Like many people in China, Zhang Liang was interested in the traditional slow-moving, meditative exercises of qigong.
In 1994 he was working as a software engineer in Shenzhen City in the south of China and was learning a qigong practice. He heard about a new one called Falun Gong that had recently been introduced to the public but didn’t pay much attention to it.
A few years later, in 1998, Zhang moved to Silicon Valley in California to work for a tech company, solving complex IT problems for well-known corporations.
Three years later, some of Zhang’s family from China came to visit and told him about a new political campaign that was happening in China.
Zhang learned that, back in China, a huge campaign had exploded.
By the time Zhang had left China to move to the United States, Falun Gong had exploded in popularity. It was estimated that up to 100 million people were now practicing the five gentle exercises and following its principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
Worried by Falun Gong’s popularity, in 1999, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) banned Falun Gong and launched a country-wide persecution campaign to force practitioners to give up their practice. Millions were arrested and sent to labor camps where they faced torture and brainwashing.
Along with it, the CCP also used state media to flood the country with a propaganda stunt contrived to turn the population against Falun Gong practitioners and to justify the CCP’s violence unleashed on the practitioners. On Jan. 23, 2001, the regime staged an event in which five people set themselves on fire in Tiananmen Square, supposedly intending to commit suicide. The CCP then tried to tie the incident to the meditation practice.
“My family came from China and told me about the persecution. I was curious, so I asked them about the situation of Falun Gong in China,” Zhang said in an interview with Minghui.org.
“They said that many programs on China Central Television (CCTV) were about the self-immolation suicide, people becoming insane. The programs were broadcasted all day long, and people were crying and vividly describing those events on TV. I thought then that this may be propaganda from the CCP.”
Zhang thought back to his time in China and remembered how the media had reported on the Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 4, 1989.
“I was in Shenzhen City at the time and was able to view both Hong Kong’s TVB Pearl station and the CCP’s China Central Television. I purposely made a comparison; I tuned into both TV stations simultaneously and noticed the two stations’ reports [of Tiananmen Square] were totally opposite.
“The CCP reported the students violently attacking the fully armed People’s Liberation Army, which I thought was unfathomable,” he said.
“Meanwhile, the TVB Pearl station broadcasted images of the troops firing machine guns at the students and tanks rampaging all over the place.”
“I was really shocked by what I saw. Thus I knew that the CCP’s news was one-sided.”
This skepticism made him question his relatives further: “I asked them why the issues were only brought out at this time. Falun Gong has been in China for many years, so why are the problems appearing all of a sudden?”
But he also knew that in China, the CCP often persecuted different groups of people as a way to maintain power, so he didn’t give the news of the persecution much further thought.
A while later, Zhang received some interesting information about the persecution of Falun Gong.
Later in 2001, Zhang accompanied a family member to the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco to apply for a visa to China. Upon leaving, the consulate employee gave each person a small booklet.
Zhang glanced at it quickly; it was all anti-Falun Gong information.
But it had the opposite effect.
“I think they wanted everyone to understand their policy before arriving in China. After I read it, I became interested in Falun Gong,” he said with a chuckle.
The booklet tried to make out that Falun Gong was based on outdated beliefs, slandered Falun Gong’s founder, Mr. Li Hongzhi, and even tried to turn Christian people against the practice. But Zhang, who had been baptized as a Christian 10 years before, knew that what they were saying was wrong from his own experiences.
“At the time my deepest impression was that the small booklet took Mr. Li’s words out of context and attempted to provoke Christians’ hatred toward Falun Gong. Its purpose was to attack Mr. Li,” he said.
“No matter who’s right or wrong, I did not think it was appropriate for a political party to express their comments regarding religious beliefs.”
The consulate’s attempts to turn Zhang against Falun Gong had had the opposite effect.
His curiosity was piqued and he went to his local library to borrow a copy of the main book of Falun Gong, Zhuan Falun, so he could find out what it was all about for himself.
He was pleasantly surprised.
“I thought Falun Gong is very profound and is not just a generic qigong practice that heals illness and improves health,” he said.
Though he found it very interesting, he didn’t live close to a place where practitioners met to do the exercises, so he didn’t take it any further.
As part of Zhang’s job, he had to travel every week to places all over the world. The constant traveling started to have an effect on his health.
“I left home on Mondays and came back on Fridays. Due to constant fatigue and time changes, my body clock was out of whack. There was also pressure from work, I could not eat nor sleep right,” he said.
