|LeeJun Ivie is shown meditating. Chinese officials interrogated Ivie and members of her family about Falun Gong activities in the U.S.|
The agent's threat was an attempt to conceal the illegal detainment and interrogation of a U.S. citizen.
Ms. Ivie's recent trip to China was more than just a vacation. "My father is very ill, suffering from Alzheimer's disease and lung cancer," Ms. Ivie told Epoch Times. "I felt it was important to travel to China and see him now."
On Jan. 24, Ms. Ivie was celebrating her 41st birthday at her parent's house, just south of Beijing. At around 9:30 a.m., the gathering was disrupted by a knock on the front door. "There were two local policemen, demanding to see my passport," Ms. Ivie said. "One officer wanted to take the passport away with him to make a copy. I did not think it was such a good idea to let the local police take away my American identification."
Her brother volunteered to go with the officers to the station to make a copy of the passport. Although the station was only five minutes away, it was an hour before her brother returned. "He said that there were six or seven local police and National Security Agents wanting to see me, and one of the agents wanted to keep my passport." Faced with the prospect of dealing with communist government agents, her unease grew. Ms. Ivie placed a call to the American embassy, leaving a message with the consul in charge of American citizen matters.
At about 3 p.m., Ms. Ivie left her parents' house to visit an older brother who had prepared a birthday celebration. While riding with her sister, she noticed a black sedan was following them. At that moment, her cell phone rang. "The American consul Greg Marcus called me back on my cell phone," Ms Ivie said. "I told him there was a black car following us, and before I finished the conversation with Greg, three black vehicles cornered us next to a bridge. All of a sudden the entire street was full of people." According to Ms. Ivie, several men approached the car and dragged her sister and husband out of the front seat. While she called for help over the phone to the American consul, another man reached in and pulled the phone from her hand. He then removed the battery, and placed both items in his pocket. Two more climbed into the back of the car, sandwiching her between them. "I asked the man to return my cell phone. I told him I was talking to the American Embassy when he took my phone away. He didn't seem to care. I also asked who they were and he wouldn't give an answer. I then asked him, 'Where are we going?' and he said, 'You'll see.'"
The convoy of vehicles traveled at very high speeds, she said, ignoring all traffic signals, and pulled up to the Daxing hotel. "There were at least 20 agents lined up at both sides of the front gate waiting for our arrival. They took me to room 718, and ordered me to sit in a chair," Ms. Ivie said. "There were four or five agents in the room. A man identifying himself as Mr. Liu opened the conversation by saying: 'I'm representing the country talking to you; it's for the goodness of you, your family and the country.' I told him I didn't understand what he was trying to say. He then asked if I knew why I was being brought in." She then recounted the events of that morning to Liu, including the visit by local police. The interrogation then took a sinister turn, and Mr. Liu's tone became menacing. "He said, 'We've been watching and spying on you for quite a while in the U.S., and we know everything you do.' I told him that I was an American, and he had no right to spy on me in my own country. I then said, 'If you know everything, why don't you tell me what I've done.' It was at this time that Liu said, 'Have you ever sent Falun Gong-related materials to China?'"
Falun Gong is a spiritual practice made public in China in the early 1990s. In Chinese, it is called "xiulian," meaning "cultivation." Cultivation practices were well known throughout China's history, and are woven into the fabric of traditional Chinese thought. Many of these practices vanished during the communist government's Cultural Revolution. When Falun Gong's popularity grew, the Chinese government was initially very supportive of it and recognized its contribution to improvement of health and character. Alarmed by the growing number of Falun Gong practitioners, however, in July 1999 Chinese dictator Jiang Zemin started a relentless campaign of persecution against practitioners. Completely reversing its stance of support, the government outlawed the practice and stripped away the rights of practitioners. China's propaganda machine then kicked in, introducing Falun Gong as a "cult" to the rest of the world in an attempt to portray it as a threat and justify its actions. More than four years later, the truth about this practice has emerged, and China's persecution of Falun Gong is condemned throughout the world.
Ms. Ivie has practiced Falun Gong in the United States since 1997.
"I told Mr. Liu that I sent materials to friends in China who questioned the government's portrayal of Falun Gong. All they see and hear is state-run media broadcasts. There were stories about people being set on fire on Tiananmen Square and mentally unstable people killing others. I told them these were fabrications; that there are large numbers of people in over 50 countries practicing Falun Gong, including Westerners and Americans. Why don't they behave that way?"
Ms. Ivie soon learned that she had been watched as soon as she had landed in China. "He asked what was in my plastic bag when I walked out of the airport. I told him the plastic bag was filled with items I purchased at Narita Airport in Japan." The agents were not satisfied with just questions.
"They wanted to do a body search and bag search. They continued to threaten me by saying they were going to ransack my parents' house. I wouldn't let them open my purse without a proper permit." One agent left the room, returning with a document labeled "Search Warrant." They demanded she sign it. She refused. The agents confiscated her purse and searched it anyway.
