(Clearwisdom.net) Minghui correspondent Zheng Haishan reports:

Falun Gong practitioners recently held a press conference inside the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC, bringing media attention to one particular Chinese woman. She is in her late 40s but looks much younger. Her composed and gentle demeanor makes it hard to believe that she suffered tremendous physical torture and mental torment.

She is Li Weixun, from China's Shenyang City, who was illegally detained many times for her persistence in practicing Falun Gong. Ms. Li was savagely tortured in early January 2002 until she could not eat, move or speak. When she was at the brink of death, her family and friends went to great lengths for her to be released on medical parole. At home, the police had her under 24-hour surveillance, but she successfully escaped and went to Thailand where she applied for United Nations refugee status.

In July 2005, Congressman James Sensenbrenner, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to the bureau within the US State Department that is in charge of accepting refugees. He urged the State Department to give serious consideration to Falun Gong practitioners' applications for refugee status. The State Department replied that it would handle such cases in a timely manner.

On September 21, 2005, with help from the United Nations Refugee Agency and the US government, Li Weixun arrived in the USA. For her, finally obtaining freedom marked the end of several years in exile.

Recently a Minghui correspondent interviewed Ms. Li Weixun and asked her to relate her experiences of persecution and rescue.

Reporter: Can you tell us how you came to practice Falun Dafa?

Li Weixun: I had the great fortune to learn Falun Dafa in the spring of 1996. I had contracted rheumatism, tracheitis, heart disease and cerebral ischemia, among other conditions. My health deteriorated further after I gave birth. My back, pelvis and ankles swelled up. I even needed help turning over in bed. In the summer I always felt cold. I had to close all the windows and had to cover myself with a blanket. Medications stopped working. I was in great pain. I struggled and felt desperate.

After I started practicing Dafa, however, the illnesses that had tortured me for more than 30 years disappeared completely. The profound principles and the miraculous powers of Falun Dafa manifested through me.

I was calm and happy, and my family got along better. The relationship between my husband and me, my children, my mother-in-law, and my sisters-in-law also improved. I enjoyed life more than ever.

My whole family was surprised at the changes that came over me. Soon, my sister and son also started to practice Falun Gong. My mother-in-law had returned from visiting her daughter in Singapore. She had listened to Teacher's lecture cassettes with me three times. I taught her the exercises on July 19, 1999, but she quit the next day when the persecution began.

Reporter: After the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) started persecuting Falun Gong, you appealed to the government three times and were "illegally arrested" four times. Can you give us a detailed account of the fourth arrest, after which you were tortured until you were completely paralyzed, and how you escaped?

Li Weixun: On January 13, 2002, the authorities learned about the truth clarification materials production site where I volunteered. Several practitioners, including myself, were abducted and sent to the Lingkong Police Department in Tiexi, Shenyang City. We were not allowed to sleep for four days. They questioned us about the source of truth clarification materials and other people involved in making them.

I held a hunger strike to protest. I hadn't done anything wrong so I refused to answer their questions. The police folded a soft-cover book and hit my head with it. They handcuffed my hands behind a chair and lifted my arms until the handcuffs cut into my wrists and blood oozed out. They stepped on my toes with their hard boots and ground them back and forth. They kicked my ankles and shins and struck my shins with three-inch thick metal bars. I gritted my teeth and refused to talk to them.

The next day, two other perpetrators arrived and said they were not going to hit me, but they would torture me. They told me to squat and I refused. They squeezed my neck and shoulders and pushed me downward. I still refused to squat. One person yanked my shirt collar and tried to pull me down, and another person kicked the back of my knees. I stood straight. The taller of the two then viciously elbowed my spine and cervical vertebra.

I felt as if my chest had split open. As he struck me repeatedly, I heard a buzzing sound in my head and collapsed. They tugged the collar of my shirt and tried to make me squat, but I could not even stand up. I lost all feelings in my legs and couldn't help but lie on the ground.

Reporter: How did you get through such excruciating pain?

Li Weixun: I did not pay attention to the pain. I was thinking, "As a cultivator I didn't do anything wrong. Falun Dafa gave me a new life, so I cannot do anything that would hurt Dafa or fellow practitioners." I clearly felt the power of righteous thoughts, and it was this righteous belief that sustained me.

