<i>Left Without a Mother's Love</i>: "Quest for Truth" and "Persecution" (Chapters 5 and 6)
Chapter 5: Quest for Truth
The inner voice was screaming at her again – it was telling her that these people were not to be trusted, that what she had heard about Falun Gong through the Chinese media was absolutely right, that Falun Gong was banned because it posed a threat to the Chinese leadership …
Yet, from somewhere in her, a quieter voice also said a few words. "What if what the Falun Gong practitioners say is true? What if they are not political, and are simply seeking to practice in peace? Is it wrong of them to clarify the truth to end the injustice to them? What if, as they say, Falun Gong practitioners are being tortured and murdered in Chinese labor camps by sadistic guards?"
The strange thing was, the quiet voice was a clearer in her mind now, and she could hear it better.
It was 3 am, and Xiu hadn't slept much. She should be happy, she thought to herself – "my first semester is over, and I have done very well in all my courses. What am I worried about?"
She felt like she should kick herself – of course, she should be worried. Excellent grades, a Ph.D. – would these give her peace of mind? Would it take away the memories of what had happened to her mother?
For the first time, she decided to listen a little more closely to the quieter voice.
The other voice screamed at her again, "Don't believe it! Those are lies! Those are lies! Anti-government, anti-society, anti-humanity!" It stomped and raged through her mind.
"Enough!" she finally told the loud voice. She felt that the louder voice cringed in fear. "My imagination running wild" she thought to herself.
She turned on her computer. She opened up her suitcase and opened the carefully wrapped package that her father had pleaded with her to take to the U.S. and consider looking at. She knew what it contained.
She smiled as she remembered her scorn for the package and how she had promised her father that she would not even take a glance at it. Yet, she had carefully placed it in the safest corner of her bag.
Hurriedly, she opened the package. There was a long, personal letter written by her father, several pages of printed material and three VCDs.
Xiu Mei spent the entire day going through the material, one by one. She didn't miss reading a single word or take her eyes off the VCDs as they played on her computer.
Xiu Mei walked along the pathway that encircled a lake on Sunday evening. It was getting colder and darker, but she didn't care.
She looked at the setting sun, at the birds that drifted about in the sky and at the clouds that floated lazily in the background. For the first time in her life, she felt the hidden beauty and extraordinariness of these simple things.
She paused again, looking at the back of three people who were sitting quietly near the lake, meditating. Near them, squirrels and birds pranced around happily and peacefully. A little further away, people were curiously looking at the posters that detailed what the group was doing.
Xiu didn't need to go any closer to know what they were doing. The three people were practicing Falun Gong, and Wang was among them. She was disappointed not to see Jin there.
She knew that the posters would inform those who looked at it that Falun Gong was a peaceful meditation practice, that was good for one's mental and physical health. She was also equally certain that it contained details about how it was being persecuted in China by Jiang Zemin, who was misusing his power over the state.
The evening was quickly turning into night. If she was right, the practice would end in a short while. There was almost no one around – Xiu felt that people must have gone back home after the end of the semester.
Finally, she heard the soft Chinese music that they were meditating with come to an end. All three practitioners silently joined their hands together and slowly opened their eyes. They chatted quietly for a while. They then said their goodbyes and headed their own way.
Xiu followed Wang, trying to stay as inconspicuous as possible. She didn't know where he was going but she certainly wanted to talk to him.
She didn't know where else to meet him or Jin – she had desperately wanted to talk to them, but she could not reach Jin on the phone. She had looked up the information about where the practice site for Falun Gong was held in her campus, and hoped that she could meet one of them at the practice site.
Wang was finally at the parking lot, opening the door to his car. Xiu Mei ran up to him as he got in.
"Hi Wang", Xiu said. She was serious, but she also felt as though her heart was finally smiling.
Wang looked surprised, and tried to get out of the car. But Xiu stopped him, and asked, "Actually, I would like to talk to you for a while. Can we go to Jin's house?"
Wang, still in surprise, said, "Sure." Xiu walked to the other side and got into the passenger seat.
They drove in silence for a while, before Wang asked, "I hope that we didn't upset you yesterday, Xiu."
Xiu shook her head and said quietly, "No, you didn't. I've been hurting myself by hiding myself from the truth for all this while", she replied.
Wang seemed surprised by the answer, but he didn't say anything. Instead he asked her, "Were you waiting long at the practice site?"
Xiu turned to look at him and said, "Two hours. I was there throughout your entire practice."
