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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
'Why do they persecute us?'
mo zhengfang and baby
Mo Zhengfang was locked up when pregnant
The day after China banned the Falun Gong spiritual movement, Mr Wang, a mild-mannered businessman, went to Tiananmen Square to protest about the crackdown.

He was arrested and sent to a labour camp where he was repeatedly beaten. "When he came out his legs were swollen and he had bruising to his face," says his daughter Lily.

Arrest in Tiananmen Square
Thousands of people have been rounded up
"They kept saying, 'Have you given up?' And he said no and they beat him."

Mr Wang was released after a month, but his name was added to a blacklist and he was warned he faced five years in jail if caught practising Falun Gong.

Last year he escaped to another country, but Lily won't say which.

Her mother was forced to go into hiding with her children, but the police tracked her down and now keep threatening to send her to jail.

She is under constant monitoring and the phone is bugged. "She is absolutely terrified," says Lily, 16, who now studies in London.

We know more than 100 people have been tortured to death, but we think the number may be three times higher

Mo Zhengfang, practitioner
Falun Gong combines gentle meditative exercises with teachings loosely based in Buddhism and Taoism.

The Wang family became converts four years ago, but in 1999 the Chinese Government banned the movement after becoming alarmed by its rapid growth.

Since then the police have rounded up thousands of practitioners. Many have been sent to prison without trial - a form of punishment known as "re-education through labour".

Last year Lily left her close-knit family to move to Britain where she hopes to study information technology.

"If I did Falun Gong at university in China they would kick me out," she says. "My parents cannot see any future for me there. But I am very homesick."


Gao Yudong, another practitioner in London, fears she could be putting her family in China at risk by speaking out. But she insists on telling her story.

Gao Yudong
Gao Yudong worried about going home
"People don't know what's going on in China so I have a responsibility to try to stop the persecution," she says.

This year Yudong's husband, Bing, and their son were supposed to visit for Chinese New Year, but the police stopped them leaving the country at the last minute.

He was told that practitioners were not allowed to go abroad in case they applied for political asylum.

A fortnight before he had been due to fly, Bing, a software engineer, had let friends use the family's Beijing home while he was away on business.

I'm afraid that if I speak it could bring dangers for my family

Gao Yudong
"When he got home, he found our flat was in a complete mess with bloodstains on the floor," says his wife.

"He was told the police had searched our flat and arrested the Falun Gong practitioner who was staying there."

Bing has since lost his work and his flat - in China employees often get accommodation along with their job.

"He's very frightened," says his wife. "My family is now jobless and homeless like millions of Falun Gong families in China."

But Yudong says there are many others worse off. She tells the story of her friend's father, a once highly respected army major who, at the age of 73, was jailed for 17 years.

Falun Gong practitioners
The movement emerged in 1992
His crime was to edit the works of Falun Gong's leader, Li Hongzhi. The trial was held behind closed doors and he is now in a high security prison, she says.

Later this year Yudong, 37, will return to China where she holds a prestigious job in the IT industry.

"I'm worried about what will happen when I go back," she says. "There may be trouble if I speak out, but I know what I have done is not wrong."


While Yudong would like to return to China, another practitioner living in Britain may not be able to.

Mo Zhengfang's problems started when she and her husband went to Beijing in December 1999 to show solidarity with fellow Falun Gong followers.

Cancelled registration document for Zhengfang's baby Ming Hui
Zhengfang's daughter Ming Hui is stateless
They were arrested in their hotel room. Zhengfang was eight months pregnant, but that did not spare her a kicking by the police.

The couple were detained for a week and despite her condition and the sub-zero temperatures, she was made to sleep on a concrete floor in a cell with no toilet or bedding.

"If they found anyone practising they would handcuff them to a pillar outside and whip them - I saw this happen," she says. The temperature outside was minus 10 degrees.


The couple were eventually expelled and returned to their home in Scotland. "The police in China said if we came back they would send us to labour camp," says Zhengfang, 30, who studies computing in Dundee.

President Jiang Zemin is worried we're a political organisation - we're not

Gao Yudong
A few months after giving birth Zhengfang went to the Chinese Embassy in Britain to register her baby daughter and get her name added to her passport.

She was told she would have to write a statement renouncing Falun Gong. She refused.

Her passport has now been confiscated and her baby is stateless. The family is applying for political asylum.

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See also:

26 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong: Living in fear
22 Jul 99 | Asia-Pacific
The complex Web of Falun Gong
21 Nov 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
China's perplexing crackdown
22 Jul 99 | Monitoring
Text of notice banning sect
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