I'm quite calm when I look back at the tumultuous period I spent in China. My heart was calm. I didn't think much, but my mind was clear. Even when I walked in a noisy street, I felt as if I was alone in an open field. I felt as if I had melted into the environment and had become enormous...It's hard to describe that realm or state in words. I remember a letter I wrote to the provincial government. In it, I said, "the book Zhuan Falun teaches people to be good according to 'Truth, Compassion, Forbearance.' 'Truth, Compassion, Forbearance' is the characteristic of the universe. People who have learned the truth would not hesitate to give their lives to uphold it."

On the third day they brought in two roughnecks from the police department. When we met, one of them said to me, "I beat Zhong Hengjie to death." The other one said, "Beating a Falun Gong practitioner to death is nothing because it'll be counted as suicide." (Zhong Hengjie was a practitioner who lived in the same district as me. He was tortured to death in 2001, and the police falsely claimed that he committed suicide).

The guy who beat Zhong Hengjie to death manhandled me and hauled me in front of him. He slapped both sides of my face. I was extraordinarily calm because I had forgotten about life and death. I quietly looked at the murderer of Zhong Hengjie. The righteous thoughts of a cultivator are powerful, and it's especially miraculous at the moment of life and death. It was very quiet all around us and the air felt very thick. The murderer's hand stopped in midair.

Reporter: How did you get out of prison?

Li Weixun: After rounds of torture failed to destroy my will, on February 9, 2002, they issued an arrest warrant and planned to sentence me to prison. I refused to sign the warrant and the public prosecutor said, "We'll convict you, even if you don't sign it." Afterward I learned that they had sentenced me to 16 years in prison. At first I wanted to defend myself in court, but then I thought, "I should not acknowledge the illegal detention imposed on me. Prison is not where a good person belongs! I should get out and tell more people that Falun Gong has been wronged; Falun Gong teaches people to cultivate and be good."

In China's dark environment, the only way to get out of prison is through medical parole. Because of the long-term torture at the detention center, starting from February 17, I could not move my arms. Bumps appeared all over my body; the itching was so intense it could drive an ordinary person insane. Twenty days later I could not move my legs. My hands and feet swelled and the skin became transparent, with fluid accumulating underneath. Several days later I clenched my teeth and could not eat or speak. I lapsed into a coma and was sent to a hospital where the doctor issued a Notice of Critical State. In order to shirk responsibility, the Shenyang City 610 Office personnel reluctantly approved medical parole. When my family carried me, a mere skeleton at the time, into the car, I knew then that I had gotten out alive.

In fact, what I had experienced is only a tip of an iceberg of examples of the persecution of Falun Gong by the CCP. I did not get treated the worst, compared to what many other practitioners went through. The mental torment far exceeds physical torture.

Reporter: Can you explain why you think the mental torment is more severe than physical torture?

Li Weixun: In the persecution of Falun Gong, the CCP twists the facts and tries to force people to give up their belief and betray their conscience and principles, deceiving them with lies, brainwashing them with warped "logic," and by taking advantage of their love for their families. The feeling of mental devastation is bone-piercing.

I remember, after my third arrest I was taken to the basement at the Liaoning Province Liaison Office in Beijing. After dinner, the police officers there had "fun" by torturing us in all kinds of ways, including hanging us by our handcuffs, forcing us to squat with our arms stretched out and level to our shoulders. They were particularly brutal with the male practitioners. One newly married couple were both practitioners. The police tortured the husband in front of the wife so she was compelled to watch him suffer and hear him scream. They even asked her, "So, how do you feel?"

In November 1999 I was sent to the Danan Custody Center for having appealed for justice for Falun Gong. One day, my brother and my husband helped my mother as they came to the custody center. I was surprised to see them. My heart was trembling as I saw the tears on my mother's face. She said to me, "Fu (my pet name), just write it [guarantee statement to renounce Falun Gong] so we can go home, OK? Listen to me!" I choked back tears and answered, "Mom, I didn't do anything wrong, I can't write it."

