The New Statesman: China’s Other World
Leeshai Lemish tells of his and Ethan Gutmann’s journey into the persecution of Falun Gong
It was 2:00 am and we were sitting on the floor of a Bangkok slum. We had a flight to catch the next morning, but after interviewing Falun Gong refugees for a week we still couldn’t pull away from what they were telling us.
‘At first I thought it was just me. But then, one after another, more Falun Gong practitioners were brought into our cell’, Chen Jie said. ‘Their bellies, chest and backs were also covered with black bubbles from being shocked with cattle-prods’.
Chen and all our interviewees had close friends killed by Chinese police. They were the lucky survivors. I left with a sickening feeling – there’s no way I can ever do their stories justice.
For a year Ethan Gutmann (author of Losing the New China) and I have been travelling the world conducting interviews for his forthcoming book. We’ve received research grants from Earheart Foundation and Sweden’s Wallenberg family, and keep our budget low by sleeping on floors and eating instant noodles. But we’re too embarrassed to complain, considering the stories we hear morning to night.
The practitioners we interviewed provided corresponding accounts of persecution they experienced. Here is what it looks like.
Detained for protesting, distributing leaflets, or even practising their faith at home, they are first stripped naked. They are then starved and denied sleep. You will not eat, sleep or go to the toilet, they are told, until you renounce Falun Gong.
Next, relatives are manipulated. Li Weixun told us how her mother was brought in to pressure her into writing a forced confession:
‘My mother said, “Just write it so we can go home, OK”? I chocked back tears. I’ll kneel before you”! I held her and said, “Mom, you know Falun Gong made me healthy and happy. What I did was perfectly legal – they’re the ones breaking the law”. My heart bled as I watched my mother leave.’
From the detention centre, where they are often beaten and hung in painful positions, practitioners are sent to ‘reform through labour’ camps. Some reports estimate that over half the camps’ total population are Falun Gong.
In these camps’ cells they work as slaves making products exported to the West. The cell reeks of faeces and urine. When the disposable chopsticks they are wrapping fall on the floor, Chen Ying told us in Paris, they are ordered to wrap them anyway, their fingernails stained with pus and blood.
Complete article available at: http://newstatesman.com/blogs/the-faith-column/2008/08/falun-gong-practitioners-china