Wang looked at her, questions written all over his face. But Xiu didn't want to say anything yet; she turned around and looked outside the car. "Please wait for just a little while as we get to Jin's house, Wang." she told him "I have so much to tell you."
They drove in silence and finally stopped at Jin's house. As they both got down from the car, Wang suddenly said, "Oh, I completely forgot. Jin will not be at home."
"Oh", Xiu was dejected. "Where is she?"
Wang seemed unsure of himself, but when he looked at her, he saw soft, eager eyes looking expectantly at him. He decided to tell her the truth.
"She's at a nearby town – she's gone to help the Falun Gong practitioners there clarify the truth to the Chinese community."
Xiu's eyes showed understanding. She thought for a while, and then replied, "All right, can I talk to you?"
Wang replied, "Sure, of course."
He opened Jin's apartment, and took her inside.
"So, do you have a key to Jin's apartment?" Xiu asked him.
Wang was embarrassed for a minute. "Umm … yes, I do. We do a lot of work at the university and in the city to clarify the truth about Falun Gong, so we work together a lot. We do meet very often."
He hurriedly added, "But please do not think there is anything between us. You know, Jin has a boyfriend who also practices Falun Gong. And she has always been like a younger sister to me. It is just that we Falun Gong practitioners trust each other … a lot."
Xiu replied, "I know."
After a while, she added in a low tone, "I know a lot about Falun Gong."
Wang had just turned on the lights in the study, and was about to get them both seats to sit down on. He turned to look at her in surprise.
Xiu was looking at some photos that were on Jin's desk. "Wow, Jin looks really pretty in this photo. Is this her family?" she asked.
Wang went around to take a look. He laughed lightly and said, "Yes, that's her in a Tang Dynasty lady's outfit. The two older people on her side are her mother and father. And the other picture is of her and her boyfriend at the same event."
Xiu turned to look at him. Her eyes sparkling, she asked, "At an event to clarify the truth about Falun Gong, no doubt? I guess you had a traditional Chinese dance?"
Wang hesitated and then replied, "Yes. Look, I know that we seem to spend all our free time in this, but it is just that we really want people to understand what Falun Gong is – that is just a cultivation and meditation practice that teaches people to conduct themselves as good people. We want to show people, especially Chinese people, that it is not what the Jiang regime says it is."
Xiu replied soberly, "Yes, I know. In fact, you may be surprised to hear this – but I know a lot more about Falun Gong that you may think."
Wang was surprised and puzzled to hear this. He asked her, "If I may ask, how? And why did you get so upset when we brought up the topic yesterday?"
Xiu Mei's face turned downcast, and Wang bit his tongue. He wished he hadn't asked the second question.
Xiu Mei turned her face away from the photos and looked at him. She said, "My father practices Falun Gong."
And then her voice caught. She coughed lightly, and said, "My mother used to practice, too." Wang could make out that her eyes were starting to moisten again.
Wang waited, not daring to say a word. He wasn't sure what "used to practice" meant – it could mean that she had stopped practicing after the persecution started, that she had turned against Falun Gong due to the unceasing propaganda from Jiang's regime, or worse yet … Wang almost let out a cry as he realized the other possibility.
Tears started flowing from Xiu's eyes as she said, "She was killed in a labor camp because she would not give up practicing Falun Gong." And she started to tell Wang the story that she had once felt she could never tell anyone.
Chapter 6: Persecution
In 1995, Xiu Mei's family in Beijing had been in tatters. Her father and mother were quarrelling every day. The problems stemmed from an extra-marital affair that her father had been having. He refused to give it up, and her mother had been upset and would throw things at him and shout everyday.
Xiu Mei was an excellent student who had graduated from high school with honors and was about to start her undergraduate education. She often tried to stop her parents from fighting but could never succeed.
Due to the arguments that seemed to break out day and night, her mother had gotten ill. She became chronically tired. Xiu Mei frequently quarreled with her father on her mother's behalf.
Towards the end of 1996, a relative of theirs had introduced Falun Gong to them. Immediately, Xiu Mei's mother had started to practice Falun Gong.
Immediately, her mother became healthier, free of all illnesses and she started to treat her father and Xiu better and better. She did not hate anyone or complain about anything. She was happy every day and no longer lost her temper.
Seeing these changes in her, her father also started to practice Falun Gong. The changes in her father were not any less – within a few days, he stopped seeing his girlfriend and apologized to her mother. He also looked healthier and happier than she had ever seen him before. Her mother and father started spending more time together and they stopped fighting.
