Lori, who currently lives in Minnesota, recalls her experiences in China’s school system. As a young Falun Gong practitioner, she had to choose between excelling in China’s Party-controlled society and holding true to her values. This is her story.
When I was in high school, my head teacher suggested that I join the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It would have made me look good and would have probably even given me a few extra points in my college entrance exam. Technically, people have to be at least 18 years old to be admitted into the party. However, exceptionally good students can be admitted into the party earlier, and this is considered to be a big honor. Two other students and I were selected by my school to join the party as exceptionally good students.
We filled out application forms and wrote long personal statements about how great the communist party was, and how eager we were to join the party. There were standard templates for this kind of article. We just copied the contents. After our application was accepted, we were told that we needed to go to the city hall to be interviewed by government and party officials.
It was a school day and the two other students and I left in the middle of the day to go to city hall. We were by ourselves. Nobody told me anything, but somehow, even just being 16 years old, I sensed that questions about Falun Gong might be asked during the interview. It was early 2002 and the persecution of Falun Gong was in full swing. Propaganda that slandered Falun Gong was broadcasted through all possible channels 24/7. In China, when this type of thing is going on, the communist party always checks people’s attitude to see if they are aligned with official standards. Somehow, I learned this growing up in China, even though no one specifically taught me this.
I let the two other students be interviewed before me while I waited outside the room. I was very nervous and scared as I knew what might be coming up. I needed to make a choice: When they asked me about my attitude towards Falun Gong, how should I answer? Should I follow my heart and tell the truth? What would the consequences be? My heart was beating fast, my breath was short, and my head was filled with fear.
When it was my turn, I entered a big conference room that had a long table. Five or more officials sat around the table and I sat at the end. They smiled at me, they seemed to be nice.
The interview started and in the middle of it, yes, they asked me: “What do you think of Falun Gong?”. I replied: “Well, I think Falun Gong is good, I think truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance are good”. Immediately, the atmosphere in the room changed, the air was frozen, nobody said anything for a long time, the smiling faces turned into dark distorted faces as I said something that was forbidden. Then suddenly someone started laughing. The awkwardness was broken and they continued asking other questions like nothing had happened.
I felt relieved and went back to school. I was glad that I made the right choice. I didn’t tell my parents about what I had experienced. I wanted this page to be turned over and forgotten.
Later that day, my parents received a call from my teacher, my school received a complaint from the city about my misbehavior. One of the officials said that he would put what I had done into my file. In China, everyone has a file which goes with them lifelong. One never knows what’s in his or her file but schools and companies get to review these files to decide if they will allow that person to enter their school or company. Basically, no college or company would dare to have me once it was recorded in my file that I supported Falun Gong.
I don’t remember the details of my mom’s conversation with my teacher. Maybe something about how a kid has their own thoughts and that Falun Gong is really good. My mom quickly contacted an acquaintance in the city government and asked him to ask the official who threatened to put the record into my file to not ruin my future. I was lucky that in the end, that official changed his mind and didn’t mess with my file. My teacher also didn’t publicize this incident to more people.
I was not admitted into the party while the two other students were. This was odd as exceptionally good students who were recommended by the school always got admitted. The application process is just a formality. People asked me why I didn’t get accepted and I told them that I didn’t know. I don’t know what my teacher did to cover this up on the school side, but nobody in the school treated me differently after the incident.
I was very lucky that I met good people who helped me through this experience. I know there are other students who were kicked out of school or even put into jail just because they told the truth that Falun Gong is good.
After I moved to the U.S., I learned more and more about what the CCP truly is. I gradually realized that the education and norms I learned in China were often wrong. I regret that I agreed with my teacher and applied to join the communist party. At that time, it didn’t feel wrong, and getting a few extra points for the college entrance exam was very attractive. This is a trick that the communist party uses to lure people with benefits like a better school or job. However after some time living in the U.S. I came to understand some things. The personal statement I wrote praising the CCP made me feel ashamed. I had already renounced my membership in the communist youth league and young pioneers, but I hadn’t done anything about that application to join the CCP. So I decided to make a pubic declaration on the Minghui.org website to revoke my application. What I put on that application was not from my heart. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to do this and I am glad that I followed my true belief.