An 11-year-old named Li Zhendi (name has been changed) attended an elementary school in China where she once faced several tests of courage and faith. Here is her story.
In 1999, the Chinese communist regime launched a brutal persecution of a spiritual meditation discipline called Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa. The practice teaches people how to live by the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, along with five slow, meditative exercises.
After the persecution began, people who practiced Falun Gong were often harassed, arrested, tortured, or even killed, while the regime spread lies about them in state-run media.
Zhendi and her family practiced Falun Gong, and after some fellow practitioners were arrested, they decided to go to Beijing to appeal for justice. They boarded a train for the capital, where they met other practitioners and called for the end of the persecution, according to Minghui.org.
One night, the police started to arrest people on a large scale, so practitioners had to sleep among the weeds in the fields on the outskirts of the city to hide from the police. In the morning, Zhendi was found to have a total of 53 mosquito bites from sleeping outside, including all over her face. However, she was still cheerful. Several months later, Zhendi’s parents again went to Beijing, and she asked her parents to bring her along once again.
Unfortunately, despite many people’s efforts, the persecution continued, and Zhendi’s parents were forced to leave their home. The girl had to stay with her grandmother, where local police continued to harass her. They questioned her and tried to find her parents’ whereabouts, but she refused to answer. Eventually, they gave up.
One night, the television was again broadcasting news that attacked Falun Gong. Zhendi’s grandmother was knitting a sweater and watching the program.
“It was Falun Gong that caused my son to wander away from home,” the grandmother said. She pointed at Zhendi. “You cannot find your parents now. Why don’t you change your mind and listen to the government?”
The grandmother then became angry and said harsh things about the Teacher, or Master, of Falun Gong.
“You should not say that the Master is not good,” said Zhendi firmly. “You are afraid of speaking about the truth.”
Her grandmother stopped and never said such disrespectful things again.
At Zhendi’s school, a classmate once said bad things about Falun Gong.
“You say that Falun Gong is not good. Do you know what Falun Gong is?” asked Zhendi.
“I heard it all on TV,” said her classmate.
“I practice Falun Gong. What you heard on TV was false. They tried to deceive you,” said Zhendi.
She then talked to the classmate for a while, telling him the truth about the practice and the persecution. The classmate was surprised and suddenly became sympathetic.
“Really?” he asked. “How could the government do such things?”
One day in class, a teacher asked the students to make a sentence using the phrase “close friend.” That classmate raised his hand, stood up, and said loudly, “Falun Gong and I are close friends!” Zhendi was very happy.
A disturbing incident occurred in Tiananmen Square in early 2001, where five people appeared to set themselves on fire in a form of protest. Although authorities claimed the five people—including a 12-year-old girl—practiced Falun Gong, there was no evidence of this. In addition, Falun Gong expressly forbids violence and suicide. Other numerous discrepancies revealed the event was a horrifying hoax staged by the Chinese regime in order to turn people against the spiritual practice.
Following this event, young Zhendi’s school began a campaign that forced each student to write statements and sign their name agreeing to be against Falun Gong.
Although other children in the school were known to practice Falun Gong with their families, Zhendi was the only child in the school who did not sign her name.
Many times, the principal and the class teacher pressured Zhendi to follow the other children and sign her name against Falun Gong, but she always refused. The entire school leadership became focused on forcing Zhendi to sign her name, in order to complete their signature campaign and report their success to the Chinese Communist Party.
When Zhendi refused once again to sign, her teacher pounded the table and shouted at her.
“Li Zhendi, why didn’t you sign? Today, you must sign and take a stand!”
Zhendi suddenly stood up and said to the teacher very seriously, “Falun Gong is not a [slanderous term]. I will not sign.”
The teacher was stunned and didn’t know what to say. The whole class was silent and stared at the teacher.
Afterwards, all the children were talking about it, and some students praised Zhendi and gave her a thumbs up. When it came time to elect a student representative, Zhendi received the highest number of votes and was elected as class representative.
After that, the teacher never again brought up the issue of Zhendi practicing Falun Gong.
Another time, Zhendi was called into the principal’s office, and the principal asked her, “Tell me the truth, will you still practice Falun Gong?”
A teacher standing behind the principal gestured at Zhendi, hinting to her that she should say no. Zhendi thought that maybe she had tried to avoid such questions in the past, so she decided to make her voice clear and strong like her parents.
“Yes, I will practice Falun Gong,” said Zhendi.
The principal had nothing to say.
Before class ended that day, the principal came to her classroom and gave her two oranges. Other schoolmates seemed jealous of the attention Zhendi was getting, while the 11-year-old girl just thought it was a sign that she had done the right thing.
Despite her bravery and conviction, Zhendi still thought of her parents and worried about them. She was sad to be separated from them and hoped that more people would take a stand for Falun Gong practitioners and help end the persecution, so her family would be reunited once again.