Experience Sharing Report
By Bernd Auernhammer
February 20, 2002
As soon as the first decisions had been made to travel to China, the initial step was to secure a visa. I applied in Berlin and, like many others was denied, since the Chinese authorities had already identified me as a Falun Gong practitioner.
Could this actually be happening?
I thought, “My intention was good, so there has to be a way.” I then went to the Chinese Consulate in Munich, where most of the staff knew me from talks with them and from the demonstrations [outside the building]. I applied for a visa there, and wonder upon wonders, they gave me the stamp.
Not ten minutes had passed after leaving the consulate when I received a telephone call from them, saying that there were “technical problems,” that I was denied entry [into China] and I must come back immediately to correct this problem. I knew from a travel expert that there are never any “technical problems” with a visa. I received two additional phone calls from the consulate. They even suggested going to my home to “solve the technical problems.” I did not agree. I decided to book my flight as soon as possible, since I knew that because of China’s large land area, and that some of the border stations might not receive my personal information for a few days hence.
During my train travel across China I saw the all-encompassing poverty of the land. Often I was close to tears when I witnessed the standard of living – some families having to exist in hovels, looking more like doghouses – in such contrast to the state of affairs in Beijing where in the centre of town I saw mostly ostentatious structures, partially built of marble, reminiscent of temple compounds. It reminded me of Rome, where at one time the [early] Christians were persecuted. From stories told to me I heard that the poorer citizens have to scrub these structures clean, scour the streets and have to apply green paint to the grass. During holidays and festivals, these people will be locked up in delivery trucks.
Following my arrival I roamed about for several hours, looking for a place to stay, since most of the hotels had been fully booked for the Chinese New Year celebration. I looked around some more and toured the city and was astounded at the police presence. Everywhere I went I encountered police officers and patrols. In the heart of the city, all crossroads were manned.
The next day I met up with other Germans and we wandered toward Tiananmen Square. All around the square were hundreds of police officers, and, as far as the eye could see, we noticed police cars. The only way to the square was through a tunnel, which was full of police officers. Everyone had to show their identification papers. When I finally had arrived on the square I realized that 80% of the people present were either police officers or undercover agents. Uncounted pairs of eyes scrutinized my each and every step. There was an officer for each 5-10 square meters of space, even though Tiananmen Square is the largest public square in the world an area of 100 acres.
Within a few minutes I saw someone who wanted to pull out his “Falun Dafa is Good” banner. In a matter of merely a few seconds at least twenty police officers overwhelmed him, knocked him to the ground and began to beat and kick him. Police cars raced to the spot. This scene repeated itself several times.
When I had the sensation that relatively fewer police officers were immediately watching me I pulled out my banner. Immediately, ten police officers slammed into me as I attempted to walk a few more steps, but they were everywhere. I was kicked in the legs and ribs, yanked by the hair, brought down to the ground, kicked and then taken to a police vehicle. During this manhandling, the police officers ripped my trousers. The police officers pinched a 17-year-old German girl’s nose and clamped mouth shut with their hands; another young woman was slapped in the face. When the police vehicle was full, we drove off.
After a short ride we had arrived at police headquarters, “The Torture Precinct.” As we stood in a hallway, we sang together in Chinese “Falun Dafa is good,” [Falun Dafa hao].
Sister and brother, father and daughter were forcefully and under a hail of fists, separated and individually brought before interrogators. They took all our utensils away by force. Those who refused to hand them over were brutally beaten into submission. We demonstrated the five exercises to the officers in that precinct and the girls sang beautifully Dafa songs in Chinese. Those officers who had still not completely lost their virtue did therefore recognize our good intent. One of them had tears of shame in his eyes and turned away. Another police officer, though, took our coats off the table and threw them on the floor. After we had picked them up and replaced them on the table, he threw them back onto the floor. I could only shake my head in consternation.
Following that, each one was individually taken to the bus that would take us to the airport. The airport hotel, however, was not a hotel but a prison, strongly fortified with massive doors, strictly guarded. To begin with, we were again separated, accompanied in part by hard beatings and brought to a large room. High-ranking officials, ensconced in a cloud of tobacco smoke, sat there and mocked us. Then two male police officers and one female officer escorted us into a dark room for interrogation.
The female officer at first wanted to flatter and mislead. She emphasized that she and I had the same birthday and asked me if I knew what [special] day this was. When I told her I had no idea, she responded that this is the day for people in love. The whole things seemed pretty bizarre. I refused to sign any documents, and even had the chance to give a five minute testimony of my experiences with Falun Gong. After that I was reunited with a group of fifteen practitioners. We sat, close together, on the floor and were supervised by from 20-40 police officers.
In the beginning we were not able to get a dialogue going. Then suddenly some of us stood up and said we were leaving. They grabbed their luggage and ran off. The police caught them, but as a result we had long conversations with them. We explained to them how bad it is for them to beat innocent people; that the government leadership lies to them regarding Falun Gong, that we in the West know definitely and are convinced that Falun Gong is good, and that many practitioners in China had been tortured to death. When we told a female officer that an eight-month-old infant had been tortured to death in front of his mother, she was in such shock that she had to sit down and became speechless.
When night fell, we decided that we would not let them separate us. That’s what prompted half-hourly interventions from the police enforcers to separate us anyway. We demanded first to be allowed contact with our respective embassies; otherwise we would refuse all co-operations, a request that was denied. Through conversations with us, though, many of the officers realized that they must not hit or beat us any longer. All during this time we were able to have conversations with them. When the women and girls repeatedly sang the Dafa songs in Chinese, the room became quiet and calm and many officers listened attentively and were obviously touched. We even repeated a demonstration of the exercise movements twice more, an act that was received well and with great interest by the police officers.
Toward morning, when we were tired from this long night, and yet the police were once more under duress from their superiors, they finally did separate us forcefully. During that altercation I sustained a direct, hard hit on my chin from someone’s elbow, a painful experience. I loosened my grip [from the other practitioner] and they were able to separate us. They had to forcefully separate us by nationality, because they must deport us from China within 24 hours. Had they kept us longer than 24 hours, international law requires that they have to substantiate the incarceration, what they would not be able to do, because none of us had broken any laws. We noticed that, as the deadline approached, they became quite nervous.
Prior to my departure, a policeman approached me and said that it was not his choice to act the way he did, but he is under duress to do so. He was about to light a cigarette but then said that he would go outside to do it. A fellow practitioner had explained to him earlier that one does not smoke in a non-smoking room. Apparently [this police officer] had learned something already. It seemed to me that it had dawned on many officers that they are being lied to. They had been indoctrinated to believe that Falun Gong practitioners are insane and are dispirited suicide candidates. Now they had encountered Western practitioners who taught them courtesy and correct behaviour through their own actions. Of course there are still numerous bad police officers who will continue to beat Falun Gong practitioners to death, but more and more of them are beginning to realize the true situation.
After this forced separation we were taken to the airport.
I was robbed of all of my luggage and also my shoes. That’s how I arrived back in Frankfurt/Germany in the middle of winter in a torn pair of trousers, without my shoes and bruises. Many practitioners and journalists were there to welcome us back in a loving way.
(Original text in German)
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