“After one year, my body went through serious and terrible changes. I had all kinds of illnesses: first, it was arthritis and it was very painful; then I had coughs accompanied by asthma. Finally, I had inflammation of the prostate and the eye.”
His body ached all the time, and he would easily catch a cold and then not be able to get rid of it for weeks.
“My eyes were always red, dry, painful and itchy, as if I had sand in them. I had to apply ointment every evening so that I could sleep,” he said.
On the surface, it looked like Zhang had a successful career, jet-setting all over the world to assist important clients. But he was not happy.
“My American dreams were fulfilled. I owned a car and a house. But I felt very empty inside, especially during my travels,” he said.
After a busy day at work, he would go back to his hotel in the evening and sit alone, wondering what to do.
“I felt very lonely,” he said. He was only 28 years old.
“I was pessimistic. I thought that with this sickly body, it would be meaningless even if I became the CEO of the company I worked for,” he said.
He started to look for cures for his illnesses. He read many books by both Western and Chinese medical experts, sought out formulas for healthy living, tried yoga practices, took nutritional supplements and medications, but nothing worked.
“I spent more money on medicine than on meals, yet my poor health condition remained the same,” he said.
Then one day, he remembered Falun Gong again, and its reported benefits for healing and health. He decided to give it a try.
“I downloaded Teacher Li’s lectures and the exercise videos from the internet. At the end of 2003, I started practicing Falun Gong,” he said. He continued to take his medication while he learned the exercises.
A few months later, around March 2004, all of a sudden things took a turn for the worse.
“I could not eat and started to lose weight rapidly. My weight dropped from 160 pounds (73 kg) to 128 pounds (58 kg). Being 6 feet tall, I was as thin as a stick,” he said.
“I was panic-stricken and suspected that I had developed certain illnesses, and was very depressed about having so many diseases at such a young age.”
The doctor’s examination report showed that he had chronic gastritis.
A couple of months later, his medication was no longer effective, and feeling like he had nothing to lose, he decided to stop taking it and try something else instead.
“I decided to practice the [Falun Gong] exercises diligently. I did exercises 1–4 every morning, then the fifth exercise in the evening,” he said.
After a few months of practicing, he was still worried about his illness, so in July he went to the hospital for an examination. After the doctor received Zhang’s test results, the doctor told him to sit down. He had a serious expression on his face.
“I figured that my illness had gotten worse and thought: ‘Just tell me the bad news quickly, I no longer care about it,’” Zhang said.
Instead, the doctor said: “I do not understand your test results. I called the lab.”
“The analyst is an expert in digestive tract analysis. He has collected more than 400,000 samples in the USA and has standardized the analysis index. I myself have seen thousands of cases like yours. The analysis is very scientific, precise, and accurate. But I’ve never seen a lab test report like yours.
“We should be able to detect bacillus bacteria all through your digestive system, wherever it may be.”
Zhang replied: “I know that there are two types of bacillus bacteria—the beneficial and the harmful kind. The beneficial bacillus should be able to suppress the harmful type. Otherwise, it could cause all kinds of diseases. How is it possible that there are none?”
The doctor replied: “The lab report cannot lie. If we kill the bacteria, both the beneficial and the harmful type should be killed. According to your report, there is some beneficial bacillus left, but there are very few. And there is no harmful bacillus left! Which means that your body has reached a very clean and pure stage.”
He added: “The analyst said that he had never seen a report like yours, and that you’ve established a new record. Your digestive system is the best he’s seen!”
As Zhang thought back about his past attitude towards Falun Gong, he realized that he did not really believe that doing the exercises could cure him of his illness. But now the evidence was right before his eyes.
“I could not believe that after six months of practicing Falun Gong, even though I did not maintain my original weight of 180 pounds, all my illnesses were healed.”
Over the next two years, Zhang continued to practice the exercises and his health continued to improve. He also found peace of mind and a new sense of purpose in his life.
“I have not needed any medication and my body feels better. I have changed inside out, I’m no longer depressed and feel hopeful, and I’m grateful for Falun Gong,” he said.
Having benefited from the practice, he now feels it is his duty to let others know about the persecution still happening in China.
Zhang participates in many events to raise awareness of the persecution and let people know the truth about the practice, including playing saxophone in a marching band.
“I believe people are able to think independently. As long as they obtain objective and fair information, they can judge for themselves,” Zhang said.
“The reason why I participate in these activities is to tell those that are misled by the CCP the truth about Falun Gong. It is my hope that after finding out the truth, they can choose for themselves.”