This article was first published in May 2010.

( Looking back 11 years, Li Zhihe never imagined that he would settle in Sweden and not be able to return to his homeland or be reunited with his family.

Falun Gong Brings Happiness

In China, Li Zhihe worked for the Chinese Railroad Construction Corporation. His wife, Zhang Guirong, was an assistant director in the financial office of a street committee in Haidian district, Beijing city. Their son, Li Cheng, was a student in Beijing Eleventh Middle School.

Li Zhihe's health used to be poor. He suffered from back pain, tingling in his legs and feet, and paralysis in half of his body. He was diagnosed with protrusion of a lumber vertebra, a tear in the lumber vertebra dura, and strained lumbar muscles. If left untreated, he would eventually be totally paralyzed. His wife also suffered from various diseases, including serious painful menstruation. Later she was found to have an ovarian tumor. After surgical removal of the tumor on one ovary, a tumor was also found in the other ovary.

In October of 1997, they started practicing Falun Gong after a colleague introduced it to them. Within two weeks, all of Li Zhihe's symptoms were gone. His wife was also free from painful menstruation within one month.

Li Zhihe exclaimed, "Having been educated under the Chinese Communist Party's culture, I was an atheist. My own experience and the many miraculous stories that have happened to people I know completely convinced me. This wonderful practice not only gave me a healthy body, but also made my family life more harmonious."

Touched by the April 25 Peaceful Appeal

On the morning of April 25, 1999, Li Zhihe was told by others from his practice site that several dozen practitioners in Tianjin were arrested and beaten after reporting that a magazine had published a slanderous article about Falun Gong. When local practitioners went to request release of the detainees, the police refused and told them to appeal in Beijing. Li Zhihe's initial response was, "My only thought was that we should ask them to release the practitioners. I felt compelled to go to the Appeals Office and talk about my own experience so that they would know what Falun Gong truly is. This would correct their wrong decision. I had no other thought."

Li Zhihe remembered vividly what happened that day. "That morning, I went to Fuyou Street (site of the State Council Appeals Office). Because there were many people practicing Falun Gong in China, a lot of people showed up and soon filled the area in front of the Appeals Office. The overflow of people then moved to Liubukou and Beihai streets. Practitioners showed good manners. They behaved in an orderly way and even helped police to direct traffic. They made sure there was room for pedestrians to get by on the sidewalk, and cooperated with the police. They stood wherever the police officers directed them to. That day, many police officers learned the truth about Falun Gong. Some passengers in cars driving by asked, "Why are there so many people here? What are they doing?" One policeman answered, "They all practice Falun Gong. They came to appeal. This is a good practice, my mother-in-law practices it, they are all good people."

Many people later commented that Falun Gong practitioners were well-organized and very disciplined. Li Zhihe, who had been in the army said, "To be more accurate, what happened that day could not be enforced or brought about by training. It was a manifestation of people whose morality had improved after cultivating according to the principles of "Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance." Very few people knew each other. The majority didn't know others there. But everyone went there with one common goal: to tell the true situation to the appeals office agents. People were just standing there quietly and waiting for the results of the meeting. No one overreacted, shouted slogans, or raised their voices. The ground was very clean. Practitioners even picked up cigarette butts left by the police and put them in the trash cans. We saw cars with video cameras driving back and forth as they filmed us. Practitioners were calm, dignified, and rational. It was truly a touching scene."

Premier Zhu Rongji later met with the practitioner representatives, who requested release of the practitioners who had been detained in Tianjin city, asked for a legal environment in which to practice Falun Gong, and raised issues such as legal publication of the book Zhuan Falun. At around 9 p.m., after learning that the practitioners in Tianjin were released, everyone at the appeals office cleaned up the area and left.

Zhu Rongji's wife Zhang Guirong thinks that her husband and the practitioners who peacefully appealed on April 25th were doing the right thing. "Many of us had experienced the Cultural Revolution and the "Tiananmen Square Massacre." We clearly understood the consequences of dealing with the Chinese Communist Party. But everyone let go of the fear developed after experiencing numerous political movements. We were exercising our legal rights granted in China's Constitution."

Persecuted and forced to leave home

In the days following the launch of the persecution in July 1999, Li Zhihe began being monitored in his work unit, especially after he repeatedly went to Tiananmen to appeal. His phone was tapped by officers from the local police station and street committee; and he was followed. He was discriminated against in his work unit and was not allowed to retire even though he was eligible to. In addition, he was forced to attend brainwashing sessions and pressured to give up practicing Falun Gong.

The secretary of the Party committee in his work unit found a person who did not practice Falun Gong to replace Li Zhihe in the brainwashing sessions to be "transformed." The official in his work unit lied and told the authorities that Li Zhihe was successfully "transformed," for which he received high praise.

Zhang Guirong was expelled from her workplace of over 20 years because she refused to give up her practice of Falun Gong. The 610 Office also took her to be brainwashed.

As a last resort, Li Zhihe and his family made their way to Russia with the help of some friends. Shortly after they left China, a friend told them, "You definitely cannot come back. Your work units established teams specifically for your cases. Police watch your door 24-hours-a-day. They often harass your relatives. They went to your child's school to arrest him. Eventually, they'll find out where you are. You need to be very careful."

After going through many hardships, Li Zhihe and his family finally made it to Sweden and settled there. Compared to thousands of practitioners in mainland China whose families have been broken apart because of their practice of Falun Gong, they are very fortunate.

on April 20, 2010