(Minghui.org) Originally from Qingdao City, Shandong Province, Ms. Zhang Tianxiao immigrated to Canada in 1998, and she currently resides in Toronto.

While spending time with her three-month-old daughter in March 2001, she was shocked and heartbroken to learn that her brother-in-law, Mr. Zou Songtao, had been tortured to death the prior November. Mr. Zou was only 28 years old when he died, and his daughter Rongrong was only 11 months old.

Ms. Zhang had known for quite a while that both her sister Zhang Yunhe and Mr. Zou practiced Falun Gong, but she never really paid any attention to the practice itself. The sudden tragedy made her wonder why her sister and brother-in-law chose to practice Falun Gong. She also wished to find out more about the practice in general and what made practitioners so steadfast in their faith.

After reading many Falun Gong books and visiting many practitioners in Canada, Ms. Zhang came to the conclusion that Falun Gong is very upright, as it teaches people to follow the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. She also realized that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is spreading lies to slander Falun Gong and deceive the public. She finally understood why her sister and brother-in-law risked their lives in telling people the true situation about the practice and why the regime launched the persecution.

Soon, Ms. Zhang followed in the footsteps of her sister and brother-in-law and also became a Falun Gong practitioner.

However, she was saddened that her family's ordeal didn't stop simply at Mr. Zou's death. Unable to bear the loss of her son-in-law, Ms. Zhang's mother refused to receive any further treatment for her cancer and passed away several months after her son-in-law's death. Ms. Zhang's sister, unfortunately, has been detained since February 2002, which has left her daughter Rongrong in the care of relatives.

Ms. Zhang knew she had to stand up for her sister and brother-in-law in seeking justice for them. For many years, she has been working hard to share her sister's story with as many people as possible. She believes that when more people see the true nature of the Chinese regime's persecution of kindhearted citizens, they will stand up to put an end to its tyrannical rule.

Below is Ms. Zhang's account of her path to becoming a Falun Gong practitioner, and her change in attitude toward her sister and brother-in-law:

Zhang Tianxiao (left) and her younger sister Zhang Yuhe, only two-and-half-years apart, are very close to each other

Wedding photo of Zou Songtao and Zhang Yunhe

Zou Farong, nickednamed Rongrong, (daughter of Zou Songtao and Zhang Yunhe) at three years old

A Well Educated and Highly Regarded Couple

“My sister Yunhe was born in November 1973. When she was a baby, my mother couldn't produce enough breast milk and had to feed her corn starch paste. As a result, she was very skinny and suffered from poor health. However, after she began to practice Falun Gong in 1997, she turned into a totally different person; she was suddenly healthy and happy. Her face glowed with a rosy complexion and we often heard her humming songs all the way up to our apartment on the fourth floor. She was also able to calmly deal with conflicts involving her colleagues.”

Ms. Zhang's sister, Ms. Zhang Yunhe, graduated from the accounting department of Qingdao University. Soon after being accepted to the university, she took the Level Four National English Test and passed with perfect scores. At the beginning of her sophomore year, she again achieved very high scores when she passed the Level Six National English Test. Such high achievement was unprecedented at the university.

She later became the chief accountant for the Qingdao Branch of TFL, a German company with its Asian operation headquartered in Hong Kong. As the chief accountant of the China operation, Qingdao became a clearinghouse for all accounting matters in the country. As such, Ms. Zhang Yunhe effectively served as the chief accountant of TCL in China. She was responsible for handling large amounts of data, but she was always very meticulous and never dishonest. Her excellent performance won her rave reviews from the headquarter office in Hong Kong, and she was awarded a 30 percent pay raise every year.

Her husband, Mr.Zou graduated from the biochemistry department of Nanjing University. He next went on to earn a master's degree in oceanography from Qingdao Ocean University in July 1999.

An intelligent and humble person, Mr. Zou was well liked by his peers. He and his wife met at an activity promoting Falun Gong, and their common interest soon brought them together. They married in November 1998, and a year later their daughter Rongrong was born.

