August 3, 2001

( People see pictures of Tan Yongjie, knowing that cruel tortures were inflicted upon him. Even so prepared, they are still shocked. More than fifty days ago, officers in a labor camp in China branded him with a hot iron bar, deeply burning him over a dozen times on his legs. Despite these extensive third-degree burns, he not only survived but also managed to escape, crossing an ocean and half a continent, alone. His courageous and miraculous arrival here in the heart of the United States has amazed many people.

How can a person endure such cruel torture? While his bladder refused to hold urine because of the severe burns on his legs, what supported him? When we asked him this, he told us, "Falun Dafa is a righteous practice. Believing in Falun Dafa is not wrong. How can we give up our belief simply because of vicious persecution?" He refused to respond whenever a Chinese officer or captain beat him, tortured him, or threatened him. No order of theirs could force him to write the "repentance statement." Tan said, "The only response I would allow myself to give was the refusal. Since I didn't want to respond, I just kept silence." His firm belief in Falun Dafa gave him the extraordinary will to persevere even under tremendous pain.

After the branding, the captains on guard saw both his legs were too badly injured for movement. Tan was ordered to watch the labor camp's orchard. Even Tan Yongjie himself didn't believe he could escape. He said, "The farm land was large. Indeed it was hard to run away. I didn't know where I got the courage to run away the second night of watching (June 3). At that time, it was very difficult for me to walk. I used a wooden stick as a crutch and by hobbling on my injured legs left the farm. I could barely walk a mile each night. During the day, I worried about being chased, so I hid myself in the brush, and ate a few broken pieces of sugarcane left by mice. Then I walked again at night. On June 5, I got onto a tractor and finally left that hell-hole."

He hid that day in a deserted construction. An opening came: he climbed into a cargo truck, and later found himself in Hong Kong. Tan knew that, badly injured as he was, he couldn't stay long. He wanted to get onto a ship and leave China. Otherwise he might be seized and sent back. A few attempts from one wharf proved he would not be able to simply walk aboard. He put some bread and water in a plastic bag and sneaked onto a cargo ship. For two weeks, he would battle the pain and danger of his untreated burns, and the nausea of sea-sickness and hunger.

To avoid discovery, he stayed inside the full cargo-hold. It was pitch black, grimy, and humid. The ocean waves jerked the ship unpredictably in all directions. Tan found himself jolting and wobbling beyond reckoning. His brain stayed in a semi-conscious condition for long period of time. The thunder of the shifting metal cargo containers woke him momentarily from this stupor. Meanwhile, though, the dozen blistered burns tormented him. He said, "Had I not cultivated Falun Dafa, I could absolutely not have imagined surviving. During the days in the ship, since I couldn't practice my exercises, I just tried to keep myself calm as if I were doing the exercises, and kept remembering paragraphs in Zhuan Falun."

The contest of will against circumstance intensified. Even rationed out miserly, his food and water ran out in the last few days. Just as Tan was about to collapse from exhaustion, the ship docked in port. Getting off was a struggle, even walking was a great difficulty, but he made it to dry land. After such long darkness and unsteadiness, Tan almost fainted from the strength of the sunshine. His lips shed off two layers of skin while a kind driver brought him from Los Angeles towards Florida, dropping him off in Houston. When we first saw him in Houston Park Plaza Hospital, amnesia from the built-up trauma still blocked most of his memory of the past two months.

We visit him often as his amnesia eases. He is very happy for the company of fellow Falun Gong practitioners. He is easy-going, gentle, and kind to others no matter how he has been treated. He continues to take his injuries, pains, and near-fatal tribulations lightly, with no concern for money or fame. He had greatly impressed the local people who have met him, whether policemen, doctors, nurses, charity organization personnel, social workers, or fellow practitioners.

Because of his miraculous experience and his forgiveness, many people want to help Tan Yongjie not just out of sympathy, but from deep attraction to his spirit and unusual will. His compassion, tolerance, and positive spirit are shared visibly by countless Falun Gong practitioners despite the vicious abuse he has suffered. By contrast, those inflicting injury on Falun Gong practitioners and supporters, through malicious slander, propaganda, and torture, have completely revealed their evil, their corruption, and their deviation. Practitioners have thus won people's hearts and their respect and admiration towards Falun Dafa.