I was born into a wonderful family in southeast China.
My dad is a senior engineer, and my mother used to be an accountant at a bank. Because I’m the only child in my family, I have been very loved my whole life. My family used to travel a lot. And my dad loved to take photographs of my mom and me to record every little bit of the time we spent together.
At the end of 1998, my mother’s colleague and her friend recommended Falun Dafa (aka Falun Gong) to her because of its amazing health benefits and moral teachings. It was the most popular qigong practice in China during that time. My hometown, just like many other cities in China, had many Falun Dafa exercise sites in public areas like parks, playgrounds, and college campuses. Practitioners liked to do the exercises and read Dafa books together early in the morning before going to school or work.
My mother was very impressed by the principles of Falun Dafa, that is, “Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance.” After practicing for just five days, the illness she had had for a long time went away, and she became a much happier and energetic person. My dad witnessed positive changes happening to my mom as well as many of his colleagues who also practiced Falun Dafa. He was very supportive of her practicing.
On July 20, 1999, my life under persecution begins
Unfortunately, the good times didn’t last long. On July 20, 1999, Jiang Zemin, head of the Chinese Communist Party, illegally banned the practice of Falun Dafa, which had up to 100 million practitioners all over China. The basic tenets of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance stood in complete opposition of the party’s ideals and were considered as an ideological threat to them. Then Jiang launched the most violent persecution towards Falun Gong.
Since then, my parents started to see or hear employees at their work get fired and arrested because they practiced Falun Gong. Some children even got expelled from school because their parents practiced it. My dad was in a state of constant fear.
As a young girl, I could also feel the persecution’s pressure on my family. I feared I would lose my mom anywhere at any time… if she came back home later than usual, it terrified me. I always stood in front of the window looking at the entrance of my residential community, hoping she was not arrested and would come home soon. If she was too late, I would cry by the window thinking about the worst case scenario.
Facing such kind of fear, my mother still stayed positive and lived a life guided by Dafa. She peacefully explained the truth about the persecution of Falun Gong to her friends, colleagues, and our relatives. I really came to understand it was Dafa that made my mom such a kind person. Although I was very little, I firmly believed that Falun Dafa was great! I also started to practice Falun Dafa when I was nine in 2002.
China’s Ministry of Education spreads propaganda through textbooks and test questions
School life was also not easy. In my primary school, I had a course called Ideological and Moral Education every semester, which I later realized was a brainwashing class. The propaganda against Falun Gong was required to be written in textbooks and taught in class by China’s Ministry of Education. I remember in 5th grade in primary school there was one chapter that taught that Falun Gong is a cult; it said that children who practiced Falun Dafa would burn themselves or kill themselves; parents who practiced should be arrested. I knew the propaganda taught in class was not true, but I realized the propaganda created fear and hatred towards Dafa in everyone around me. One day, my best friend in class came to tease me: “Yisha’s mom should be arrested.” It really hurt me.
The Ideological and Moral Education course was re-branded with the name of Politics in middle and high school. I remember one semester in middle school, there was a multiple choice question on my final exam for the Politics class. It asked about our attitudes towards Falun Gong. Support or against? I knew if I answered yes, I could be put on record and get in trouble, so I left the answer blank. After the exam was returned to us, a classmate saw I skipped the question, and he said: “You are such a nerd… such an easy question… it’s like free points for you… why would you skip it?” I didn’t know how to respond.
Besides all of these, I also read about the propaganda against Dafa in other students’ newspapers and readings. Every time I read it, it hurt my heart.
My dad continued to live in constant fear and anxiety — worried about me and my mom. Finally, the stress of the persecution got to him, and in 2008 my dad took me away. He divorced my mom in 2009.
The day I feared finally comes: my mom is arrested
February 2012 was around 4 months before my National College Entrance Exam, which is a very important exam that determines most of the Chinese students’ future. At that time, most students spend about 16 hours studying almost every day.
