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Forbidden practice: Chinese immigrant’s parents are arrested for performing outlawed exercises

Posted: October 15, 2010 10:06 p.m.
Updated: October 16, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Canyon Country resident and Chinese immigrant Xiao Wang holds up pictures of her mother, Jiling Song; her father, Zhansuo Wang; and her brother Xia Wang. Wang’s family members were held in a Chinese detention center for practicing Falun Gong, a series of meditative exercises. Wang’s father is still imprisoned, and Wang is doing whatever she can ...

 

Every day after work, Xiao Wang returns to her Canyon Country home to write letters and do research.

But before she settles down to write, she does a few exercises.

Not just any exercise — it’s called Falun Gong, five sets of gentle movements and meditation that originated in China.

The exercises that Wang practices freely in her home are the same practices that landed her father in a Chinese detention center.

And those letters she writes are sent as pleas for help to government officials and appeals to Chinese policemen for the release of her father.

Falun Gong is banned in China. Wang’s parents have practiced the exercises in the privacy of their own home, Wang said, since 1998.

Falun Gong is a system of beliefs and exercises. The practice is “guided by the characteristics of the universe — truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance,” according to the Falun Dafa Association.

While there are some spiritual beliefs tied into the practice, Wang said her parents engaged in Falun Gong exercises for the health benefits.

“My parents tried many different styles of exercise before this one,” Wang said. “After they practiced this one, their many health problems disappeared.

“It’s a very peaceful meditation,” she said.

Wang said policemen broke into her family’s house in March and arrested her father, mother, brother and brother’s fiancée. They were questioned all night long about Falun Gong, Wang said.

Wang knew something was wrong when she couldn’t get a hold of any of her family in China. After dozens of phone calls, her brother’s fiancée picked up the phone crying the next day.

“She told me 14 or 15 policemen broke down the door,” Wang said. “They didn’t allow her to sleep all night. They asked her questions about Falun Gong.”

Wang said authorities released her brother’s fiancée because she had no useful information since she was not part of the family yet.

Eventually, Wang’s mother and brother were also released but continue to be watched constantly at their home.

Her brother was released in a malnourished state and with bloodied hands, she said. He was forced to be free labor for manufactured products, Wang said.

Wang has not spoken to her father since his arrest in early March. Her father is a retired judge who became a lawyer.

“He had a very good reputation in the law field,” she said.

The Chinese government banned Falun Gong in July 1999, according to James Tong, a professor of comparative politics, specializing in Chinese politics and political violence, at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“The extent of persecution depends on the time, place and type of activities,” he said in an e-mailed response. “People engaging in open acts of defiance — assemblies, gathering in public for breathing exercises, unfolding Falun Gong banners in public, petitioning in national and provincial capitals, would be arrested.”

Wang said her family only did the practice in its home.

“They would never go out to do it since they knew it was banned,” she said.

Wang has tried hiring lawyers to fight for her father’s case but to no avail. Lawyers are either scared away by authorities or not willing to take on her case, she said.

“In China, a lawyer has to be brave enough to stand up for Falun Gong practitioners,” she said. “It’s not easy. (The lawyers) are also in danger.”

She often tries to call the detention center holding her father. She is either hung up on, lied to or not given any answers, she said.

But making phone calls and writing letters are about the only things she feels she can to help.

“I have to do that; to let them know that (his) daughter in the U.S. keeps on calling,” she said.

Wang said she is most fearful of her father’s safety.

“I know they’ve tortured many Falun Gong practitioners before,” she said.

She is also worried that her father could lose his life in the center. His health is not good, she said. Every month, Wang’s family has to pay the detention center somewhere between $500 to $1,000 to feed her dad.

Though she is thousands of miles away, she could not turn her back on her father. Wang said her parents have always been a strong support for her and encouraged her to pursue what she wanted in life.

Wang, a mechanical engineer, said her father has always been proud of her.

“Last month, I sent a card to the detention center. I know they wouldn’t let him read it, but I still wanted to do that just to express my missing him,” Wang said.

Even while Wang is working as an engineer in Valencia, she is thinking about her father and family. She does not sleep very well, she said.

“My parents, sometimes they are in my dreams,” Wang said. “I cry with tears often. I get very stressed.”

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