcerated in the dark jails of communist China, either for their faith or for defending human rights.
Here are some of these soul-stirring life stories, which will forever be enlisted in the darkest chapters of human history.
“I Have Witnessed Much of the Dark Side of China”
For the past 21 years, Amy Minghui Yu has been robbed of the warmth of a family setting after her parents were arrested by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for practicing Falun Gong, an ancient self-cultivation discipline based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance.
Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, was first introduced to China in 1992 and was unlawfully banned in 1999 by the communist regime when the number of people practicing it reached at least 70 million—more than the membership of the CCP. The brutal persecution that ensued 21 years ago has left numerous practitioners arrested, detained, and subjected to pitiless torture to the point of their organs being harvested for economic profit by the CCP; Amy’s family was just one of these countless shattered households.
“My family has been shattered… I have witnessed much of the dark side of China,” Amy told The Epoch Times in a previous interview.
Amy’s father, Zonghai Yu, a painter at the Mudanjiang City Library, was first arrested in 1999 and sentenced to a year of forced labor camp. After his release, he was arrested again in 2001 for hanging banners proclaiming “Falun Dafa is good!” This time, Amy’s dad was sentenced to 15 years and suffered unimaginable torture, which left him crippled and with a permanent tear duct laceration.
He recounted the horrific torture in a self-written report published on Minghui.org, a U.S.-based website that tracks the persecution of Falun Gong in China.
“When I visited him, his leg had been broken,” Amy said in 2013 while recalling a prison visit. “My dad told me that his chest was beaten seriously by electric batons, and he finds it hard to breathe. “In the past, he had a very healthy heart, but now he has a serious heart problem. His head was hit by something heavy, and now he often feels dizzy,” Amy said.
Worried for her dad’s health, Amy decided to campaign for his release after she arrived in the United Kingdom to study fashion design at a university in Cambridge. She also created pre-addressed postcards that show her father’s photo, taken by a family member during a prison visit, and distributed them to people, asking for the postcards to be sent to Mudanjiang Prison, where her father was held.
Amy’s father has since been released in 2016; her mother, Wang Meihong, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2003, was released two years earlier.
“I Worry Every Day Whether or Not I Will Ever See Him Again.”
Paul Li migrated from China to Canada with his mother when he was 13 years old; his father, Xiaobao Li, who is nearly 65 years old now, used to be a county mayor and a successful businessman. Paul went back to China in 2009 aspiring to see his father, who was at that time imprisoned for eight years from 2005 to 2012 for writing articles to speak out against the Falun Gong persecution.
However, Paul’s precious time of living with his father didn’t last long; merely two years after the release, his dad was arrested and sentenced to eight years in 2015 for refusing to give up his faith. Since the arrest, Paul has been trying to secure his father’s release by speaking at rallies and press conferences. Paul hired two lawyers in China to defend his father in 2015, but he said his father did not receive a fair trial.
“My father’s lawyer was certain that the verdict was already made before the trial, and this was simply a show trial,” Paul said in a previous interview.
During the trial, Paul’s dad said: “Even if you give me a death sentence, I am determined in my faith and to clarify the truth of Falun Gong.”
Paul told Minghui.org in 2019 that his father is still imprisoned in the Longquanyi Detention Center, and due to the persecution and torture, he lost sight in his left eye.
“His moral courage is an inspiration to me, but I worry every day whether or not I will ever see him again,” said Li, who now lives in Toronto.
“I Have Been Trying to Do Anything That Could Possibly Help My Father.”
Jewher Ilham was supposed to accompany her father, Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur economics professor, to Indiana University for a month on Feb. 2, 2013, as he had been invited as a visiting scholar. However, she ended up taking a flight alone from Beijing to America when the Chinese authorities prevented her dad from leaving. That fateful day at the airport became the last time she had seen her dad.
Jewher’s dad was arrested and later sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of inciting separatism—a charge that she said was unfounded.
“He had never mentioned a word about separating the country,” Jewher told China Uncensored.
Since 2017, three years after the sentence, Jewher had become increasingly worried about her dad, especially when news of the Chinese regime starting the Xinjiang re-education camps was exposed and her family in China had lost contact with her dad that same year. To seek her father’s release, the young daughter then embarked on a path to advocate for him.