Perishing at the Hands of Labor Camp Guards

Shortly after the persecution of Falun Gong began in July 1999, Mr. Zou was arrested and detained for several days after he refused to give up his belief in Falun Gong. Later, just a couple of weeks shy his wife's due date, Mr. Zou went to Beijing in October to appeal for the right to practice Falun Gong. He returned to Qingdao, but he was arrested just a few days later. He was released on bail in early December.

Mr. Zou was soon subject to numerous arrests and detentions. Once at the Taixi Police Station in Qingdao, Police Chief Gong Guoquan handcuffed him to an iron chair and pounded him in the head with the sole of his boots. Mr. Zou's head was so swollen that it doubled in size. His face was deformed and kept oozing out, and he was unconscious for more than 20 minutes.

The police deceived Mr. Zou into going to the police department in July 2000 and arrested him as soon as he arrived. After keeping him at the Qingdao City Labor Camp for two months, they suddenly transferred him to the Wangcun Labor Camp (a.k.a., Shandong Province No. 2 Labor Camp) in Zibo at the end of September.

An order was soon issued to have all detained male practitioners in the province transferred to the Wangcun Labor Camp. The Wangcun Labor camp is responsible for the incarceration and torture of thousands of practitioners.

The labor camp demanded that all newly transferred practitioners write a guarantee statement promising to quit practicing Falun Gong. Those who refused were shocked with 10,000-volt electric batons.

Mr. Zou and many other practitioners were kept in solitary confinement. They were often stripped of their clothes and shocked with more than a dozen electric batons simultaneously. When they screamed out in pain, the guards would insert a baton into their mouths, which would cause bleeding and suffocation. Such tortures were sometimes repeated several times a day.

Since most practitioners refused to give up the practice in spite of the torture, team head Zheng Wanxin decided to find a “diehard” practitioner to “crack open” as a lesson to the rest of the practitioners. He picked Mr. Zou and demanded he write a statement denouncing Falun Gong.

It was only two hours after their exchange that Mr. Zou died.

The labor camp attempted to stop Mr. Zou's wife from seeing his body, but she managed to make it through. However, the camp refused to provide her with any medical documents verifying the cause of his death, nor did they allow her to speak with anyone who was ever kept in a cell with Mr. Zou. Then, ignoring her strong objection, the authorities had Mr. Zou's body cremated the very next day.

When the family returned to Qingdao, the police ordered them to refrain from crying too loudly because they didn't want the neighbors to find out what had happened.

Clarifying the Facts About Her Husband's Torture and Death

For several months after her husband's death, Ms. Zhang Yunhe was grief-stricken and unable come to terms with the fact that her husband would never come back. She was even more saddened that there was no place to appeal for her husband's injustice because of the regime's policy to treat deaths from torture as suicides.

In memory of her husband, Ms. Zhang Yunhe wrote:

“It is indeed difficult to find a soul mate. Though we were together for only two short years, it was better than a thousand years. I miss you, Songtao! You never harmed others and were always kind to everyone. Why did you leave so early? The couple of weeks in July before you were sent to the labor camp was the last time we were together. I remember one of those afternoons, when you picked me up at work on your motorcycle. You changed into a white shirt and khaki pants. You looked so simple, honest, pure, and righteous. You smiled at me from the distance. But, then you were arrested and taken from me.

“I was looking forward to seeing you come back home a free man. You endured so much torture in jail. When our daughter was born, I kept waiting for your return to celebrate her first birthday with us. But now you won't ever come back. What kind of life will it be without you! We suffered so much from being apart for the whole past year, and now we must be apart forever! I could never believe that such a strong man could become so cold instantly!

“You looked as if you were asleep, and they hurried to take you away and wrap you in a thin blanket before you were creamated! Songtao, you are finally free! You don't have to be followed, harassed, summoned for interrogation, kept in illegal custody, detained, beaten and cursed, or brainwashed through forced labor any longer. You finally have your real freedom! But how I long for you to be here!”

