BBC SCOTLAND: Interview of UK Falun Gong practitioners

July 26, 2001

Comment: The Chinese authorities have been trying to block a protest. In China, thousands of members of the Falun Gong [group] have protested against the detention of some of their leaders. Police have been reported to have rounded up more than a thousand people; mostly elderly men and middle aged women.

Mo: It's a kind of ancient Chinese spiritual exercises. It cultivates our mind, body and spirit. Although our life is somehow hard I believe in forbearance. I know I can overcome all the difficulties.

Comment: Falun Gong practitioners are not a sight you would expect to come across in a Dundee park. But when the weather is good enough to take them out of the hired hall they usually use each Sunday, this small community can be seen practising the tranquil movements of their spiritual exercises in their distinctive satin T- shirts. The city is home to Mo Zengfang, her husband You Yi and their daughter Minghui - all Falun Gong practitioners from the ancient Chinese province of Sichuan. Dundee is not a city known for its asylum-seeker population, but after the couple was effectively exiled from China, Mo got a place to study for applied computing, here. They never planned or expected to stay in the U.K for this long and the couple yearned to return to Chengdu to show their hometown to their baby girl. She was born here after Chinese police took them to Beijing airport with a stern warning of what could happen should they ever return. [term omitted] are loaded words, and the Falun Gong practitioners disagree that the movement falls into either of these categories.

Mo: Falun Gong teaches people to be good persons according to Truthfulness, Compassion Forbearance. So, there's no organization, no worship, no obligations and no donations in Falun Gong. So I don't think Falun Gong is something bad -- its very good. For example, I practice Falun Gong every day but I don't have to report to anyone else. I can study. I can do something I like and there's no obligation in it. [...]

Comment: Given the movements peaceful ethos, it's all the more striking that China has reacted so strongly to suppress its follower. Thousands of practitioners who refuse to sign documents denouncing their beliefs are currently in force labour-camps; others are detained in mental hospitals where it's claimed they're tortured.
Mo: Before 1999 the Chinese government thought Falun Gong was good. For example, they reported that Falun Gong was very good for our health. But according to some official report there are at least more than 70 million people practicing Falun Gong in China. President Jiang was frightened of this number, although these people are really good. Actually Falun Gong has no political agenda. Like Tai Chi, like western people they practice Tai Chi in their daily life. There's no relationship with political issues.
Comment: Astonishingly Falun Gong now has more devotees than there are members of the [party's name omitted] in China and it is this that provoked the government's hard line stance.

Mo: Since July of 1999 president Jiang banned Falun Gong so millions of practitioners became lawbreakers on that day. So if you want to continue to practice Falun Gong you may be kicked out of your school, you may lose your work, you may lose your house, property and there are more than 50,000 practitioners detained. As well, we know there were at least 255 practitioners tortured to death.

Comment: Mo and her husband were studying in Swansea when they heard the news of what was happening back home. Unable to stand by when fellow followers were being persecuted, they decided to protest in China despite the fact that Mo was 8 months pregnant at the time.

Mo: We were not arrested on Tiananmen square. We were in a hotel. Seven or eight policeman banged on the door. They asked us, "Are you practitioners? We said "yes." So they said, "You are arrested." They haven't got any arrest warrant and they had no search warrant or anything like that. After that we were locked into a meeting room for more than twelve hours without drink or food. They searched our belongings and confiscated our Falun Gong books, materials and banners. During the twelve hours we did the Falun Gong exercises together like we do daily.

Lady: Were the authorities aware that you were doing the exercises?

MO: When we did the exercises they shouted at us to stop. We just did it. We didn't obey them. When we did the meditation some policemen were angry. They beat us, including me. At that time, I was eight months pregnant.

Lady: Can you explain here why you put yourself and your unborn child at risk by going back to China?

Mo: After July 1999 a lot of practitioners were arrested and beaten. Although I am outside of China, every day I can find the horrible stories of what's happening in China. How can I sit still? You know, we're all practitioners. We believe in Truthfulness, Compassion Forbearance. They are good people. Why should they suffer so much?

Comment: The strength of Mo and You Yi's belief got them through the terrible ordeal in the hotel. But they were to be shocked by some of the sights they would later see in a police jail.

