(Clearwisdom.net) My name is Zhang Aiqin and I am a Falun Gong practitioner. In 1998, my husband and I were deceived while doing business and we lost a lot money. The stress to making a living was causing disharmony in my family and my husband and I were about to get divorced. It was very painful for both of us due to the pressures inside and outside our family. In March of 1999, I began to practice Falun Gong. The principles of "Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance" taught me how one should behave as a person. Since then, I tried to be a good person according to these principles. My family was once again in harmony and I felt very relaxed and happy in my heart.

On July 20th of 1999, China's Communist regime started the persecution of Falun Gong. In order to persuade me to stop practicing Falun Gong, my husband picked up and read Falun Gong's books to try to find the contents the television was advertising. But after he read the books, he understood that the Communists were just lying to everyone on television. He understood the truth and also began to practice Falun Gong. Soon, he quit smoking and drinking alcohol, as well as other bad habits, and our family was even more harmonious.

In 2000, my husband and I both went to Russia. We were doing business there and we always treated our Russian customers fairly and in an upright manner. This is because Master told us that we must consider others no matter what we do. After we left the market, many customers were trying to find us and buy from us again.

In the end of 2001, I came back to China. I went to see a fellow practitioner who was just released from jail. Her home was monitored and therefore I was illegally arrested by the police. This fellow practitioner and I were both put in jail. She was trying to argue with the police, telling them that they should not arrest people for no reason and she was brutally beaten as a result. I still remember when we were in the police car, and her 12-year-old son yelled "Mom!" and ran after the police car barefoot in the snow.

There were two other Falun Gong practitioners in the cell where I was held. One's name was Shen Jing'e. Over the past two years, she had been arrested 14 times and she resisted the persecution with 14 hunger strikes. Before practicing Falun Gong, she had breast cancer and had had two major surgeries. The doctors told her that there was no hope for her to live. After she began practicing Falun Gong, she was cured. She went to Beijing to appeal for justice for Falun Gong and was captured and sent back. After that, she was arrested whenever it was a holiday. This time, the police pried her door open and carried her into the police car. When I was first arrested, she was in the middle of a hunger strike and she was so skinny.

One evening, the jail forced her to take shots. Four or five guards were holding her down. I said to the guards, "How could you treat her like this?"The police cursed at me vehemently. Ms. Shen later was sentenced to forced labor for three and a half years and was sent to Harbin Forced Labor Camp. Her body was so weak due to several years of torture and she passed away only half a year after she got out of the forced labor camp.

The other practitioner in my cell was often brutally beaten by the guards. When I first saw her, her face was badly swollen. It looked quite frightening. Later I got to know that she was arrested when she went to a rural area to pass out flyers. A group of people brutally beat her and then took her to the police station. At the time, most of the Chinese people were fooled by the propaganda on television. The media was instigating the use of violence against the compassionate Falun Gong practitioners. There was another elderly practitioner who was arrested about the same time as me. She was over 60 years old. Just because she would not give up her belief, she was arrested four times that year. There was one time that the police arrested her from her home, and a police who was in his twenties kept slapping the elderly practitioner's face in the police car, all the way to the police station.

We went on several hunger strikes to protest our illegal detention. Every time, it was very painful. We did it three times, the first time lasted 18 days, and the other two over 20 days. The police in the detention center said to us, "It's no use. Higher officials told us that if you die, it counts as suicide." They tried to trick us by telling us that there was only one thing we needed to do in order to get released, and that is to agree to write the agreement to be "transformed" and to agree to not practice Falun Gong. They threatened that if we refused to write it, then we would be held forever. When I was in a middle of a hunger strike, my family came to see me. They tried to persuade me to give up cultivation and give up my belief. They cried in front of me. Afterwards when I was walking back to my cell, a female guard pointed at the jail door as well as the path outside the jail and said to me, "If you write an agreement now, you can leave with your family immediately." I walked toward the jail door. Falun Gong teaches people to become good. I will not give up my belief.

The next night, loud painful cries woke us up. The guards were beating someone in the cell next to ours. That was a male cell. We listened and figured out that two practitioners had just gotten arrested. They were caught when they were passing out flyers about the persecution. The police ordered the other prisoners to beat the Falun Gong practitioners as hard as they could, promising that if the prisoners followed their orders, they could be released early. The fellow practitioners' screams were really breaking my heart. I was in jail for three months. My family spent a lot of money and agreed to not let me go to Beijing to appeal, and finally with the help of some connections, I was released to go home. That year my daughter was 5 years old.

Several months later, I went abroad with my husband's help. That painful experience of my detention forced my husband to not let me go back to China. We went to central Russia to continue our business. In 2002, I got pregnant. Just at the time when my boss took my legal passport to apply for residency, it was voided by the local immigration office. Then we heard that state security in China was going to come to Russia to arrest me. At the time I really felt helpless. I could not go back to China, and I did not have the legal status to stay in Russia. Because I had no legal personal identity, we began a homeless kind of life. The passport system in Russia is extremely strict, and the police frequently searched everyone's home. Three of us were just hiding here and there with the help of many kind people. Because our passports were invalid, the local office would not give legal status to our child, though he was born in Russia. He is now 6 years old, but he cannot go to kindergarten, nor can he play with other kids.

For several years, we have not walked freely on a Russian street. We did not know how to resolve our identity issue. The boss of the market that we worked at knew that we are good people, but he was afraid of the Communist party and was afraid that he would be implicated since we practice Falun Gong. Thus in 2007, he took away our business spot and told us to leave the market. On the Internet we got to know that we could apply for refugee status. Three of us then came to Moscow. It took a year and a half, and with the help of the Refugee Agency, the U.S. officially accepted us. However, the Russian Immigration Office insisted that there is no persecution in China and refused to give us documents for exiting Russia.

I have a daughter in China who is now 12 years old and we have not seen each other for seven years. My parents are both almost 80 years old. My elderly father cries every time I call home. They worry that they will never see me again in their lifetimes. My husband lost his father when he was young and his mother loves him dearly. She often thinks about my husband and cannot go to sleep. She had surgery for breast cancer before and still needs to bear the burden of taking care of my daughter.

Who would ever want to live a homeless life in a foreign country with constant worries of being arrested by Russian police? But due to the persecution, we cannot go back to China and we cannot take care of our young daughter and elderly parents! The persecution from the Communist party has never stopped even for a day.

I lived in a small county in China and even in this small county, by 2003, there were 20 Falun Gong practitioners put in forced labor camp and more than 70 people arrested. But the persecution in my county is only a small glimpse into the overall persecution.