Turning their attention to other belongings, the agents found a digital camera. They examined her photographs and deleted ones that they felt were "Falun Gong related." Next was her MP3 player, which in addition to her favorite music and poems, contained Falun Gong lectures. "They started yelling at me, 'This is against Chinese law!'" They then tried to get into her handheld computer. After Ms. Ivie refused to provide her password, the men continued their attempts to break into the device. "They kept trying to crack my password throughout the interrogation."
Ms. Ivie was not the only member of her family to face questioning. She soon learned that other family members were being detained as well. "My sister and her husband were also being interrogated from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. the same day. They do not practice Falun Gong. My brother-in-law's car was being ransacked without notice. My sister had to go to the bathroom and a female agent followed her inside the bathroom, which made her very uncomfortable."
At about 7:30 p.m., some of her family members were released. But for another sibling, things had just begun. "They brought my younger brother in for further interrogation. His interrogation lasted from 7:30 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. This was very upsetting for my family".
As Ms. Ivie's ordeal continued, Mr. Liu demanded something more from the American. "He tried to force me to write and sign a "statement of guarantee" which indicated, first, I have to watch my actions in the [United States], otherwise they will do damage to me and to my family. Second, I need to guarantee not to get involved in Falun Gong activities in China. Thirdly, I have to report to Liu every time I return to China. I told him I would not sign the guarantee. What an American does in America should be of no concern to the Chinese government."
She reiterated her reasons for being in China. "I stated that my sole purpose for coming to China was to visit my family. I haven't violated any Chinese law. I told Liu I have no intention of contacting him because he has never shown any identification. I don't know who he represents".
As the interrogation extended into the night, the unidentified agents changed tactics. "There were four or five agents in the room at all times. They sometime would send a different agent into the room to put pressure on me by saying that they had to move me to another place and keep the interrogation going until I showed some remorse or sign the guarantee." As Ms. Ivie was unwavering, they tried again. "One agent threatened me by saying, 'I'll deport you tomorrow morning.' Another agent would come in and threaten to not allow me to leave the country, or that I'll never be able to enter China again. Around 9 p.m., they began threatening me with statements about breaking into and ransacking my parents' house."
The agents filled out a report on the interrogation, asking her to sign it. "The agents' report was very deceiving and selectively stated. I read through the document but refused to sign, because the document and the signature can be taken out of context and used for further persecution against me and Falun Gong practitioners. I was concerned that this distortion could be used as a propaganda tool and mislead others."
Before releasing Ms. Ivie, Mr. Liu demanded two more meetings with her. "I told him I had nothing further to talk about, and they had ruined my birthday and disturbed my family and our New Year celebration. I wished him to leave me and my family alone." She was released at 2 a.m. the next day.
Ms. Ivie visited the American embassy on Jan. 27 to report the incident.
Upon hearing of Ms. Ivie's detainment, her fiance flew to China and hired an American attorney. It was at this attorney's office that Ms. Ivie received a call from Mr. Liu, demanding a meeting with her. "My lawyer told him he would be accompanying me to the meeting, but Liu responded that he couldn't do that, and that I should have a Chinese lawyer." Due to Mr. Liu's insistence, Ms. Ivie went to the Daxing hotel to meet him, accompanied by her lawyer. The sight of her arriving with counsel rattled Liu. "He told me that it was not the time to hire a lawyer. He said that when I was sent to jail, then he would tell me to hire a lawyer. He also said that American lawyers do not know the situation in China nor Chinese law. He went on to say that it was no use to hire an American lawyer, and that none of the Chinese lawyers dare to even take up such a case, saying that they 'were scared of me and my agency.'"
After several unsuccessful attempts to separate Ms. Ivie from her lawyer, Mr. Liu accused her of violating Chinese law by bringing her MP3 player and its files into China. "I asked him to show me what Chinese law he was referring to. He read articles that stated that it was against Chinese law to distribute or print Falun Gong flyers or materials. I told him I did not print or distribute flyers and that the MP3 was for personal use only." She then took the opportunity to further discuss the truth of Falun Gong's persecution. "I then told him the law was created after Jiang Zemin decided to ban Falun Gong in China, and it was written to persecute good people. I told him I was a lawful American businesswoman, I had no intention of doing anything against the Chinese government, and Falun Gong was not about politics." After a two-hour meeting, ms. Ivie and her lawyer left at 5 p.m.
On Feb. 2, Mr. Liu called Ms. Ivie again, demanding another meeting. "I told him he was wasting my time and his; I wasn't about to see him again." This angered the agent. "He gave me four options: to cooperate with them and provide information on Falun Gong activities in America (2) to offer this information to him every time I go back to China. Otherwise I will never be able to come back to China. (3) I have three months to consider this. After that, when the Chinese Embassy refuses my visa I will know why. He stated I would never be able to get a visa for China or any other country. I would be stuck in America. (4) He will make my family pay. He would make my family's lives miserable and no one in my family will be able to travel or leave China."
It was then that she was issued a warning. "He said my attitude towards this matter had violated Chinese law. His very last warning was 'Do not discuss this with anybody!'"
Ms. Ivie left China the next day.
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