Lady: So after your twelve hours in detention, what ultimatum did the authorities give you then?

Mo: After twelve hours we were taken by Chendu police to the Beijing office of the Chendu government in Beijing. There is a detention centre there and this detention centre is just for Falun Gong people. When we arrived there they questioned us overnight and did a body search. At that time the policemen wanted to know whom we contacted in Beijing-- they wanted to know the address of other practitioners. The guard told us we couldn't practice the exercises there. They said if they found anyone practicing the exercises they would handcuff him to a pillar in the deep winter and whip him with a leather belt.

Lady: And you saw this?

Mo: Yes; I saw practitioners on the pillar, and they whipped them.

Comment: Despite these experiences Mo and You Yi have been willing to stand firm. But the Chinese authorities saw an opportunity to get them out of the country. With their student visa's the couple could easily be sent back to the U.K.

Mo: On the way to the airport, the policeman told me, "If you ever come back to China for Falun Gong again we will confiscate your passport and you will never get out of China. They want us to go out of the China because there is pressure in the country. There are so many practitioners going to Beijing to appeal, they got very great pressure. They want some practitioners to go out of China. We have visa so they want us to be sent out.

Lady: You have originally gone to help fellow followers, to support them. Why did you want to leave. Why was the decision not to stay and fight on?

Mo: I wouldn't like to stay in China because I want people in the world to know what's happening in China. Because I am a witness: I would like to ask people to help Chinese practitioners.

Lady: And have you done that. Is that how you spend your time in the country, trying to educate people and teach them the value of Falun Gong and how it's cost lives in China?

Mo: In Dundee we are running free classes so people can come here and study Falun Gong and they may benefit from it. The propaganda of the Chinese government might be broken automatically.

Comment: Just a few weeks after the plane touched down in Britain, the couple's daughter Minghui was born. Mo got a place to study in Dundee and they came north from Swansea. Following that move a problem they couldn't imagine immerged. Mo tried to have her daughter registered on her passport but an approach to the Chinese Embassy ended in disappointment.

Lady: Tell us what happened when you tried to register Ming at the Chinese Embassy.

Mo: The officer told me it took three working days. So after several days, you may have your passport back and your daughter will be registered on it. A few days later they told me to have an interview for the registration of my baby. A month later my husband and I went to the Chinese embassy to take the interview. The officer said they couldn't register Minghui now. I had to write a statement of my thoughts about Falun Gong. So I said to him I can write a statement on it but I'd like to tell you in this statement how Falun Gong is good and how I benefited from Falun Gong and I wouldn't like to give it up. Then he told me, in that case your daughter can't be registered. If you carry on practicing Falun Gong, she can never get her own passport.

Comment: The situation has left the couple in a terrible quandary. To renounce Falun Gong would be to trade their beliefs and go against the values they've based their lives on. But if they don't, Minghui will never be registered and the couple, in theory, might be sent back to China without her.

Mo: Maybe people think I'm selfish but I wouldn't renounce Falun Gong. If I renounce Falun Gong and the government registered her, the three of us can go back to China, but this doesn't stop the government from persecuting me. Jiang Zemin's government is unbelievable. In China some practitioners renounce Falun Gong but the government still persecutes them. I wouldn't like Minghui to go back to China because there was an 8 month old baby who died in custody. They even persecuted a baby! Eventually, I may lose Minghui as well.

Lady: At this point in the conversation, we are joined by You Yi. The latest reports of the death of 14 Falun Gong members in a Chinese labour camp have provoked strong feelings. You Yi is to protest again. This time, he'll walk from Dundee to London to protest at the Chinese Embassy. He's just returned from the print-shop were he's had a banner made up. The Dundee shop- keeper refused to take payment when he heard what the protest was about. You Yi has a video compiled and distributed by Falun Gong in images as horrific as any you could imagine. It shows followers who have been beaten and tortured by the government.

Lady: We're seeing a particularly unpleasant image here: someone badly injured. Oh! What's happened there?

You Yi: This man is sixty years old. They arrested him and forced him to go against his belief in Falun Gong. He refused and got severely injured.

