Italy: Our Passport Extensions were Unreasonably Denied by the Chinese Consulate in Milan (Photos)
Tormented by various illnesses, healed by practising Falun Dafa
I am Zhang Guifen, a resident of Italy. My husband and I have engaged in scientific research since our university graduation in 1964. Due to a heavy workload, I suffered from a multitude of ailments including arthritis, osteophytosis, numbness of the limbs etc and could not continue my work. I took early retirement in October 1991. My husband Lan Jianhua suffered a heart attack in 1986. Although his life was saved, he had to rely on imported medicines. He saw many medical experts, but his illness could not be cured. Our medical bills were often in the range of 2000-3000 Chinese Yuan, but our combined monthly salary then was only a little more than 200 Yuan. Because our work unit was not doing well, it was extremely difficult to claim the cost of our medical bills.
We visited many Chinese and Western medical experts in the country. They could only manage to relieve our suffering a little bit, but could not cure our illnesses. At the time of my early retirement, I needed to see doctors almost every week and my arthritis became more serious. I couldn't manage my own daily life. My hands were so weak that I didn't have strength to open the door. My husband's health also deteriorated rapidly and showed symptoms of skin cancer.
Amidst this extremely difficult situation, our friends recommended that we try out qigong in the park. We tried a few qigong methods, but they were of no effect. The inter-personal relations among these qigong practitioners were very complicated. I started to look for a cultivation way that suited me. At that particular time, a friend of mine loaned me a book titled China Falun Gong. I finished the book overnight and realised this was the cultivation way for me because the principle of Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance described in the book was truly convincing and it was said that the practise was also effective for curing arthritis and heart disease. My husband also found it very good after reading the book. Thus we started practising Falun Gong in the morning of the 17th of August 1993. In late August, we attended the lecture given by our teacher Li Hongzhi. Our physical bodies changed wonderfully. For example the problem of not being able to touch cold water due to arthritis disappeared and I no longer felt dizzy and nauseous when raising my arms. With the continuous practising and reading Falun Gong books, all our decade-long ailments disappeared. Our bodies felt so light and relaxed and we really tasted the wonderful feeling of no-illness. We also gradually learned that this was cultivation. We had to cultivate according to the universal characteristics of Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance, and become a good person, a better person and ultimately a selfless person. I understood the principles of how to become an honest person, a kind and tolerant person and a person with the highest moral standards.
Between 1993 and July 1999, we kept up practising outdoors in the park all the time without being worried by rain and wind. Since Falun Gong's public introduction in 1992, by word of mouth, the number of people practising Falun Gong around us increased greatly. We personally experienced the changes Falun Gong brought to society, and ourselves and it played a very positive role in social stability. Officials and people at all levels also saw and acknowledged this fact.
Our passport renewal was unreasonably denied, police expressed sympathy when learning the facts
We were Chinese passport holders and our passports were to expire on the 17th of December 2001. In order to keep our passports valid, we went to the Chinese Consulate in Milan in advance on the 13th November 2001 and delivered to the Consulate application forms, our photos, a copy of the certificate of residence and our passports. The embassy official Fu Zhongyang gave us a collection receipt with no collection date on it. When we asked him when we could collect our passports, he replied that our situation was special and we had to wait for a phone call. When we asked what was special with us, he refused to answer.
A few days later, we made an enquiry by phone to the Consulate using the contact number on the receipt; the embassy staff replied that our applications were not on their computer. On the 14th of December 2001, we went to the Chinese Consulate to enquire about our passport renewal, the then first Consul Liang Haitao received us and he told us that if we could write a letter stating that we would "not damage the image of China" [implying that practising Falun Gong, and appealing for justice for the detained practitioners in China was damaging the image of China], then our passport renewal could be processed. We asked for the reason, and he replied that whoever the Consulate thinks its necessary to write to we will have to write to and cited the example that if a Chinese woman gave birth illegally in Italy, she would have to write such a statement. We violated neither Chinese Laws nor Italian Laws and refused to write such a statement. Through the talking, he finally told us that because we are Falun Gong practitioners, our passport could not be renewed.
Later we made a few phone calls to Liang Haitao. He told us "this situation cannot be decided by me. Only if you write a statement can we process the renewal." On the morning of March 22nd 2002, we received a phone call from Liang Haitao saying that we could collect our passports. At 10:20 am of the 25th March 2002, we arrived at the Chinese Consulate in Milan and waited in the queue to collect our passports. There were many people that day. About 12:00 am, there were still more than ten people in front of us and a Consul Mr Fu called out our names. We gave him our collection receipt and our passports were given back. However we found out that our passports were not renewed. We asked him "why give back to us unprocessed passports?", he did not answer and asked us to wait. We waited for a while, and nobody came to see us. We then went to ask Mr Fu again. He said he just came to the Consulate and didn't know the reason. I told him that it was Liang Haitao who informed us to come to collect our passports. He said he didn't know where Liang Haitao was. However we just saw Liang Haitao leaving this area a minute ago and we demanded Mr Fu to contact him.
After a while, Liang Haitao came back. We asked him for an explanation why our passports were not renewed, he did not answer directly, and instead said "I have told you before." After a while, he still didn't want to answer us. We said to him, "Our passports were given to you on the 13th of November 2001. Today is the March 25th 2002. Our passports had stayed with you for five months. When the passports were given to you, they were still valid. Now they have expired. Please could you write us a letter stating the date of our passport delivery and the date of their collection." He refused to do so. We then demanded the return of our passport renewal application forms (which contained our photos) or a copy of them. He went inside, and then came out and told us it was not possible. We told him their action was very unreasonable. He then told us, "You can go back to China and sue us in the Foreign Office." He threatened us many times, saying, "You must leave immediately, otherwise I will take some measures." There were about twenty Chinese and Western people in the Consulate. Liang Haitao angrily said in front of all these people, "I am not a Falun Gong member." He called in the Embassy guard and the local police. We told him publicly that we are Falun Dafa practitioners, Falun Dafa is righteous, and there is nothing wrong to be a good person according to the principle of Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance, and there are over 100 million people in over sixty countries cultivating Falun Dafa.
Soon three police cars arrived with two guards and four police officers. After their investigation, the police concluded that our action was proper. The guards wrote down our passport numbers and the event process and said that they were willing to provide a statement of the event. We parted with the police at 13:30.