Despite Ms. Zhang Yunhe's loss and sadness, the local police continued to harass and closely watch her. Nevertheless, she stepped forward to tell people the facts about her husband's death from torture.

An Innocent Child Losing Both Parents and Grandmother

Ms. Zhang has a son and a daughter. Whenever she sees her children clinging to her, she's filled with bittersweet feelings. At those moments, she thinks of her niece Rongrong, her sister's daughter.

Rongrong lost three loved ones by the time she was only three years old.

When Rongrong was born in November 1999, Mr. Zou was incarcerated. When he died in 2000, Rongrong was only 11 months old.

Unable to bear the loss of her son-in-law, Rongrong's grandmother, Bi Wucai, an associate professor at Qingdao University, refused any further treatment for her cancer and passed away in August 2001.

When Ms. Zhang Yunhe was last arrested 2002, she was sent to the Dashan Detention Center in Qingdao, where she was detained for six months. She was later transferred to an unknown facility, but the family was not informed of her whereabouts. When the news of live organ harvesting from practitioners at the Sujiatun Concentration Camp surfaced in 2006, her situation only became even more worrisome.

Whenever Rongrong misses her parents, she will kiss her father's ash box and ask for her mother to come back home.

Now 13, Rongrong is being raised by her relatives.

Ms. Zhang Becomes a Falun Gong Practitioner

After learning that her brother-in-law Mr. Zou never wavered in his faith regardless of how badly he was tortured, Ms. Zhang developed even more admiration for him. She also began to regret how she had treated him in the past.

Before she began cultivation, Ms. Zhang had trouble understanding some of Mr. Zou's behaviors. For instance, Mr. Zou once lost a perfect job opportunity at a research institute for refusing to send in bribes. Ms. Zhang felt that he was too naïve and ignorant. Later when the local authorities forbade Mr. Zou from looking for jobs, Ms. Zhang tried numerous times to talk him out of practicing Falun Gong. She often chastised him on the phone, but he never rebuked her and just listened quietly.

At the time of his death, Ms. Zhang was about to give birth to her daughter. To avoid upsetting her, the family waited until after the birth to tell her the news about her brother-in-law's death.

Ms. Zhang was shocked and deeply shaken at the news. She found it hard to believe that such a thing could ever happen to her family.

She kept asking herself how such a thing could happen, then suddenly she had an urge to find out more information about Falun Gong. She wished to understand what made her brother-in-law and sister so steadfast in their faith.

In order to more fully understand Falun Gong, Ms. Zhang read through Zhuan Falun and many other books and articles written by Teacher Li Hongzhi, the practice's founder. She also visited many Falun Gong practitioners in Vancouver, B.C.

She finally came to see that Falun Gong teaches people to follow the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance, and that there is nothing deviant or wicked within its teachings. She came to understand why practitioners like her sister and brother-in-law risked their lives in exposing the Chinese regime's atrocious crimes against kindhearted people.

She also came to a renewed understanding of her brother-in-law, Mr. Zou: “I wanted to become a Falun Gong practitioner. I needed to stand up for him in seeking his justice. I needed to stand up for my sister to get her released. I needed to stand up for Rongrong so she could have her mother back.

“The ordeal of my family is just one of many such cases. I hope more people with a sense of righteousness can develop the courage that helps them see the truth about Falun Gong practitioners. In this way the world will see clearly the rotten nature underneath the communist regime's superficial financial strength. I hope more people come to actively resist and protest the persecution.”

Recently an insider revealed that Ms. Zhang Yunhe has been incarcerated at the Shandong Province Women's Prison since her transfer from the Dashan Detention Center. Ms. Zhang and her fellow practitioners are working tirelessly to secure the release of her sister and the many others still detained.

Ms. Zhang believes that when more people come to know what is really going on in China, the darkness will give way and the light of truth will shine through.