Private screening shows ‘Free China: Courage to Believe’

By the recordonline (New York State)

Published:  01/25/13

A small group gathered in the basement of the Port Jervis Free Library on Jan. 12 for a private screening of “Free China: The Courage to Believe.”

The documentary about persecution of Falung Gong practitioners in China is unavailable for public screenings because of contractual limitations, but private screenings are encouraged, according to presenter John Zhu.

Zhu is a volunteer with New Tang Dynasty (NTD) TV, a New York City Chinese television station, which, according to literature Zhu provided, was formed by Chinese-Americans to counter Chinese media censorship.

NTDTV disclosed the epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in China in 2003, and in 2008 it reported the Chinese milk scandal weeks before the Chinese acknowledged their milk was tainted with melamine and was sickening children.

And now “Free China,” made by Michael Perlman, who also made “Tibet: Beyond Fear,” may cause Americans hesitation about buying Homer Simpson slippers, SG footwear, and “made in China” stuffed rabbits, Christmas lights, scarves, hats, and hand-knit sweaters.

The films’ subjects, Jennifer Zeng and Charles Lee, describe how they found themselves in Chinese “re-education camps,” where many Falun Gong practitioners have been imprisoned, some of the 4 million prisoners making these items for negligible compensation.

The film included footage showing starving prisoners looking much like concentration camp victims. And subjects told of organ harvesting from living prisoners for organ transplant.

“They’re like lobsters in a tank,” said Zeng. “Thousands are killed for their organs.”

Their stories resemble those told by Port Jervis residents Celia Ou and her sister-in-law, Liang Zi Hui.

Hui said, via Ou’s translation, that she spent several years in such a camp. And now her husband has been mysteriously imprisoned.

Ou said she had heard recently from a woman in China, formerly a government employee, that her brother-in-law, arrested weeks ago, is now in a “brainwashing camp,” where “physical and mental torture happens behind closed doors.”

The film’s narrator explains that Falun Gong was initially tolerated in China, as it supported healthy practices and attitudes. But when the numbers exceeded membership in the Communist Party, in 1999, the party began banning books and imprisoning practitioners, including Jennifer Zheng.

She eventually recanted her belief in Falun Gong to gain her freedom. The family escaped to Australia, and Zeng wrote a book about her experience, “Witness to History.”

For information and screenings of “Free China: The Courage to Believe,” contact John Zhu at