When Peiqi Gu lived in her native China, even talking about the meditation practice Falun Dafa posed serious risks, but now that she lives in the United States, she doesn’t have to be afraid anymore.
“For 16 years, I’ve been living in the fear of being persecuted for my faith,” said Gu. Falun Dafa, also known as simply Dafa or Falun Gong, is a mind and body improvement discipline, which is practiced by people around the world.
Gu took up Falun Dafa at age 11 with her mother, along with some 70 to 100 million other people in China. The traditional meditation system teaches people to cultivate truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, as taught in the book Zhuan Falun. Gu said the practice helped her learn how “to deal with tribulations and troubles of life.”
In 1999, the persecution of Falun Dafa began in China. Practitioners were harassed, arrested, tortured, and killed, and communist party-controlled television stations began spreading lies about the practice.
“I was shocked because it was absolutely the opposite of what I learned by … practicing and reading the Dafa book, because Dafa always tells you to be a good person,” Gu said.
Gu and her mother decided to tell others about their positive experiences with Falun Dafa. Yet these actions placed them directly in harm’s way.
In February of 2006, “that’s the day I will never forget, … my mom and I got arrested,” Gu said.
Her family was threatened.
The arrest happened as a result of Gu and her mom giving out free DVDs to resort shop owners. The DVDs had information that clearly pointed out the lies in the Chinese Communist Party propaganda campaign.
At the police station, Gu’s mom refused to tell the police where they had gotten the DVDs. The police then “started to threaten my mom that they would stop my education and ruin my future,” Gu said.
After 48 hours in the police station, “they sent my mom to a detention center, and they asked my dad to take me home. The police … told my dad, who is not a [Falun Gong] practitioner, to take care of me because I [now] have a criminal record in the police system, and that if I ever do that [again]… I would definitely be arrested and they would stop my college education.”
“It was the first time I [had] ever seen my dad so desperate,” Gu said.
The threats were also hard on her mother. “My mom thought of killing herself because if they would stop my education, my mom could not forgive herself,” Gu said.
There seemed to be no escape from the suffocating feeling of fear.
Historically, the communist regime has encouraged parents and children to report on and fight against each other, as well as other loved ones, friends, co-workers and classmates, with devastating consequences. Now, speaking about Falun Dafa can have similar consequences.
“The ill-treatment escalates to severe beatings, 24-hour surveillance, solitary confinement, shocks with electric batons, … ‘rack’ torture … and hundreds of other forms of unbelievably inhumane tortures,” according to Amnesty International.
Out of fear of retaliation by authorities, Gu’s relatives turned their backs on her family. Instead of coming up with solutions, “they gathered all our relatives together … cursing us and blaming us,” Gu explained.
Ever since the day she and her mom were arrested, she said, “I’ve been living in the fear of being persecuted.”
“I couldn’t imagine [anything] worse happening to me. So the only thing in my mind during the four years in college [in China] I was thinking about how to escape, to get out from that place,” Gu said.
Several opportunities to live elsewhere came up and she took them. The final stop was the United States. With the help of U.S. Falun Gong practitioners, “I walked away from the fear little by little,” Gu said.
Finally, she found her dream of living her faith without fear.
After college, Gu tried several places outside of China to live. “I got a job and the company sent me to Laos, a … developing country. I told myself I would rather … live there instead of going back to China,” Gu said. No more worries of being abducted.
However, the fear was still present, as her parents’ phone was monitored by local police.
In 2014 she got accepted to a U.S. school to get a master’s degree in hospitality management. The school granted her the opportunity to attend a conference in the Dominican Republic where for the first time since the persecution began she was able to practice Falun Gong openly.
“That moment was so beautiful. I just felt so relieved by sitting there and practicing with practitioners. I realized … the whole world welcomes Falun Dafa,” Gu said.
Gu decided right then to continue to do what she did in China, “keep telling others, especially Chinese people, what Falun Dafa is, [and about] the wonderfulness of Falun Dafa,” Gu said.
In May of 2016, she graduated with a master’s degree in hospitality management, which led to a good job as an accountant for a boutique hotel chain.
Her dad was soon able to visit her in the United States, and he couldn’t believe that his little girl was all grown-up, very independent, with school completed, a new life and friends, and a good job.
“He knows how hard I was trying to survive alone on the other side of the world by myself,” Gu said.
Gu’s family hopes one day to be reunited permanently.