Leeshai Lemish tells of his and Ethan Gutmann's journey into the
persecution of Falun Gong
It was 2:00 am and we were sitting on the floor of a
Bangkok slum. We had a flight to catch the next morning, but after interviewing
Falun Gong refugees for a week we still couldn't pull away from what they were
'At first I thought it was just me. But then, one after another, more Falun
Gong practitioners were brought into our cell', Chen Jie said. 'Their bellies,
chest and backs were also covered with black bubbles from being shocked with
Chen and all our interviewees had close friends killed by Chinese police.
They were the lucky survivors. I left with a sickening feeling - there's no way
I can ever do their stories justice.
For a year Ethan Gutmann (author of Losing the New China) and I have been
travelling the world conducting interviews for his forthcoming book. We've
received research grants from Earheart Foundation and Sweden's Wallenberg
family, and keep our budget low by sleeping on floors and eating instant
noodles. But we're too embarrassed to complain, considering the stories we hear
morning to night.
The practitioners we interviewed provided corresponding accounts of
persecution they experienced. Here is what it looks like.
Detained for protesting, distributing leaflets, or even practising their
faith at home, they are first stripped naked. They are then starved and denied
sleep. You will not eat, sleep or go to the toilet, they are told, until you
renounce Falun Gong.
Next, relatives are manipulated. Li Weixun told us how her mother was brought
in to pressure her into writing a forced confession:
'My mother said, "Just write it so we can go home, OK"? I chocked back
"I'll kneel before you"! I held her and said, "Mom, you know Falun
Gong made me healthy and happy. What I did was perfectly legal - they're the
ones breaking the law". My heart bled as I watched my mother leave.'
From the detention centre, where they are often beaten and hung in painful
positions, practitioners are sent to 'reform through labour' camps. Some reports
estimate that over half the camps' total population are Falun Gong.
In these camps' cells they work as slaves making products exported to the
West. The cell reeks of faeces and urine. When the disposable chopsticks they
are wrapping fall on the floor, Chen Ying told us in Paris, they are ordered to
wrap them anyway, their fingernails stained with pus and blood.
Some, like Li Heping from Hangzhou, were injected with unknown psychotropics.
The shot sent the former Motorola technician into hallucinations in which he was
surrounded by snakes, frozen, and burned alive, repeatedly dying countless
Those were illusions, but real and equally terrifying are reports that Falun
Gong practitioners are being killed of their kidneys, livers, and hearts.
Fifteen practitioners told us how they were pulled aside from other inmates and
given bizarre physical exams - blood tests, torso X-rays, sonograms, urine
samples and little else - apparently targeting their organ function. This added
to existing evidence, including doctors' admissions recorded on tape.
So are these horror stories real, or is it just these people's word against
Chinese government denials? The over 100 people we interviewed, and the torture
scars some showed, left no ambiguities - this persecution is ongoing and
But you don't have to take our word for it. The arrests, torture, and deaths
of Falun Gong adherents are regular features in annual reports by U.N. Special
Rapporteurs and organisations like Amnesty International.
Accounts by former policeman Hao Fengjun, who defected to Sydney, corroborate
details of beatings, electric baton shock, fabricated propaganda films, and a
huge Falun Gong prison population. Other defectors say police act on internal
orders coming all the way from the top.
Those who refuse to cooperate are severely punished. A Christian human rights
lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, investigated and corroborated Falun Gong's persecution
claims, only to be arrested and tortured himself.
The Chinese Communist Party, of course, has gone to great length to hide
these atrocities and to buy international silence. That doesn't make the
persecution any less real for practitioners and their families.
Several of my overseas Chinese friends recently called China only to discover
their parents had been arrested. Through pre-Olympics roundups over 8,000
practitioners have been detained, some sentenced to years in labour camps.
Blocks away from skyscrapers and Olympic venues in China's other world are
labour camps and prisons full of Falun Gong practitioners. Chinese media, of
course, can report none of this.
Even Western journalists told me their newspapers have a blackout policy on
Falun Gong. But the complicity of the West is an issue I'll leave to my next,
and final, entry.