Busy with her studies, Xiu Mei never found time to learn more about Falun Gong, but she knew that the practice was good after seeing the changes in her father and mother. She was happy to see them both practicing Falun Gong diligently, spending time everyday at the practice site and reading the Falun Gong books.
Thus, a family that had been on the verge of breaking up had been brought back together. With her parents happy with each other, Xiu Mei finally looked forward to happier times.
But it was not to be. During 1998, she started to hear a lot about Falun Gong, and not all of them were positive. She heard that the government was upset at the fast growing popularity of Falun Gong, and was carrying out a thorough investigation of it.
Then, July 22nd, 1999 had come about.
Xiu Mei had come back home to find her parents missing. She found that the police had come in earlier in the day and arrested Xiu Mei's parents for questioning.
Xiu Mei got in touch with the police station everyday, asking the police when they would release her parents. The police had responded that Falun Gong had been banned, and that its practitioners were considered a 'threat to society', and that they would release them once they were confident that they would not pose such a threat. Meanwhile, no one would be allowed to meet them.
Five days later, her parents were released. When they came back home, they looked worn out and tired. Xiu Mei worriedly asked them what had happened. Her parents had told her that they had been subject to non-stop lies and slander that tried to make Falun Gong out to be a dangerous movement. However, they had refused to give up practicing Falun Gong and had told the police about how the practice had benefited them. After the deadlock, the police had finally let them go, but had promised to "keep in touch".
And keep in touch the police did. Xiu Mei felt her heart skip a beat whenever she heard the police siren near her house, fearful that the sound was heading closer to her home. And sometimes it was – the police would visit them frequently, banging the door violently and hurling abuse at her parents for not giving up their faith in the practice.
Xiu Mei got more and more worried as the days passed. Oftentimes, her mother or father would be taken to the police station for routine questioning and they would come back tired and depressed. Sometimes, the police would also extort a huge amount of money from them, cooking up one reason or another.
Xiu Mei could not focus anymore on her studies, and her grades started to fall.
One day, Xiu Mei had come back home to find her parents missing. She called the police station angrily to find out why they had abducted her parents again.
The policeman who had replied told her that they had not seen her parents and then seemed to panic. He had asked her if she knew where her parents had gone. When she had said no, the policeman had asked her to call them back as soon as she got some information.
For three days, she waited anxiously, hearing no word from her parents. On the night of the third day, she finally got a call from the local police station, telling her to come pick up her father, who was "ill."
Worried, Xiu Mei had immediately called a taxi and rushed out to the police station. There, she found her father – he was propped up loosely on a chair, and his face was completely pale. It looked like he had been dressed up to make him look presentable.
Xiu Mei had broken down immediately upon seeing her father's condition. She had screamed angrily at the police officers and asked them what they had done to her father.
One of the police officers had shouted at her and slapped her violently across her face, asked her to shut up and take her father back home.
The policeman who had slapped her had shouted, "You are forbidden to love anyone who practices Falun Gong! Be it your own mother, father or child!"
Xiu Mei looked at the policemen with hatred and fear, but she was powerless to do anything about it.
Xiu Mei was still crying as she took her father back home in the taxi. When they had gotten home, Xiu Mei's father had told her that both her mother, himself and a few other practitioners had decided that they could not be silent as seeing the persecution of Falun Gong escalate, and had hence decided to go to Tiananmen Square to appeal for Falun Gong. They had hoped to come back in a day, but it had not gone as they had planned.
For, at Tiananmen Square, as they held their banners peacefully to appeal for Falun Gong, the policemen had violently attacked them, even with electric batons. All of the practitioners who had been caught had been violently beaten. In the police van that he had been thrown into, he had seen male and female practitioners, from young children to elderly grandmothers, bleeding profusely from the beatings. One of them had died soon after due to a massive loss of blood.
Xiu Mei's father had been taken to one of the interrogation rooms where the police had asked him for his name and address. Because he refused to be treated as a criminal, he had been beaten violently and shocked with electric batons till he had lost consciousness. The only thing he had remembered after that was being escorted back home by the local police.
Xiu Mei was terrified. She had asked her father whether he knew where mom was. Xiu Mei's father replied that he did not know. Over the next few days, Xiu Mei did not attend college and instead started looking for her mother.
She found out that her mother was no longer held in the custody of the Tiananmen Square police station. Running around from one place to another, she swore that she would not stop until she found where her mother was.
When she finally found out where her mother was detained, Xiu Mei felt as though her heart was shattered. Her mother had been sent to a forced labor camp … she dared not think about it. She had heard horror stories about the treatment of people in forced labor camps, and she had hoped that she would never have to go within a mile of any of them.