July 15, 2001

LAFAYETTE - For more than six months, Danielle Wang, 21, has not heard from her father. 'I dare not imagine how much he has suffered,' Wang said at a rally Saturday at Girard Park held to call attention to the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China.

Wang, a student at the University of Texas in Austin, said her father was jailed because he is a Falun Gong volunteer who helped others to learn the practice - which is an ancient practice of refining the body and mind through special exercise and meditation. The student said her father was arrested on July 20, 1999. 'He was sentenced to 16 years in jail,' she said.

The Chinese police did not notify Wang's family about why her father was arrested or of his sentencing, she said 'In December of 1999, they showed him on a televised court proceeding and he was sentenced,' Wang said. 'I could not believe the person was my father. His hair was all white.' Chinese President Jiang Zemin has banned the practice of Falun Gong in China - which had an estimated 10 million participants.

According to Wang and others, the government has tortured and killed those people who refuse to renounce their involvement with the practice. The rally held Saturday is part of a 1,500-mile journey by Chinese Americans to call attention to the plight of Falun Gong practitioners in China. The event will culminate with a rally in Washington, D.C., on July 19.

Hongyi Pan said his group wants residents in the United States to write their representatives and ask them to put pressure on China to stop the abuses. 'We want to present the facts about it and let everybody know what is going on,' Pan said. Houston resident Jack Xiong, 26, said the government of China is attempting to hide the atrocities.

'Increasingly the victims of persecution are women, the elderly and even the disabled,' Xiong said. 'Equally alarming in all this is that in the face of international criticism China's leadership has not shown remorse or concern. Instead it has made a policy of denial and doubled its efforts to cover up its rampant human rights abuses against Falun Gong - abuses that now include 250 murders.'

According to Pan, many Chinese citizens who are caught practicing Falun Gong have been placed in labor camps. 'The persecution is escalating to a situation where it could be a Holocaust or what (Adolf) Hitler did to the Jewish people,' he said. 'It is hard to imagine in this modern time that it would be happening again.' The group is traveling to Baton Rouge and then to New Orleans before going to Washington, D.C., Pan said.