Asking for freedom of prisoners of conscience
If I knew this day would come, when I could not talk to my mom on Mother¹s Day, or even find out if she was safe and unharmed, I would have cherished every single moment I spent with her.
Sunday will be a sad day for me. It will be the first Mother’s Day in my life that I can¹t talk to my Mom. Instead, I will be worrying about her wellbeing, because she has been held for over nine months in a detention center in China, simply for her belief in Falun Gong, a spiritual meditation practice banned by the communist regime.
On July 9, 2008, to “prepare” for the Olympics, about a dozen police broke into my parents’ home in Weifang, Shandong Province, and confiscated three laptops, two desktop computers, a digital camera, some bank deposits, Falun Gong informational materials and other personal belongings worth an estimated 50,000 yuan (about $7,000). On the same day, about 100 other Falun Gong practitioners were also arrested in the same city.
Three weeks later, on July 29, 2008, just one week before the Beijing Olympics, the police took away my parents while they were at a friend’s house, and held them in the Weifang City detention center. Afterwards, they ransacked my parents' house again and took many valuable personal belongings, including the rest of the bank deposits. My father was released one month later because he doesn’t practice Falun Gong, but my mother has been detained ever since.
This isn’t the first time that my mother has been persecuted for her belief. She has been practicing Falun Gong and following the core principles of its teachings—Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance—since 1995, when people from all walks of life were performing the Tai-chi like exercises in almost every park in China. As with millions of others, Falun Gong benefited my mom both mentally and physically, curing her dermatosis and greatly improving her disposition.
But the Communist Party, irrationally fearing that Falun Gong’s increasing popularity could be a potential threat to its power, banned it in 1999, and has been carrying out a ruthless campaign against it since then.
In January 2000, my mom and eight other Falun Gong practitioners began practicing the exercises quietly in a public square. After a few minutes, all of them were arrested and taken to a local police station. That night, they were detained in a cold cement cell that was less than nine square meters, where they were shocked with electric batons and beaten with spiked clubs.
After 11 days of torture, my mom had lost a front tooth, the skin all over her body was burned, and her legs were full of bruises and covered in blood. She was released after the police extorted 2,000 yuan (about US $300, more than a month’s average salary in that city) from my father.
During the past 9 months of detention, no family members were allowed to see my Mom. I don’t have any information about her. I am afraid they may be torturing her again. On many nights, I have awakened in tears after dreaming about her.
My mother isn¹t the only one in this situation. According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, over 8,000 Falun Gong practitioners throughout China were detained before and during the 2008 Olympics, and 104 were persecuted to death, which brings the total death toll to 3263 in the ten-year persecution.
It may be hard for people who live in the free world to imagine someone being persecuted for doing things we take for granted here, such as reading religious teachings, doing yoga-like exercises and downloading information about human rights from the Internet.
But that has not stopped many kind-hearted Americans from lending their generous support. From the 3,000 Missourians who signed petitions to rescue my Mom, to the 18 state representatives and senators, to Congressman Blunt, Congressman Clay, and Senator McCaskill, who wrote to the Chinese government or Secretary Clinton about my mother's case, I can see the spirit and founding principles that make this nation truly great. I am deeply touched by all the support given to me.
There are also many other sons and daughters whose mothers have been imprisoned, tortured and even killed in this persecution. Most of them endure their grief silently, as they are not as fortunate as I to have this opportunity to tell their mothers' stories.
May all the mothers who are prisoners of conscience be set free! This is my special wish on this Mother’s Day.
Jin Pang is a graduating MBA student in Missouri State University in Springfield, MO.