BEIJING, March 6, 2002 (Falun Dafa Information Center) \u2013 A 49-year-old officer in the Chinese Air Force has died in police custody. He had been arrested because of his public appeals for the right to practice Falun Gong.The body of Wang Yu, an officer of the Chinese Air Force who served at the Air Force Air Traffic Control Station, was sent for cremation in the southern suburbs of Gongzhuling City on February 22, 2002. Witnesses at the crematorium described the arrival at 3 PM of a male corpse that had suffered extensive recent "surgery," leaving the man\u2019s facial features unrecognizable. Official cause of death was recorded as a "traffic mishap." By 4pm Wang\u2019s body had been cremated, though his family never received his remains.Wang graduated from a military academy and began to practice Falun Gong in 1996. Air Force officers and enlisted men alike had a good impression of Wang, holding him in high esteem. In January 2002, his department head tried to force him to write an official letter promising to renounce Falun Gong. Aware of the intense persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, Wang had full knowledge that he would suffer harsh pressure from his department head. Still, Wang chose to uphold his practice and faith in Falun Gong. To avoid certain arrest, he had no choice but to leave his home and survive on the streets. Soon after, out of a sense of duty to his country, he made ready to travel to Beijing to make a peaceful appeal for his rights and those of other practitioners facing the illegal persecution. Reliable sources inside China report that Air Force officials feared losing their jobs if their superiors were to hear of Wang\u2019s practice, so they put Wang\u2019s home under 24-hour surveillance and reported him to higher-ranking officers in nearby Shenyang. The officers then traveled to Gongzhuling to search the entire city for Wang Yu. People that would recognize him were stationed to search every vehicle entering and exiting the city. The government engaged local community service centers to carry out searches in their local communities. A fabricated story was spread, warning that Wang carried a gun and intended to use explosives. It was not mentioned that Wang was a Falun Gong practitioner who had been forced from his home to avoid the illegal dragnet.On the evening of February 14, sources reported that three trucks full of army police had gathered with local police near the Seventh Middle School in Gongzhuling City. They cordoned off the area to search for a "high ranking officer from the Shengyang Army District who is a Falun Gong practitioner." On February 16, the police department issued a search warrant offering a 20,000 Yuan reward for Wang Yu (more than 3 years salary for the average urban Chinese worker). The warrant did not mention that Wang Yu was a Falun Gong practitioner or that he was an officer in the Air Force. Wang Yu was not seen alive by friends or family again.Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a practice of meditation and exercises with teachings based on the universal principle of "Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance." It is a practice that was taught in private for thousands of years before being made public in 1992 by Mr. Li Hongzhi. Falun Gong has roots in traditional Chinese culture, but it is distinct and separate from other practices in China, such as the religions of Buddhism and Taoism. Since its introduction in 1992, it quickly spread by word of mouth throughout China, and is now practiced in over 50 countries. The Falun Dafa Information Center has verified details of over 371 deaths since the persecution of Falun Gong in China began in 1999. Government officials inside China, however, report that the actual death toll is well over 1,600. Over 100,000 have been detained, with more than 20,000 being sentenced to forced labor camps without trial.