The Chen Family: Music, Meditation, and Freedom of Belief
Ninfang and Rutang Chen do not fit the Chinese Regime’s propaganda, which depicts those who practice Falun Gong as counterrevolutionaries or naïve and uneducated people. On the contrary, they are highly educated and talented musicians without an interest in politics. Together they enjoyed a 33-year career in the Central Philharmonic Orchestra, one of China’s most prestigious musical institutions. Mr. Chen was a director of the Orchestra for eight years and a Communist party member. As valued members of the Central Philharmonic Orchestra, Mr. and Mrs. Chen performed for some of China’s most distinguished guests, including many visiting presidents and prime ministers. Because of their outstanding contribution to music, the Central Philharmonic Society and China’s Ministry of Culture specially honored both of them with the lifelong title of “The Country’s First Class Artists.”
Now in the United States, the Chen Family frequently takes the opportunity to give moving musical performances at various events around the world. During one performance in Spain, they played the Falun Dafa musical piece, “Pudu” for reporters attending a Chinese art exhibition who wanted to learn more about the Chens’ personal experience practicing Falun Gong. Only a few minutes into the musical piece, the room full of reporters, representing several media, were holding back sobs and a few had tears streaming down their faces, clearly moved by the music. After the performance, in amazement, the reporters asked many questions about the Chens’ personal experience practicing Falun Gong and their current situation.
Mrs. Chen explained that after the regime’s July 1999 directive against Falun Gong, their harmonious way of life and respect in the community changed overnight and they became targeted by the government to be forced to give up their beliefs. She described, “It was in the middle of the night on June 25, 2000, when the banging on the door came. ‘Bang, bang, bang! Open up! We want to talk to you!’”
The “we” who startled the family from a peaceful slumber belonged to approximately 18 security agents who pushed their way into the Chen’s home and dragged both mother and son off to a detention center, leaving a worried and upset husband behind.
This was the second time Mrs. Ninfang Chen was held in a detention center for 30 days. The first time was for going to the Bureau of Appeals office to ask the government to let Falun Gong practitioners practice freely without harassment. Mr. and Mrs. Chen felt sure that this was the appropriate and legal action to undertake. However, a very different outcome was waiting for them when they arrived at the appeals office: Mr. and Mrs. Chen were taken straight to the Chaoyang Detention Center, put into separate female and male cells, and detained for 30 days along with the general prison population of thieves, prostitutes, drug addicts and murderers.
Each cell housed 40 people, and the only way to sleep was to line up on their sides in alternating directions, head to foot, on a small wooden pallet that served as a bed. The feet of the people sleeping on each side of Mrs. Chen were pressed into to her head. In the evening the guards forced them to watch government propaganda videos. Mr. Chen had to share one plastic spoon with six people during mealtimes. They held strong to the belief that they were innocent of any crime and faithfully kept their thoughts and actions in line with Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance under all circumstances. They were released after 30 days.
The second time around, Mrs. Chen was again held for 30 days in detention. Her son, however, was even less fortunate—he was not released.
A month later the worried Chen family found out that their son had been sent without trial to the Tuanhe Labor Camp in Beijing—notorious for its brutal treatment of Falun Gong practitioners—to serve a one-year term. There, the young Gang Chen was subjected to various forms of abuse, such as ten days of sleep deprivation along with forced hard labor and severe beatings, all to coerce him to give up his belief in Falun Dafa. On the day of his scheduled release, his wife received a phone call from the authorities telling her that his sentence had been extended for 6 months because he had not met their “requirements.” He was not released until January 4, 2002.
The Chinese regime failed at their attempt to force a talented and distinguished family of artists to give up their belief in Falun Gong. Instead, many inmates who would have never have had an opportunity to meet people like Mr. and Mrs. Chen were able to learn the truth about Falun Gong from them. The Chens’ kindness and consideration toward their fellow inmates in the harsh environment of the prison moved them greatly; many expressed their wish to practice Falun Gong and become better people.
Today, Mr. and Mrs. Chen live safely in the United States with their son and daughter, who both have successful careers. They continue to share their musical gifts with people around the world, through teaching and playing at a variety of cultural events to the delight of audiences everywhere.