Call from a Chinese Couple in the UK: Give Back our Daughter's Right to a Nationality
My name is Zhengfang Mo. I am now studying in a master's program in the UK, and my husband is working as a manager of a Chinese restaurant. We have a daughter called Minghui, who is almost two years old now. Like other children, she often has a lovely smile on her tender face, and is full of love and hope. But, unlike other children, she has been deprived of her right to a nationality.
Little Minghui with her parents.
On June 30, 2000 (Friday), after a one-week holiday in Geneva, Switzerland, my husband and I, together with Minghui (then only five months old) were on our way back to Britain. To our great shock, we were told at the Geneva airport that our daughter could not go back to Britain with just a UK birth certificate. Though we took her into Switzerland with just a birth certificate, she couldn't go back without a UK visa. We didn't know what to do. Fortunately, with the help of an elderly practitioner who could speak English, French and German, we learned that we needed to get our daughter registered on our passports at the Chinese embassy, and then to apply for a UK visa at the UK embassy.
Looking at our daughter, who had come down with a fever and rashes all over, I couldn't hold back my tears, as we had to stay in a completely unfamiliar country.
After a weekend that seemed like ages, we arrived at the Chinese Embassy in Switzerland, which is located in Berne. We explained our situation to the registrar, and provided all the relevant documents. She then told us, smilingly, that they could register our daughter on our passports, and that it would take only half an hour. She even tried to console us and asked us to take it easy. However, one hour later, when she appeared before us again, her face turned serious and gloomy. She then said, "We cannot register your daughter!" When asked why, she said, "You should go to register at the Chinese Embassy in London. You should register where your daughter was born!" We asked her to show us the stipulations in writing, explaining that we could not go back to Britain without a visa for Minghui. But she replied, "We won't show you any stipulations. You can go back the way you came here!" I couldn't even believe what I heard! How could such cold and heartless words be coming from one of our compatriots in our own embassy!
Disappointed, we went back to the Geneva airport. At that time, a practitioner in Geneva called us to say that we could stay at her home if we couldn't get back. She also encouraged us to be strong, and to overcome the difficulties. I was once again in tears, this time out of gratitude. á
At the airport, with little Minghui in my arms, we explained our situation to a lady working with the airline, and asked her to explain to the customs officials. Minghui kept smiling at her while we were talking. Maybe she was moved by the feverish little girl and our ordeal, because she called the UK immigration authorities and told them the story, including the way the Chinese embassy handled our request. The immigration officer asked us some relevant questions on the phone, and then said we would be allowed to enter the UK. She also made special arrangement for someone to get us through the border control. I didn't expect that it would be the people and government of foreign countries that extended their warm helping hands when we needed help.
On July 24, 2000, my husband and I went to the Chinese Embassy in London to register our daughter. We submitted all relevant materials, including my passport. The Embassy workers said my daughter would be registered as an accompanying child on my passport in three days. However, a few days later, when a friend of mine went to the Embassy to get the passport on my behalf (I was not in London at the time), the Embassy refused to give her the passport. Moreover, the Embassy asked for her name, and checked her out carefully before telling her "You are OK." But she was told to inform me that the embassy wanted to talk with me face-to-face. Therefore, my husband and I went to the embassy again on August 24. A gentleman named Du told me that I had to write a confession about Falun Gong, which would be sent to China's Ministry of Public Security for approval. Before it could be approved, my daughter could not be registered. We were also told that our daughter could never be registered or get her own passport if we refused to give up Falun Gong. As this is something I would never do, I asked them to return my passport to me so that I could apply for an extension to my student visa, which was soon to expire at the end of September. But I was told this had to be approved of by the Ministry of Public Security, too!
