Chun Lee Wednesday, March 27, 2002
ON FEB. 14, two friends and I were walking through an underground walkway near Tiananmen Square in Beijing when several police officers jumped us. I was thrown to the ground and repeatedly kicked and hit in the face, neck,
all over my body. As I tried to scream, they shoved my scarf down my throat.
Police then took my friends and I to an abandoned hotel, where we were interrogated and detained for more than 24 hours. Our requests to speak to the American Embassy, make phone calls, or have an official translator were all denied. I received another beating the day I was deported to the United States.
Why were we treated like this?
Because police were trying to stop us from peacefully appealing for Falun Gong, a mind-and-body spiritual group based on the principles of truth, compassion and tolerance which is practised in more than 50 countries worldwide, with more than 100 million followers in China.
Since July 1999, China has been carrying out a campaign of terror against Falun Gong's members, forbidding them from publicly practising their faith.
On Feb. 6, Human Rights Watch reported: "China has brutally repressed the Falun Gong spiritual group through widespread torture, deaths in custody and a massive campaign of detention without trial."
According to numerous human rights groups, tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been beaten, tortured to death and/or held in labour camps and mental hospitals.
My wish in travelling to Beijing was to awaken the world to the atrocities taking place against the Falun Gong in China.
Earlier this month, Agence France-Presse reported that China's President Jiang Zemin ordered his "nation's security services to shoot members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group caught hanging banners and posting signs
on behalf of the organization."
But more frightening is that the story doesn't end there.
The Chinese government has started taking action against Falun Gong practitioners here in the United States. The Wall Street Journal reported on Feb. 21 that the "Chinese government, not content with persecuting the Falun
Gong in China, has responded by urging local U.S. officials to shun or even persecute them right here in America."
The Washington Post reported on March 12 that "Chinese diplomats in the United States have written hundreds of letters to mayors around the country urging them to cancel local Falun Gong commemorations or to rescind proclamations in favour of the spiritual group.
"Baltimore, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Decatur, Ill., and Westland, Mich., among others, have rescinded proclamations issued on behalf of Falun Gong," the Post article continued.
Stan Bogosian, former mayor of Saratoga, Calif., has been among the few elected leaders to publicly denounce the pressure tactics being used to stop Falun Gong practitioners outside of China.
In late 2000, Bogosian issued a proclamation declaring a week in honour of the Falun Gong. A few days later, he said he was contacted by two Chinese officials, who asked him to rescind it. Bogosian refused, explaining later in published reports: "It bears an uncanny resemblance to the efforts of the Nazi government of Germany in the 1930s to persuade the rest of the world that persecution of its citizens simply was not taking place."
Unfortunately, some officials in San Francisco seem to be succumbing to pressure from Chinese officials.
The San Francisco Examiner reported on Oct. 18, 2001: "Bowing to political pressure, the Board of Supervisors rejected a resolution expressing deep concerns about China's persecution of Falun Gong practitioners."
Falun Gong followers have tried for three years to speak to Mayor Willie Brown, but have been repeatedly denied requests to meet with the mayor. Most recently, on March 15, a Falun Gong practitioner and I tried to schedule to
speak with the mayor on "Open Door Day," but were told by a representative at the office that he would not meet with Falun Gong practitioners.
As a nation that espouses freedom of speech and religion, our leaders cannot bow to pressure from the Chinese government and must firmly and consistently protect the rights of all Americans.
If we allow a foreign government to dictate the activities of Americans or influence national affairs, in the long run, Falun Gong practitioners are not the only ones who will lose.
Chun Lee, 24, was born in the Guongdong Province of China. Her family moved
to the United States when she was 2 years old. She graduated from San Jose
State University in 2000 and works in high-tech and marketing in San Jose.
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle Page A - 23 Chronicle
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