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A Puzzle for a Chinese Citizen Living Abroad: What Are the Implications of Being Deprived of One's Passport?

August 12, 2004 |   By Dakun Sun

(Clearwisdom.net) Four years ago my passport expired. I followed the instructions and mailed my passport to the Chinese Consulate in Houston with an application for renewal. I have not seen it since.

After a month passed without an answer, I started calling the Consulate. Because the phone line for outside inquiries was open for only a very short period of time each day, there was often a busy signal. I had to patiently call them again and again. Finally someone answered and I told her that my passport renewal application was sent in a month ago but I had not received an answer. She asked for my name and told me to wait. After a long time, I heard something from the other end of the line and then in a tone that sounded like she knew what was going on but didn't want to admit it, she told me that I needed to wait and then she hung up.

Later, I made a few more calls to the Consulate, maybe because each time I called there was a different person on the other end, I received the same message. I felt that there was a problem with my passport, but they wouldn't give me a direct answer.

Several months passed, I felt that it was necessary for me to drive to Houston and get to the bottom of the situation. On the scheduled day, I took a day off from work and left Dallas in the early morning. I drove over four hours to the Chinese Consulate in Houston. After explaining my purpose, I was led to a meeting room.

A Consul named Xu came to see me. After a few questions and answers, I learned that the reason for my passport being held by the Consulate was the fact that I practice Falun Gong. After giving me this answer, Consul Xu started very "kindly" to try to influence me. He said that his parents were also persecuted very badly by the Chinese government during the Great Culture Revolution, he and his siblings were young and had to migrate to foreign places with their parents. However he felt that he didn't hate the government. Then he started on Falun Gong, and said Falun Gong is harmful to people resulting in 1400 deaths; he also said that Falun Gong practitioners' appeals outside China embarrassed local Chinese government officials. Somewhere in the middle he mentioned that he had one encounter with Jiang Zemin and felt Jiang was kind and scholarly, etc.

Seeing that he was trying to show sincerity in his persuasion, I shared my own thoughts quite honestly and frankly with him. First, the so called "1400 death cases" is just a lie from the government who fabricated the cases to attack Falun Gong and use it as propaganda to incite the public against Falun Gong. From my own experience and observation, Falun Gong practitioners are all very peaceful and rational. In the case of the "1400 deaths," if the government dared to let a third party investigate and verify its sources, it would not be difficult to detect its invalidity. Falun Gong practitioners appeal outside of China not because they are against the Chinese government; rather they hope the government will realize that pushing hundreds of millions of its citizens to the opposite side by persecuting them is extremely wrong. What really embarrasses Chinese living abroad is the ridiculous actions of the Chinese government, not the activities that expose this type of wrongdoing by the government.

As for Jiang Zemin himself, I didn't know him personally, so I made little comment. Today several years later, after I have heard and seen more and more antipathy from Chinese people toward his hideous behavior on the international stage including his severe criticism of Hong Kong reporters who didn't report according to his wishes, selling Chinese land to Russia and covering up the sale, his corrupt and excessive life style, his tactics in pursuit of political power, lack of attention to people's hardships and problems, and promoting his personal image among many other things, it is very clear who and what Jiang represents nowadays.

At the time I listed many facts regarding the situation of Falun Gong to this consul who also felt that the government accusations were weak and groundless. Therefore he expressed that he hoped to receive more information and facts sent to him via Email. He also left me his phone number. As for my passport, he said he would talk to the Consul General on my behalf. He then said goodbye.

However I was not able to contact this consul after our initial meeting. He never returned my email or voicemail. When I called the consulate visa office, I experienced the same response as before. As of this time, my passport has been held there without approval for four years.

Luckily, in my case, at the time when my passport was confiscated by the Chinese consulate, I was close to getting my green card with help from my employer, so I can maintain legal status in the USA. On the other hand, I have seen a few Falun Gong practitioners left in very difficult situations and unable to work due to their passports being unreasonably withheld by the consulate.

