SAN FRANCISCO—Carmen Shen stood in front of the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco on Sept. 22 as she spoke about the persecution she suffered in China.
A practitioner of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, she was arrested by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials on Nov. 17, 2011, for her beliefs.
“During the two years when I was illegally detained, I was forced to take blood tests and do slave labor, brainwashed, deprived of sleep, persecuted with drugs,” Shen said. She had owned a successful business that fell to ruin during her detainment, causing her great financial loss.
Shen spoke to a crowd of about 250 people who had gathered at the consulate to call for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong in China, which has intensified again this year. Thousands have been detained since the persecution began 21 years ago, and many have died due to torture and mistreatment—40 in the first half of this year alone, according to Minghui, a website that documents the persecution.
Falun Gong includes meditation and slow-moving exercises, and holds the concepts of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance as its main principles. CCP officials have begun a new campaign this year against the spiritual practice. Officials have recently been going to the homes of practitioners and ordering them to sign documents renouncing Falun Gong or else face arrest, Minghui reports.
“[The] persecution my family and I experienced is just the tip of the iceberg,” Shen said. “Countless people have been persecuted and lost their lives. Countless families are torn apart. Children lost their parents. Falun Gong practitioners even had their organs harvested while alive and sold for profit—the most evil crime ever seen on the planet.”
She said the CCP also hid the truth about COVID-19, letting it spread and leading to a worldwide pandemic. She called upon fellow Chinese citizens to withdraw from the CCP and not be influenced by its propaganda.
A Daughter's Plea for Mother's Release
Wu Zhen, who is originally from Beijing, also attended the rally. She spoke of her mother, Meng Xiuhua, who is currently being held in Beijing Daxing Women’s Prison.
Meng, who's been a Falun Gong practitioner since 1998, is now 63 years old. Wu spoke of the benefits her mother had experienced through Falun Gong.
Meng had a severe case of psoriasis. Her whole body looked scaly with oozing wounds that were painful and itchy. She spent a lot of money on medication, but nothing helped much; however, after she began practicing Falun Gong, her condition improved greatly, Wu said
“My psoriasis-free mother felt reborn,” Wu said. Many other practitioners have reported health benefits from the practice.
The year after Meng took up the practice, then-leader of the CCP Jiang Zemin ordered a brutal campaign against Falun Gong. Afraid of its growing popularity, Jiang used the state-controlled media to spread propaganda about the practice and began detaining practitioners.
Wu’s mother was arrested three times—in 2005, 2011, and 2018—and sentenced to a total of more than eight years in prison for her beliefs.
“Because my mother wanted people to know the truth [about Falun Gong], she would persevere to work on all kinds of ... projects [to explain the truth about the practice],” Wu said at the rally.
Many in China, influenced by the CCP's propaganda, have misunderstood Falun Gong. In addition to asking for her mother’s release, Wu is calling on the public to realize the CCP’s evil nature and petition against it.
“Now, they are using the methods to persecute Falun Gong on Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Hongkongers,” Wu said. “As long as the CCP does not disintegrate, every person on this planet is a victim.”
Arrests in Beijing
Daisy Hua, another practitioner living in the Bay Area, read a list of names of people who were detained in Beijing on July 19. She said many were young, in their 20s.
“At present, these 10-plus people are illegally detained in Beijing’s Dongcheng Detention Center,” Hua said.
She said she knows two other people currently being detained there.
One is Xu Na, an acclaimed oil painter, who was arrested on July 19 for the third time. Her elderly father was left without a caretaker, according to the U.S.-based nonprofit Friends of Falun Gong. Her husband, Yu Zhou, was a famous folk singer who also practiced Falun Gong; he died in prison.
The other person Hua knows in the detention center is Meng Qingxia, also a painter. Meng served a five-year sentence previously, while her child was still in elementary school. Her family hired lawyers after she was arrested again on July 31, and went to the detention center for a meeting, but reportedly were turned away.
Falun Gong practitioners, as well as their friends and families, shared similar stories at another rally in front of the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles on Sept. 13.