“I have been trying to do anything that could possibly help my father and my community. I don’t know if it’s helping, I don’t know if anything would help. I just don’t want to regret,” she said.
Jewher had also met President Donald Trump at the White House in July 2019, together with other survivors of religious persecution, and spoke at the UN General Assembly. In December 2019, she accepted the 2019 Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament on her father’s behalf for the defense of human rights.
“I Dream One Day That… We Can Be Together Again.”
A young Chinese refugee, Eric Jia had a happy family, which became nonexistent the day his dad was arrested; he was only 3 years old at that time.
Eric’s father, Ye Jia, was also arrested for practicing Falun Gong. Like his father, Eric’s close relatives that include his grandmother and aunties had also been arrested several times for the same reason and had been subjected to different forms of torture while imprisoned.
For instance, in April 2013, when Eric’s father was detained under an eight-year sentence, guards tortured him by pouring pungent liquid into his nose while hanging him upside down; the guards refused to allow him to seek treatment when he vomited blood months later, Minghui.org reported.
Eric’s father was last arrested in September 2017 and released three months later in December after Australian Greens Senator for Victoria Janet Rice sent a letter to the mayor of Xi’an, China, in November 2017, urging him to release Ye Jia “immediately and unconditionally.”
Eric’s story mirrors that of many other overseas Falun Gong practitioners whose families are still being persecuted by the CCP in mainland China. Eric fled to Australia with his mother in 2012 and has been raising awareness of the persecution.
“There is nothing wrong to have faith in Falun Dafa. The CCP used all kinds of means to make us give up our beliefs,” Eric said to a crowd that had gathered at Martin Place in Sydney in 2018 to commemorate the lives lost at the hands of the CCP.
“I dream one day that they can be free and we can be together again,” Eric said.
“My Father Believes This Is God’s Message, And I Believe My Father.”
It has been more than 1,000 days since the persecuted human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng went missing on Aug. 12, 2017. Gao has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
A devoted Christian, Gao had been repeatedly arrested and jailed since 2006 for representing members of persecuted minority groups such as Christian family churches and Falun Gong practitioners. When in prison, Gao was subjected to brutal torture by the police, such as being shocked with electric batons, having his teeth knocked loose, and even having toothpicks stabbed into his genitals.
His wife, Geng He, and his two children, who had faced constant harassment from the police, escaped to the United States in 2009 with the help of underground faith groups. Residing in a free country since the past decade, Gao’s family has never stopped speaking out and worrying about his whereabouts.
His daughter, Grace Geng believes that her dad’s book, whose Chinese title translates to “Year 2017: Stand Up China,” has an unwavering message for the world that the Chinese Communist Party will soon collapse.
“My father believes this is God’s message, and I believe my father,” Grace said during the launch ceremony of the book in Hong Kong on June 16, 2016.
Grace recently tweeted a reunion video of another Chinese human rights lawyer, Wang Quanzhang, and his family. Wang was freed after serving a 4.5-year sentence on charges of “subverting state power.”
In the tweet, Grace wrote that she hopes for the day when her mother can have her husband by her side and her younger brother can have his father give him suggestions when making life decisions, and for herself to have a family that won’t be separated.
No Hope for Reunion
While the above five families are waiting anxiously for the day to reunite with their fathers, this reunion day would never arrive for a 19-year-old girl—her dad had been persecuted to death.
“In my memory, most of my childhood was spent in fear and horror,” said Xu Xinyang at a forum on Dec. 4, 2018, on Capitol Hill to highlight the deteriorating human rights situation in China.
Xinyang’s parents, both Falun Gong practitioners, had been arrested by the Chinese regime for printing materials to expose the persecution of their faith even before she was born; her father was sentenced to eight years in prison and passed away 13 days after he was released. Due to the brutality of the persecution, Xinyang never saw her dad until she was 7 years old, she told the audience at the forum.
“He wanted to hold me, but I was scared and hid behind my mom. I refused to let him hold me because I never had a chance to know him,” she said. “This became my lifelong regret.”
Even after her father was persecuted to death, Xinyang and her mother were not spared. The police arrested her principal and some of her teachers, all of whom were Falun Gong practitioners, at her school on her birthday. Xinyang was wanted by the police.
Fortunately, Xinyang managed to flee to Thailand with her mother when she was 12 and arrived in the United States in 2017.