The Olympic sailing events were in my home province of Shandong, but I just can't bring myself to watch them. It's not because of anything the athletes have done. It's because of what the Chinese authorities did to my parents as the country "prepared" for the Games.
On July 17, I phoned my parents to say hello. There was no answer. I kept trying; still, no answer. Finally, I called my brother and he told me the news: They had been detained after 20 policemen broke into their home and found materials related to Falun Gong.
This isn't the first time that my father, a retired physics professor, and my mother, a secretary, have been arrested for associating with what the Chinese communist regime claims is a "heretical organization" that's a threat to its supremacy. My parents have been practicing Falun Gong since 1995, when people were performing its exercises in thousands of parks across China. They picked up the discipline quickly, inspired by the energy they got from the exercise routines and the spiritual fulfillment they gained from its other teachings.
The Communist Party feared Falun Gong's popularity was a threat and banned it in 1999. Overnight, my parents' lives were turned upside down. Over the last nine years, they've been detained again and again. I haven't seen them in more than a decade because I can't go home and they aren't allowed out.
In 2001, they were each sentenced to a labor camp for three years. They had no trial, no lawyer and no opportunity to defend themselves. Their freedom was taken away. Intensive sleep deprivation, beatings, hard labor and brainwashing classes became their daily reality.
Luckily, they came out alive. Many other practitioners, including a young man who was at the same labor camp as my father, have not been so fortunate.
So, when I heard last month that they were arrested again, you can imagine what was going through my mind. Each call home since has brought more troubling news. First, security agents confiscated thousands of dollars of computer equipment and cash from their home. Then, my mother had a stroke in custody. It paralyzed the left side of her body. The police agreed to release her, but only after my brother paid them 10,000 yuan (roughly $1,500 U.S. dollars).
When she got out and went home, she couldn't get in - because the police had changed the locks. She stayed at my brother's house. Then on Aug. 5, the police tricked her into coming to the station for paperwork and arrested her again. Now she and my father are both in a detention center, facing the very real prospect of being imprisoned for years, where they will likely face slave labor, electric batons or worse.
My parents aren't the only ones. According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, over 8,000 Falun Gong practitioners throughout China have been detained since last December.
To some Americans, this may seem like an exaggeration. And indeed, China is not a country where it's easy for anyone to get independently verifiable statistics on matters like this. But I believe the numbers. Just among my parents' friends, eight other practitioners have been arrested.
Over the past nine years of persecution, my aunt was jailed in a labor camp for three years, as was my uncle. My cousin, her husband, and my sister-in-law each spent 18 months in a labor camp. They have been monitored, harassed, beaten and shocked with electric batons.
Now my parents are facing this fate again, and for what? For doing things we take for granted here: reading religious teachings, doing yoga-like exercises and downloading information about human rights from the Internet.
So as you watch the splendor of the Olympics closing ceremonies and see the China the Communist Party wants you to see, please remember the China that millions of people like my parents see every day. And add their quest for freedom to your thoughts and prayers.
Zhang is a registered nurse who has lived in the United States for 14 years. She lives in Queens with her husband and two sons.