"I'll kneel before you!" I held her and said, "Mom, please don't. I became healthy and happy through Falun Gong practice, and you know it. Mom, what I did was completely legal. They are the ones breaking the law!" My mother left crying. As I watched her leave my heart was bleeding. Why is this happening? A political party is violating the constitution by abusing its power, and it's forcing people to choose between conscience and love for their family. How cruel! How heartless!

The most detrimental form of mental torment is the so-called "reform." One Falun Gong practitioner who was "reformed" at a prison realized what had happened soon after being released. He said, "At that time I was an empty shell. It was worse than being dead." I was deeply moved by those words and cannot help but cry even as I recall them today. The reason man is man is because he has a soul. Without his spirit or consciousness he is a walking corpse. The so-called "reform" is a tactic to force people to give up their soul with torture and lies. Some Falun Gong practitioners had nervous breakdowns because the mental torment was too much for them.

All of the mind-twisting and murderous methods the CCP has accumulated through decades of political movements are put to full use in the persecution of Falun Gong. For example, they don't allow people to sleep for very long periods of time, until they lose the ability to think rationally. Then they deceive them with lies or torture them physically to make them give up their beliefs. Their goal is to destroy your will.

This mental devastation not only targets Falun Gong practitioners; almost all Chinese people are also victimized. I remember after the persecution started on July 20, 1999, no one dared to talk to Falun Gong practitioners and no one publicly dared to mention Falun Gong. Is it that none of them can tell right from wrong? No. After decades of brainwashing by the CCP, many Chinese people have grown indifferent when confronted with issues of conscience and justice. Knowing about the brutal repression of the "Great Cultural Revolution" and so many other "movements" in China's recent past, the Chinese people feel tremendous fear when they hear the words "political movement." And they know that the persecution of Falun Gong is exactly this, another of the CCP's "political movements," so they stay away from the whole thing in fear for their own personal interests. Amid the fear, the standard for judging right and wrong is no longer important because people's hearts and minds have been polluted.

After I was released on medical parole, my family knew that after recovery I would be abducted again. My father said to me, "You should go serve your sentence and get out after your term expires." I was upset, because I know no normal and rational person would want his innocent family member incarcerated. But my father worked as a public prosecutor for the CCP, and in that dark environment, his mind had become polluted to such an extent.

Reporter: Was your family implicated during the persecution against you?

Li Weixun: After I was abducted for appealing in Beijing, my family did not live another day in peace. My employer fired and expelled me from the Party. I lost my job. My employers used me as an example and attacked me for one week on the company radio, Cultural-Revolution-style, that broadcast to more than 30,000 employees. They issued a classified document to various departments, Party committees and Party offices. My husband and several of my relatives worked in the same company as me. I can imagine the frustration they must have experienced. My husband was subjected to great pressure, because the Party officials called him over for a "talk" and they told him to perform "mental reform work" on me. He went against the current and tried his best to protect me and tried to bottle it up at home. He had reached his limits.

Officials from the Street Party Committee and the local police department often harassed me at home, particularly on holidays and so-called "sensitive" days. They told my mother-in-law, "Your daughter-in-law practices Falun Gong, so all of you family members are also considered to be counterrevolutionary." My mother-in-law was so frightened she became incontinent. We had no choice but to send her to live with her daughter, and I was forced to live with my parents. They didn't spare my children, either. They went to my children's school and monitored and harassed them. During the past few years my children didn't even dare to call me "mom" when we spoke on the phone. My family was broken.

My family was persecuted because I escaped while on medical parole. The day of my escape my sister-in-law was abducted and taken to the police department. The head of the Street Party Committee beat her and injured her arm(s). My family got her back in the evening. They searched the homes of all of my relatives including my parents, my brother and my sister-in-law. They sent six people to monitor the homes of my parents and of my brother.

To avoid additional persecution I lived with a remote cousin. One day, a classmate of my cousin's son visited him. He thought the man was a plainclothes police officer and was frightened out of his wits. I looked at his face and knew that I had to leave and live in exile.

In fact, what my family went through only partially reflects what hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners' families have endured. This persecution has affected the families and relatives of 100 million Falun Gong practitioners, and hundreds of thousands of families have been driven apart.

(To be continued)