September, 2001

Jane Liang wasn't smiling when she heard China had won the race to host the Olympics in 2008. The gathering of the world's top athletes in Beijing, will bring enormous prestige to her native country-but Chinese-born Jane, 37, was struck by the terrible irony of it.

Eighteen months ago, the Chinese authorities sentenced her younger [...] sister without trial to two years in a labour camp simply for exercising. Jane's now a British citizen. She moved here 13 years ago when her husband Lishao, 37, got a job as a university lecturer and they have a daughter Linshao who's eight. Jane and her sister were close as children and Jane missed her being so many miles away. "I last saw [her] five years ago but we spoke regularly on the phone," says Jane, an office worker from Nottingham. "When she was arrested. I was shocked. I knew about the brutality in the camps and my blood ran cold. I vowed to do everything I could to help. The last time we'd talked, she told me she was getting married." [She] was arrested and sent to the labour camp on February 23 2000. The exercises that had so outraged the Chinese authorities are known as Falun Gong. Like T'ai Chi, they're performed as an outdoor group activity and combine slow movements with [...] meditation. Followers also try to live by Falun Gong's founding principles of truth, compassion, and forbearance. It's a non-religious, non-political movement which was incredibly popular in China with 70 million practitioners by 1999, but it was seen as a threat by the Chinese government, which banned Falun Gong in July 1999.

Jane's sister, 33, had taken up Falun Gong on Jane's advice in 1998. Aware of demanding accountancy job, Jane suggested it as a way for relieving stress. "I told her how it had helped get my life back on track," she says. [She] then began exercising outdoors with friends. In February last year, Jane called her for a chat. "When she didn't answer, I rang some friends, who told me she'd been arrested and sent to labour camp. I was horrified. Images of inmates being brutalised flashed across my mind. I felt sick. "My mother [...], was living with us at the time. She tried to hide her fears but I knew how badly affected she was and her health deteriorated." Three months after [her] incarceration, 73-year-old [Mother] died from kidney failure. Jane mustered all her strength to cope with grieving for her mum and fighting for her sister. She managed to get help form her local MP Alan Simpson, Euro MP Mel Read and Amnesty International. The Chinese Premier Jiang Zemin was petitioned as was the Chinese Embassy in London. "With the help of Amnesty International, I initiated Letter-Writing campaigns from overseas. There were times when I wrote 50 letters in a week and made more than 70 phone calls. "I traveled constantly for meetings with diplomats, foreign office officials and politicians. My MP even got the House of Commons to pass an Early Day Motion condemning the Chinese government. The campaign was exhausting but I knew it was crucial to put pressure on the Chinese government from overseas."

In April this year, Jane arrived home to find a messge on her answerphone, "It was [my sister], telling me she'd been freed on parole. I was so happy to hear her voice. I called her back the next day and held back tears as she said she'd worked a 16-hour day in the camp. Worse still, she'd been tortured. On one occasion, she was handcuffed to the top of a door for three hours with her feet dangling form the ground. I couldn't imagine what horrors she'd suffered." Jane would love to visit [her] in China but she's not allowed to.

"As a Falun Gong practitioner. I've been blacklisted. I've been refused a visa and would be arrested as soon as I set foot in the country. I don't know when I'll see my sister again. I worry about her a lot, but for now I'll continue my campaign for everyone who just wants to exercise as they choose."