Subscribe to our email newsletter to get summary and breaking news in your inbox.

Chengyong Chen: A Father Killed for his Beliefs

Chengyong Chen with his wife Jane and their infant daughter Fadu

Chengyong Chen with his wife Jane and their infant daughter Fadu

Chenyong was steadfast even when the Chinese government stripped him of his job as a skilled electrician at the Guangzhou Paper Manufacturing Corporation. Unwilling to be forced to attend the state-sponsored “re-education classes”—a euphemism for brainwashing and torture—and unwilling to renounce his practice of Falun Gong, Chengyong was forced to wander, homeless and destitute.

About the only bright spot in Chengyong’s ongoing nightmare must surely have been the knowledge that his wife and little girl were safe in Australia, where his wife, Zhizhen “Jane” Dai, had obtained citizenship. Jane tried often to explain to little Fadu why she could not be with her father. But how do you explain the nature of evil to a child who has barely learned to speak?

Chenyong was now an itinerant fugitive and Jane lost contact with her husband in mid-January 2001.

Five months later while browsing the Falun Dafa website, Jane saw a news item that would change her life forever and ultimately shatter her entire extended family. Chengyong’s partially decomposed body had been found in an abandoned hut in a suburb of Guangzhou. He had been tortured to death by the government of his own country for his spiritual belief in Falun Gong. Upon seeing the news she lapsed into a virtual state of shock. “I was completely speechless and trembling all over my body,” she later said.

Jiang’s regime was not yet done with Chengyong’s family. His sister was called in to identify the remains. While she was still shocked and grieving over the loss of her brother, government authorities demanded that she too renounce her practice of Falun Gong. When she refused, she was arrested and sentenced to two years of hard labor. Soon thereafter, Chengyong’s father, his heart torn by the death of his son and the imprisonment of his daughter, passed away in sadness and grief.

Jane Dai resolved to obtain her husband’s ashes from the Chinese authorities and see that they were interred with appropriate honor and dignity. There followed a six-month campaign of petitioning politicians, contacting human rights organizations, and telling her story to all forms of media in order to prompt the Australian government to act on her behalf.

In January 2002, Jane went to Melbourne as a guest on a popular radio talk show, in which the host promised that his team would be asking serious questions about the matter. Around the same time Jane contacted the Australian Consulate in Guangzhou directly. These two approaches eventually brought her husband’s remains to Australia.

The ashes of Chengyong Chen were duly presented to an eternally grateful Jane Dai at a moving ceremony in the nation’s capital. A devoted husband and father could now at least be given a decent funeral: small consolation indeed for his widow, and the little daughter who will grow up without her father.

Little Fadu was left with a family filled with loss: her aunt sent to a labor camp, and her father and grandfather dead.

Yet the larger significance of this story is that it is only the tip of the iceberg, a single example that has come to light because Jane Dai happens to hold Australian citizenship. In China right now there are millions of families that have been torn apart in similar fashion and countless Jane Dai’s wondering if the rest of the world cares, or even knows, about what is happening to Falun Gong families there.