22-year-old Canadian Woman and American Boyfriend Travel to China to Expose Human Rights Abuses
TORONTO, April 2, 2002 (Falun Dafa Information Center) – 22-year old Christine Loftus, a 2nd year Child and Youth Studies student at Brock University of St. Catherines, Ontario, was greeted by family and friends at the Toronto Pearson airport late Friday after being arrested and abused by police in Beijing. Her boyfriend, Jason Pomerleau, a 25-year-old graduate of Tufts University who now works at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, returned on Saturday night to Logan Airport in Boston, also following detention and abuse by Chinese police.
Christine, a native of Barrie, Ontario, left Toronto on Monday March 25 and joined Jason in Beijing. They intended to travel around China and spread awareness about the ongoing severe persecution of Falun Gong in China, which remains been largely hidden behind an intense state propaganda campaign.
Thursday afternoon, while distributing information near a Beijing marketplace, Christine and Jason were seized by approximately 15 security guards. The couple was separated and each forced into filthy police cells. Christine was held for 25 hours before being put on a plane to Canada. Jason was held a total of 45 hours before being put on a plane back to Boston.
“I was interrogated, threatened, grabbed by the neck, shouted at, tackled to the ground, stepped on and laughed at. I was denied food for 20 hours. They tried twice to strip search me but I refused,” said Christine. Jason added, “A policeman threatened to punch me if I didn’t let them photograph me. When I told him in Chinese that he would lose his virtue by doing so, he and the rest of the officers all laughed, but he didn’t hit me.”
People Were Shocked
In Beijing Christine and Jason, who held a year-long teaching position at China University of Geosciences in Beijing in 1999 and speaks Chinese, talked to citizens about how Falun Gong is practiced and enjoyed in over 50 countries around the world. They also told how human rights groups have confirmed hundreds of practitioners have been tortured to death and tens of thousands have been arrested and sent to labor camps in China. “People were shocked,” Christine noted.
Christine continued, “I realized that this persecution affects everybody in society whether they practice Falun Gong or not. They don’t even know what is going on in their own country. They have been blinded by propaganda and Falun Gong isn’t given any voice. Some were afraid to take our information but many more were very eager to grab our pamphlets. It was unbelievable.”
A Crisis in Changchun Erupts
Christine and Jason’s trip took place during a sharp escalation of the persecution in China. On March 15th Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action statement calling on citizens worldwide to take action and to help with the current severe situation in Changchun City, China.
“After I bought my ticket I heard of the recent escalation of persecution in Changchun where 5,000 practitioners disappeared and as many as 100 were feared dead in three weeks time, following the orders from Chinese President Jiang Zemin to ‘Kill (Falun Gong practitioners) without leniency,’” Christine said. “When I heard this I felt more than ever that I must go.”
When the news regarding the crisis in Changchun broke, Jason was already in Hong Kong and making plans to fly to Beijing. The morning before leaving, he received an e-mail from a friend back home: “I was advised by a friend back home absolutely not to go to Changchun City. A sweeping arrest of more than 5,000 Falun Gong practitioners had just occurred, and the situation there was very volatile,” Jason recalls. “That day, I bought a plane ticket from a travel agent and flew to Beijing.”
A Silent Killing Spree
Jason Loftus, Christine’s twin brother and a University of Toronto student, went to Beijing in February to peacefully appeal on Tiananmen Square for Falun Gong. He was beaten and expelled within 27 hours.
“I am relieved that Christine is back. But please ask yourself why Americans, Canadians, Europeans and other foreigners continue to go to China. It’s because innocent people are being killed on a large scale. International citizens have realized this is a crisis and risk their own safety to stop it.”
“History proves that the world often only finds out about large scale atrocities when it is too late to help. Now millions of people in China are facing severe persecution and China’s media blockade continues to hide it. It’s a silent killing spree,” added Jason.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry and the police claimed that they “did not know of anyone by those names being detained,” according to an AP report issued after Jason and Christine had been taken into custody. Canadian Foreign Affairs officials were not aware of Christine’s condition until she had already landed in Vancouver and called home. Both Christine and Jason had been denied repeated requests to contact their family and Embassies.
United Nations Reports Torture Methods
“I knew I put myself at risk by going to China but I also knew it is much more difficult and dangerous for Chinese practitioners to do what I had done,” said Christine.
On February 13, 2001, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women issued a report stating “grave concerns” about the “alleged use of violence against women in China and particularly the ill-treatment of female Falun Gong practitioners.”
“The methods of torture used against women practitioners have included: stripping them naked… the use of electric shock batons, inter alia to the genitals, armpits, soles of feet and the mouth… the insertion of sticks or needles under the nails or having fingernails pulled out by pliers; the insertion of pepper, chili powder or other substances into the mouth, nose or genital organs; the use of injections which cause victims to become mentally unbalanced or to lose the ability to speak coherently,” stated in the UN report (E/CN.4/2001/73/Add.1).
Standing Up for Justice
“I love Falun Gong. Its principles of Truth-Compassion-Tolerance changed my life.”
Christine and her twin brother started to practice Falun Gong 3.5 years ago after attending a Barrie health show. Seeing the positive change in her children, their mother Mary has adopted the practice as well.
“I went to China to help stop the killing and torture of innocent people who continue to stand up for their belief in Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance. My actions upheld China’s own constitution. The president of China is committing crimes against humanity,” Christine said. “I felt so sad for all the deceived people.”
At the Beijing airport Christine spoke to a police officer before boarding the plane:
“I told him, ‘So many foreign practitioners have come from all over the world to tell you the truth. Don’t you ever think about why so many people endure so much at risk to come here?’
“The police officer said, ‘No. I’m sorry, I’m really sorry.’
“I said, ‘Falun Dafa is practiced and honored in over 50 countries. The whole world knows what is happening in China. Only people here don’t know what is going on and when this persecution is over the people who participate in it will have to face the consequences. What is your future going to be like?’
“He couldn’t look me in the eyes and I saw tears began to streak down his face. It is so sad. Many people know what they are doing is wrong but they are under enormous pressure.
“If my trip has had the effect of saving even one person from persecuting another practitioner, then it was worth it—it will be one more drop of hope in the wave of justice.”
Jason added, “The last thing they said to me over my shoulder when I was going to board the plane was that I was not allowed back into China for five years. I stopped, turned around and looked at them. I told them the persecution would be over soon, and I knew that when it is, Falun Gong will once again be cherished and respected in the land of its origin. I turned back around and slowly boarded the plane…
“It was only because of our nationality that Christine and I were freed without much harm,” Jason concluded. “If we had been Chinese, we would have been beaten severely or worse…many Chinese practitioners have been killed for doing what we did. It is so sad.”
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