For the past four years, even though I have legal status in the USA, I still could not go back to China and visit my family and friends, could not go on international business trips or travel outside the US.

In regards to my work, since my employer is a multinational corporation, there have been several occasions when my supervisor wanted me to take business trips overseas. In the end my office had to change their plans because of my passport problems. Every time I was unable to conduct company business overseas, I had to explain my difficult situation to my superiors. They shared their sympathy and disbelief over my situation and expressed how they felt powerless in dealing the repressive tactics of the Chinese government.

With regards to my family, having my passport withheld by the consulate triggered discord and strife. When my family learned that my passport was withheld at the consulate, it created an invisible shock wave of terror and fear for my wife who does not practice Falun Gong and to my parents and my wife's parents living in China who have all experienced the terror of the Cultural Revolution and the fear of being marked by the government.

Even though my parents have endured many hardships in their lives, I can still sense their worry and anxiety. Worse yet, I am their only child.

My parents were very happy with my academic performance at a young age and my being able to study in the US, and later easily finding a job here. They also felt confident in me when they saw me becoming more diligent, having more sense of responsibility, following good living and becoming healthier after practicing Falun Gong. But the persecution against Falun Gong came overnight, and shortly after, the consulate withheld my passport. I could no longer visit them in China, and it is almost certain that I, like thousands of others have been placed on the government blacklist. How could my parents not be feeling worry and dread over the situation?

At the beginning of the persecution against Falun Gong, the only source of information that was made available to foreign governments, media outlets and Chinese people living abroad was the propaganda from the Chinese government. Many of my friends also more or less believed the propaganda; some of them even developed hatred against Falun Gong. In that environment, especially after the consulate withheld my passport, my wife reversed her attitude completely from supporting my practicing Falun Gong to becoming more and more against Falun Gong. Frequent conflicts about this topic replaced our previously harmonious family living.

Attacked from both inside and outside of my home, I, a person with little experience in political movements, was suddenly thrown into a very difficult situation by having to face persecution on a personal level directed by a powerful leader of an authoritarian regime.

Time has passed. Four long years are now behind us. Through the continued efforts of Falun Gong practitioners, more and more governments and people have come to know Falun Dafa practitioner's kindness and forbearance. More and more nations like Canada and the USA that respect human rights have stood up to condemn this massive persecution against 100 million people. Falun Gong has received great support from both government and civil organizations in Taiwan, which share the same ancestry, and same Chinese identity. The persecution in mainland China has caused several hundred thousand Taiwanese residents from all walks of life such as professors, lawyers and senior citizens come to know and practice Falun Gong,.

My family has also returned to its original peaceful harmony after going through an extended period of conflict over the persecution that targeted me for practicing Falun Gong.

However the persecution in mainland China is still ongoing. My passport is still being withheld from me. I cannot return to my place of birth to visit my family and many old friends.

There are many issues I simply don't understand. Why would the government withhold my passport? First of all, by withholding my passport, what message does a government want to deliver? What is its purpose? Is it to deprive me of my citizen's rights? As a human being on earth, don't I have basic rights? As a Chinese citizen, even if I do make mistakes, is it really necessary to adopt this approach to put me in a difficult situation? What if my relatives in China are sick and need me to return home to care for them?

The government of China claims that China is a nation ruled by law and is now at its "best period of human rights". However from the things that occurred to me, where do we find "rule of law" and "respect for human rights"? I remember several times I asked the consulate staff to issue a written statement as to why they were withholding my passport, and each time they tried to sidestep my question. I could feel that they themselves knew that they were doing something wrong. Perhaps the consulate staff also knew that the government handled things wrongfully, of its lack of humanity, as well as its non-compliance to the "rule of law".

After quite some time of no activity, I recently realized that I should not give up the effort to get back my passport. Since the principle of justice exists both for man and in heaven, I shouldn't give up my effort of striving to have my basic rights as a person and as a Chinese citizen be acknowledged.