It was around 9:30 pm on Feb 26th, 2012, and I was in my dorm and texted my mom as usual. But I did not hear back for hours. It felt like eons passing by. I was totally sleepless and felt so worried about her. I even had a dream that she called me back and explained she was spending time with other Dafa practitioners and was just talking late. I felt so relieved at that moment in the dream. But after a while, I suddenly woke up, and I realized that it was just a dream…
Although I worried so much about my mom, “Where she is now… what could happen to her… could someone help her?” I knew I had to keep it a secret and not disturb anyone, including my family and my dad.
So on the second day, I tried to contact my mom’s colleague to knock on the door at my home. Later, it was in Physics class, this colleague texted me to inform me that my mom was indeed arrested, and people around my home saw policemen take her and search our house. At that moment, my heart was broken. I knew the day I feared for many years had finally come. But I had to control myself and not show my sadness to others. I knew they would stay away from me if they knew my mom practiced Dafa and had gotten arrested. And it was likely that my school would have special ways to “take care” of me. After class, I immediately ran to the lady’s room on the highest floor of the building because I knew few people use that room. Then I locked myself in one of the stalls. I couldn’t bear it anymore and started crying… but I still didn’t dare to make any sound in case other people heard it… A few minutes later, I had to clean my face and come back to class… pretending nothing happened…
During the days when my mom was detained, I had to behave as usual at school. I took all the classes, studied hard, chatted with friends, nobody could tell that I was enduring something different from them. When I went to the restaurant where my mom and I used to eat together, I couldn’t order the food that we liked. How could I enjoy that while my mom was suffering somewhere else?
Life in a brainwashing center: how they tried to break my mom’s faith
Later on, I was told that the policemen found Falun Gong books and materials at my home. They used this to charge my mom with “promoting a cult” and “disturbing social order.” She was sent to a detention camp for 15 days. Then they sent her to a brainwashing center for 17 days which was set up secretly in a hotel. The brainwashing centers were one of the most terrifying things for Falun Gong practitioners, as they could act outside of the law and were allowed to do anything in order to “break” the Falun Gong. The policemen would try all means to make you give up your faith. My mom told me that in the brainwashing center she was forced to read, watch, and listen to all kinds of slander towards Falun Gong for hours every day. The 610 Office assigned different people, like policemen, to severely brainwash practitioners, talk to her about distorted understandings of Falun Gong, and force her to give up practicing Dafa. If she did not give up her belief, then they would threaten to send her to a labor camp, and take away everything important in her life. They tried to make her believe everything she and her family had suffered was all because of Falun Gong. They also forced her to slander the founder of Falun Gong. After she was released, she was severely depressed and full of fear. It took her several months to recover. When I finally got to speak to her on the phone again, I could hardly recognize her.
After that, policemen often called her and my relatives to check in with her. Sometimes they assigned policemen or spies to knock on the door of my home or follow her when she went outside. They tried to make sure they kept her in constant fear and under tight control. My mom told me that she even feared turning the lights on at night in case other people saw them and knocked on her door. There was never any peace in life.
On Oct 16th, 2012, my mother was arrested again and brought to the same brainwashing center, where she saw many other local Falun Gong practitioners being held. The policemen came to search my home, but did not find any relevant materials. The 610 police officers threatened my mom and told her: “If we find you practicing Falun Gong again, we will send you to jail for years.” This time, fortunately, she was released due to lack of evidence.
In America we are free to practice Falun Dafa without fear
Day by day, I continued texting and calling her frequently to ensure she was safe. Our family had been living in constant fear for years. In January of 2013, I came to America to study. I can still remember the moment I walked out of the plane and onto American land. I took a long, deep breath; I finally felt free… free to practice Falun Dafa and free to openly speak about my faith.
In August 2013, I helped my mom apply for a travel visa. We could not afford to suffer any more loss and fear. We reunited again in America and now she is here with me as I do my graduate studies at Arizona State University. Finally, we can practice the Falun Dafa exercises again in the park, without fear of the persecution.