We could never have expected that something as simple and reasonable as this could not be done for us simply because we were practitioners of Falun Gong. What was even more outrageous was that even a little baby was deprived of her basic right to citizenship! Back home, I could not get over my shock and grief. What could be wrong about practicing Falun Gong? Why should people be banned from being good people? My thoughts went back to the past. On a day in March, 1998, concerned with my poor health, my mother introduced Falun Gong to me. Though various kinds of Qigong exercises had been in vogue in China for a long time, my mother had never advised me to practice any of them. As I liked reading books, I accepted Zhuan Falun from her. As soon as I started reading, I was shocked by what was written in this book about cultivation practice! Though I had a great interest in reading and collecting books, I knew that this book was different from any other book that I had ever read in my whole life. Then I tried to do as the book taught me to do. After only a short while, I found myself free from all the ailments I had, and felt light and energized. At the same time, my mentality also changed greatly. I changed from a person who had been completely disappointed by society and who would only trust herself, to one who was tolerant of others and who would like to work for others and be a good person. I was very happy with these changes, because once again I was leading the active life to which I had always aspired.
Now, my daughter did not have a nationality, and my passport had also been confiscated. By doing this, the Chinese government wanted to force us into an extremely difficult situation, and then force us to give up our belief in Falun Dafa. Completely helpless, I had to ask for help from my MP and the UK Foreign Office, telling them our story. Obviously, the Chinese Embassy in London had seriously violated Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations:
1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.
2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
The MP was quick to help. But only on September 15, 44 days after we applied for the registration, did I get back my passport. To our surprise, we found that they did register my daughter on August 1, but later cancelled it. There were three red "cancelled" stamps on that page. When a kind policeman who came to understand my situation saw that page, he said angrily, "I really want to go to knock at the door of the Chinese embassy, and use my loudest voice to question them. My colleagues were also extremely indignant when they heard of this." He told us not to hesitate to ask for his help should we need any. He also said, "If someone wants to retaliate or harass you, call the police and the police will guarantee your security." From then on, he actually came regularly to ask whether we needed any help and whether we had been harassed. I was grateful from the bottom of my heart to all these people for their kindness and sense of justice.
This situation also makes it impossible for us to reunite with our family in China. Our parents are all very keen to see their granddaughter, but she cannot go back to her native land. Every time I call home, my mother asks me about Minghui, because she is concerned about whether I can handle her well, as this is my first child. Therefore, we have to mail some pictures of Minghui back home so as to relieve my parents of their concerns.
One year has passed, but my daughter is still stateless. We have never given up our efforts to win back her basic human rights to a citizenship. In September of this year, I, together with my 21-month-old daughter, went on a 3000-mile trans-UK SOS car journey to call for urgent help for Minghui and Falun Gong practitioners in China. To our gratification, the people and local governments of all the places that we visited gave us a lot of support, care and encouragement. Moreover, we received over a hundred reply letters and signed petition letters. Particularly, our current MP has been a great help. He proposed an Early Day Motion in the Parliament, requesting the British government to help Minghui get a Chinese passport and to pay more attention to the human rights situation in China, including that of Falun Gong practitioners. By now, thanks to his efforts, 56 members of parliament have signed this motion, and it will be discussed in the parliament.
At the same time, the story of our daughter born stateless has received a lot of attention from the British public, with many media organizations reporting about it. The biggest women's magazine carried a cover story about us. BBC on line and BBC Radio did a 30-minute special report. The Daily Record, the biggest newspaper in Scotland, and some major local newspapers and radio stations, also reported Minghui's story. We often meet British people who tell us they have read relevant reports and who wish us good luck.
Some Chinese people have said to me, "Why don't you just write a "guarantee" [to stop practicing Falun Gong] for the embassy, and then go on practicing after getting the registration?" áBut this would mean giving up our beliefs and trading it for something else. If I did this, I would have betrayed the belief that I chose myself, betrayed my own efforts toward "Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance," and also I would have become a hypocritical and corrupted person. When Minghui grows up, how could I tell her about it as a mother? How could I tell her that her Mother got her a passport by cheating and succumbing to powerful rogues? By doing that, what would I be teaching her? On the contrary, I want to be able to tell her righteously in the future, "Your Mother never gave up Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance, never lost her conscience as a person or her courage to safeguard justice, even when threatened by the power of government.
Our little Minghui will not just learn from my husband and me. She will learn the virtues of helping others and safeguarding justice and goodness from all those who have been helping her. Personal examples are powerful. In the future, she will also become such a person, because this incident will undoubtedly influence her whole life. Therefore, hereby I want to extend my heart-felt gratitude to all those who have helped and supported us. Your benevolent actions will influence the future human race, and help shape a wonderful future for the people of the world.