Lady: His whole body is covered in cuts and bruises
You Yi: Yes, we cannot see exactly what happened on his body but it's all dark around his body.

Lady: It looks like he's got a cut from his throat right down to his pelvic bone.

YouYi:Yes

Lady: Is it a very typical type of punishment?

You Yi: Yes, very typical; very typical one. In China, practitioners are beaten with the electric batons. Here is a sight that's from the beginning of the Chinese government's crackdown of Falun Gong. They arrested lots of leading Falun Gong practitioners and the way they did it is very like what they did in the 'Cultural Revolution'.( in the 1960's)

Lady: When you're watching these images; this torture, what's going through your head?

You Yi: People cannot be treated like that. The government cannot do what they want.

Lady: Does it pain you to see that? Does it give you a strong conviction for peace and tolerance...etc.

You Yi: Yes, we are all Falun Gong practitioners so I know what they do. They don't harm anyone: they are not a harm to society. And every time I see this video I can't help my tears falling down.

[...] Lady: You have left your country because your country is so intolerant that it does not allow you to practice Falun Gong, which is a peaceful movement. It persecutes, tortures - and you believe - kills followers of this movement, so what are your feelings when you hear that the world is welcoming China into the World Trade Organization? It's going to have the prestige of hosting the Olympics as you sit here watching this on television. What do you think?

You Yi: Whether or not to welcome China is the business of the governments in different countries. What I want to do is to appeal to everyone I can to ask them to think about the human rights in China, now, when they speak to the Chinese leaders. I just want them to know the facts and let them decide for themselves. Things shouldn't be like that in China. Because we are humans, we have feelings of mercy to other people. If we know other people are suffering so much and we don't care, that's not good.

Lady: And have you found a listening ear in this country? People who are interested in the issue?

Mo: The British government has made some effort to ask the Chinese government to release practitioners and lift the ban of Falun Gong, and some in the House of Lords have given statements to support Falun Gong. These statements are really positive!

Comment: Mo and You Yi have applied for asylum in the U.K., But they had word from the Home Office that they should wait until Mo's student visa expires. With that date close at hand, Mo is worried about the family's future. She's aware that bogus asylum seekers claiming to be Falun Gong followers will make it harder to make their claim.

Mo: I know a lot of people applied for refugee status, saying they are Falun Gong practitioners.

Lady: And is it true are they Falun Gong practitioners or is it just an excuse to apply for a refugee status?

Mo: As I know, the majority of them are just using Falun Gong as an excuse.

Lady: So that causes genuine supporters like you problems then?

Mo: I understand that there is pressure on the Home Office to decide because there are so many Chinese people applying for refugee status who say they are Falun Gong practitioners.

Comment: At the moment the couple doesn't need to claim benefits because You Yi is working, but the current system means when they officially become asylum seekers they will no longer be able to support themselves. They'll have to live off the benefits until their asylum application is settled.

Mo: We didn't receive any benefits. We support ourselves.

Lady: You haven't received any benefits at all?

Mo: No. My husband has got a part time job in a restaurant. So that's all of our income.

Lady: Would it be easier to renounce Falun Gong?

Mo: I believe in Truthfulness, Compassion Forbearance. If I renounce Falun Gong and continue to practice it; actually I have given it up.

Lady: You've not been true to your belief ?

Mo: No. I have benefited from it so much and as a Falun Gong practitioner I have become more kind, more benevolent. Before I practiced Falun Gong I was very selfish. We are peaceful persons. Why should we give it up? Like people who do Tai Chi; they like Tai Chi. Why should they give it up?

Lady: Do you find people in Scotland much more tolerant? Do you think you could have a more peaceful existence here where people respect your followings and your lifestyle?

Mo: Yes. When I told the Scottish people what's happening to the people in China and what happened to us they were shocked and they were sympathetic to me and they helped us to do a lot of things. They'd sign the petition form and they would ask other people to help us. And I found out that Scottish people respect others' beliefs.

Lady: Tell us what would happen if you do have to return to China.

Mo: If I have to return to China, maybe I would be beaten or tortured like other practitioners or even be killed by the Jiang Zemin government. But I hope people outside of China realize the serious situation in China and offer help and support before this tragedy happens.

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