In one day, a high school student in China had his entire world turned upside down—and he had to flee the country before he found peace and safety once again.
16-year-old Liu Xiaotian was in school on a Friday afternoon on November 23, 2001, when both of his parents were abducted by the police, because they practiced Falun Gong.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual meditation discipline that teaches people the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance, along with five gentle exercises. In 1999, the Chinese Communist regime began a brutal persecution against Falun Gong practitioners, arresting, torturing, and even killing them for their beliefs.
However, Liu’s parents had only been practicing for a short time, and the boy knew almost nothing about the practice or the persecution.
The police then came to Liu’s school and asked about him in the office. A student heard the police talking and ran to tell Liu that his parents were in trouble. He was terrified. His classmates urged him to get away, and he fled from the school in a panic.
“From that moment, I, who had been living under the loving care of my parents without a single worry in the world, started a long journey of homelessness, sorrow, and fear,” he said, according to Minghui.org.
That night, Liu returned to his house, and it looked shattered, as if it had been struck by an earthquake. He spent that first sleepless night hiding in a gunnysack in his neighbor’s storage shed.
The kindhearted neighbor knew the boy was in trouble and sent him on the road to find his uncle—a farmer who lived thousands of miles away.
Miraculously, Liu survived the dangerous journey and eventually arrived at his uncle’s house in the countryside of Fujian Province. Six months later in May 2002, the police showed up at his uncle’s house.
Due to the threats made by the police, his uncle could no longer keep him. He sent the teenager to hide in a deserted warehouse in Shenzhen City, where he spent 13 months in isolation and sorrow.
“In the dark nights I often woke up in tears from nightmares,” he said. “After waking up, I would curl up in a corner with my head buried, and cry my eyes out.”
In the end, his mental health suffered, and he could no longer speak normally.
To save the boy’s life, his uncle borrowed a large amount of money to send him all the way to Denmark in June 2003. Liu was left alone by those who had taken him abroad, and a kind-hearted person took him to the Red Cross.
“One night, I woke up with a start from nightmares, which alarmed the staff on duty,” he said. “The next day, the person in charge of the Red Cross shelter had a talk with me. Without knowing why exactly, I asked her whether there were Falun Gong practitioners in Denmark.”
The staff member helped Liu get in touch with Falun Gong practitioners, and he found a caring community of people who understood him and embraced him.
Upon seeing the practitioners, Liu burst into tears.
“Could you help me find my parents? I miss them very much,” he said.
The group invited him to come to their practice site and find out more about Falun Gong, why his parents were arrested, and why his uncle could not keep him. They taught him the exercises and gave him a copy of “Zhuan Falun,” the main book of Falun Gong—he started reading it, although he was still very traumatized and couldn’t understand what he was reading.
“One day shortly after, I suddenly reached a state of tranquility when I was meditating. I saw my mom. She sat on a lotus flower,” he said.
He didn’t know what it meant, but fellow practitioners told him that the vision of his mother was sent to encourage him.
A few months later, he finally settled down enough to read the book. He had always been a top student with good grades in school, but the psychological damage had taken its toll, and he could not even finish a single sentence without making a mistake. Falun Gong practitioners patiently helped correct him, and he quickly improved.
In June 2004, the practitioners participated in an exhibition in the center of Copenhagen for World Anti-Torture Day. Liu and others re-enacted a scene from a Chinese prison, where Falun Dafa practitioners are often tortured.
“Many onlookers were moved by our performance,” said Liu.
In July, Liu had a dream that his parents had passed away and his uncle had signed a piece of paper under the threat of police.
When fellow practitioners heard about the dream, they immediately called Liu’s uncle.
“For the first time, my uncle told me the truth. As a matter of fact, in April 2002, five months after they were arrested, my parents had both been persecuted to death,” he said.
The police had gone to his uncle’s house and insisted that the boy’s parents had committed suicide, but they did not provide any evidence. They forced Liu’s uncle to sign a declaration to terminate all relationship with the family.
Liu’s uncle had done what he could to save his nephew.
Not long after that, Liu’s refugee application was rejected, and he only had one chance for an appeal. Liu fell into despair. When Falun Gong practitioners took him to see a lawyer, he felt numb and answered the questions in a mechanical way.
“My parents had passed away. Even my uncle, my only relative left in the world, dared not to keep me. I had nobody to depend on and no hope for anything. I felt it would not matter even if I were sent back,” he said.
His fellow practitioners reminded him that there were still children without parents like him in China, and they needed to do everything they could to help tell people the truth and stop the persecution. Liu began to regain his courage.
Liu decided to start telling everyone around him about his family situation. Since his language skills were still limited, he asked practitioners to help print flyers based on his experience, and they passed them around in large quantities.
In October 2004, the Denmark Refugee Tribunal held the final court hearing on Liu’s application. He answered their questions clearly, but his application was still rejected and he was told to prepare to leave for China immediately. However, Liu and the other practitioners still did not give up.
Liu’s story was shared widely, and soon Falun Gong practitioners around the world mobilized to assist him. Letters from different countries flooded the Danish government. Practitioners took to the streets to collect signatures and call for help from Congress, the media, non-governmental organizations, and the United Nations. Some very influential organizations in Denmark wrote to the government to call attention to his case.
The Chairman of the Legislative Committee in Congress gave several media interviews about Liu’s case and said the government underestimated the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners.
The Danish government then decided to reconsider Liu’s case and accepted more information for review. At the end of April 2005, his refugee application was granted.
Liu was very grateful for the opportunity to stay in Denmark, and he continued telling people about his experience and the persecution of Falun Gong, as well as supporting other practitioners who needed help. The persecution of Falun Gong continues to this day.