My mother was arrested and taken to the Xincheng Police Station in Qitaihe City in late October 1999, when she went to Beijing to appeal for the right to practise Falun Gong. When our entire family went to see her, hoping to bring her home, the police told me that she was not allowed to go home unless she signed a statement saying she would stop practising Falun Gong. Instead of being released she would be sent to a forced labour camp. I was young and very scared. I cried for a few hours until I passed out. My heart has since been weak, and I have had to avoid strong emotions.
My mother was sentenced in December 1999 for refusing to give up her belief in Falun Gong. She was sent to Jiamusi Forced Labour Camp. At the same time, my father was taken to Qitaihe City Detention Centre, where he was detained until New Year's Eve of 2000.
My father was sentenced to forced labour six months later. I was only ten years old. My elder brother and I lost parental care and were left at home without our parents.
I was born in 1989 to an ordinary family in Qitaihe City, Heilongjiang Province. When I was young, my father smoked and drank, and heavily relied on medication. He took medicine every day, and he also had tuberculosis. The cost of his medication was more than his monthly earnings. My mother fell from a great height in the early years and experienced health issues due to concussion sequelae. She had bad headaches on rainy and windy days. Because my father smoked and drank so much, my mother often argued with him. I grew up in a noisy family.
My parents started practising Falun Gong in Spring 1997, and subsequently became healthy. My father stopped drinking and smoking, and no longer quarrelled with mother. It was amazing. We had a happy family. Although our family condition was average, it was filled with love, and we no longer fought. I had love and care from my parents, and I enjoyed the time we spent together.
However, our happy family did not last long. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched a large-scale persecution of Falun Gong on July 20th, 1999. The decade-long rampant persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, including my parents, deprived me of a warm family home, and it took away my happiness. I began suffering tribulations, and started my journey to adulthood in a financial crisis and with mental challenges.
My father's parents passed away before I was born and my mother's parents live far away in Sichuan. After my parents were detained, my brother, who was two years older than me, and I were left to fend for ourselves.
In the icy cold winter, brother and I had to light the wood stove and cook our meals. How could we manage the house at such young ages? It was very difficult for us. We didn't know how to ignite the stove. The boiler and heater froze up because of the low temperatures. We often woke up at night feeling icy cold, and we huddled together to warm each other. I could hear mice squeaking at night, and sometimes one would come under the quilt on the bed, which frightened me, and I screamed and cried. Brother and I sometimes hid in bed, looking at photos of our parents, quietly wiping our tears, and then encouraged and comforted each other.
We knew our parents were doing the right thing. Our family benefited greatly from Falun Gong. When Falun Gong was treated wrongfully by the CCP, our parents went to tell people the facts about Falun Gong and so safeguard the reputation of Falun Gong. My parents educated us in word and deed, and wanted us to be honourable and grateful. Although we missed them so much, we were very proud of them.
We had never had to cook before, so we had no idea how much water to add to make rice. When we cooked rice for the first time, it was as hard as rocks. But because we were so hungry, we had to eat it with tears in our eyes. We did not have winter clothes. There were holes in our shoes, and our toes protruded from them. That winter was unusually cold, and my feet were frozen. We had to wear the winter clothes that were thrown away by adults. The clothes were too big for me, and they didn't keep me warm. The cold wind penetrated my body. I felt pained and missed my parents even more.
We had no income. In order to survive, brother and I used school holidays to recycle garbage. Every morning at six o'clock, we went to the dump to pick out cardboard, plastic bottles, and glass scraps. Half a kilogram of cardboard sold for 20 cents (RMB), a plastic bottle was 5 cents, better ones were worth 10 cents, glass scrap was 5 cents for 500 gm. The glass scrap often cut our hands and legs, leaving scars on us, which are still visible. Bleeding was a common thing. I was only 3' 9” tall, and wasn't very strong. My brother looked after me and did not let me lift heavy things. We were small and skinny due to chronic malnutrition.
We were very careful how we spent our hard-earned money. We tried hard to control the urge to buy an ice block on hot days, because we could not afford it. We had to save money for school tuition and only buy delicious food on rare occasions. The hardship of making a living and not having my parents around, changed me from a cheerful girl to a very quiet person.
In these difficult circumstances, despite financial and spiritual persecution, we did not fall behind in our studies. Both my brother and I had excellent scores each semester.
Mother was released in late December 2000, which was a great relief for me and my brother. However, mother had been a housewife, and had no job or source of income. In order to keep us in school and support the family, mother learned to make tofu. She was less than five feet tall, and weighed less than 90 pounds. She got up at midnight every day to make tofu until 5:00 a.m., then went out to sell the tofu. Winter mornings in northeast China are freezing cold. A north wind blows full force, stinging people's faces. A big bucket of tofu weighs 75 pounds, but my mother weighed only 88 pounds. When it snowed, it was difficult to push the trolley with the bucket. One person simply could not move it. Mother came home very late on days that it snowed.
During the winter school holiday, brother and I helped mother to push the trolley, by tying a rope to the front and pulling the trolley, while mother pushed from behind. Sometimes it was still difficult to move around in the deep snow. After we sold the tofu, we had to discard the leftover water, which we had to move little by little. We also needed to wash the cheesecloth used to strain the tofu. By the time everything was done, it was almost noon.
Mother's hands became very rough in winter from the hard work. Both of her hands had cracks in the skin and even bled sometimes. She worked so hard, but only earned 200 yuan1 per month. In order to afford our education, mother lived frugally, and never bought clothes for herself. She took others' old clothes to wear. As the family burden became heavier, we only had good food on special occasions. Although our condition was slightly better, I deeply missed our father. I had not seen him for over a year.
Father was released from Suihua Forced Labour Camp in December 2001. We finally reunited after nearly two years. I was in heaven, with both parents now home. My dream finally came true. My cheerful spirit returned, and I felt happy every day.
Life is full of uncertainty. Father was arrested again in May 2002, less than six months after he returned home. Again he was sent to Suihua Forced Labour Camp for two years. He was actually detained for more than two years. Home was again shrouded in dark clouds, and mother bore the heavy burden. As we saw her becoming thinner, brother and I felt so pained, but what could we do? We studied hard, did what we should, and we shared some of the chores to help mother.
When brother and I started high school, we had outstanding academic records. In September 2003, brother was admitted to the key high school with honours, after going through immense psychological pressure. I was in my third year of high school. Because of our school expenses, I hadn't purchased any new clothes for four years. I picked up others' old clothes, and mother made them smaller to fit me. Mother still sold tofu to support the family, while brother and I still recycled garbage during school holidays to make some money.
Father was released in winter 2004. He was extremely thin. When I first saw him, many emotions were welled up in my heart and my tears were uncontrollable. I threw myself in his arms and cried loudly. Father's return gave me more motivation to do well in school. I was also admitted to the key high school in the city. Life became peaceful once more.
However, in March 2008, about midway through the second semester of my final year of high school, before starting university, father was again taken to Qitaihe City Detention Centre, and mother had to flee and become homeless to avoid persecution. I was grown up by then. I could understand my parents even more. I wanted to seek justice for my father, so I gave up my studies, gave up the college entrance examination, and gave up university. In other words, I gave up my future career. I went to talk with people in the Public Security Bureau and the detention centre. Through unremitting efforts, father finally returned home after 56 days of detention. Although I abandoned school, I continued to study at home after father returned. I eventually passed the entrance exams and was admitted to a university.
Our whole family now practises Falun Gong. Without the guidance of the great law of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance, I would probably drift like so many others, and would not have my own beliefs and principles. My parents suffered so much from the CCP's persecution. However, the pain of my childhood did not break my spirit and did not twist my mind, because I firmly believe in Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance, which guides me in the right way of life.
I wrote out my childhood experiences in hopes that the international community will pay attention to the tragic persecution in China. I hope the unlawful forced labor system will be abolished, as it should not exist in the first place. I hope that the international association of women and children pay more attention to the suffering of children of Falun Gong practitioners. I hope no more children or relatives of Falun Gong practitioners have to go through what we had to endure.
1. "Yuan" is the Chinese currency; 500 yuan is equal to the average monthly income of an urban worker in China.
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