(Minghui.org) I am a Falun Gong practitioner and work full time for a real estate company. I wish to document my parents' experiences as Falun Gong practitioners and how they were persecuted in China for their belief.

What happened to my mother has had a huge impact on me directly, and we have gone through many difficulties together. I am the main witness to all she experienced as a practitioner, to when she was persecuted and “transformed,” to how she is now in the United Kingdom.

Based on an order issued by a former communist dictator, my parents, Ms. Yaoli Zhang and Mr. Changgeng Li, were forced to give up practicing Falun Gong. They were tortured, put under surveillance, subjected to brainwashing, and eventually “transformed” by the Chinese authorities. This is a serious crime and human rights violation.

I am sharing our story not only to clarify what happened to my parents and the subsequent effect on me over the past 20 years, but also to bring attention to the persecution that is still going on and the many other Falun Gong practitioners who are still being persecuted in China.

Benefiting from Falun Gong and Its Teachings

In August 1998, my family lived in Tianxin District in Changsha. My father Changgeng Li and I went to He Long Stadium to look for a Falun Gong exercise site, where we took up the practice. We shared our new discovery with my mother and grandmother, Guizhi Jiang, and they started to practice as well.

I regularly studied Zhuan Falun (the main book of Falun Gong) with her and other practitioners at our flat after school, normally in the evenings and on the weekends. We all did the exercises in the evenings at our local site, Shiziling. We also taught the exercises and introduced Falun Gong to those who were interested.

My mother and I participated in activities to promote Falun Gong at different locations, such as Lieshi Park, Nanjiao Park, and Yanjiang Avenue between August 1998 and July 1999. She hosted a local study group at her company in the same period of time.

I remember she used to be unwell quite often, but fully recovered after she started practicing Falun Gong. I also saw she was happier in her family and work life after learning its principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. I often went along when she introduced Falun Gong to other family members, coworkers and neighbors.

The practitioners we met around that time were of all different ages, social levels, education levels, and health conditions, but we all experienced and appreciated the magical effect that Falun Gong had on us. It was very clear to us that Falun Gong is a great self-cultivation practice.

Persecuted for Practicing Falun Gong

By 1999, there were over 100 million Falun Gong practitioners in China. That year, former Chinese Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin ordered that the practice be banned, even though no evidence had shown that Falun Gong and its activities had harmed society or broken any laws.

Jiang launched a systematic campaign to eliminate Falun Gong, including broadcasting fake news and defaming Falun Gong in state-run media, banning the publication of Falun Gong books, closing exercise sites, and arresting and “transforming” its practitioners (forcing them to renounce their belief).

I have witnessed and experienced, directly and indirectly, numerous unlawful acts of persecution committed by the local authorities against my mother, me, and the rest of my family.

In December 1999, in order to tell the authorities the facts of Falun Gong and the persecution, and to appeal for a peaceful and lawful environment to continue practicing, my mother and I decided to risk our personal safety and life of comfort and went to demonstrate at Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

There, we did the second exercise—the Falun Standing Stance—for a short while before plainclothes officers stopped us and took us to the Chaoyang Detention Center. We were held for a few hours before being transferred to Changsha Center in Beijing and detained for three days. We were then taken back by Youfu Zhou, my mother’s department head at work, and local police officer Dongze Wang.

Around May 13, 2000, my mother was illegally arrested again. In the detention center, she was interrogated nonstop for 23 hours and ended up giving out the names of other Falun Gong practitioners and their activities.

In July 2000, she was arrested again and held in the Changsha Detention Center. I visited her during this period. The unit she was detained in had a locked iron gate.

In December 2000, my mother, grandmother, and I went to Beijing again to demonstrate and appeal for Falun Gong. Plainclothes officers stopped us and put us in a police van.

On Chinese New Year’s Eve in 2001, police raided our flat in Baotashan and arrested my mother.

The Head of Students at my school, Changsha 31st Junior School, told me that my parents were both on a blacklist for practicing Falun Gong. The stress on my parents made them decide to move to Shenzhen in 2001, and I had to transfer to Shenzhen Buxin Junior High School.

There, I was once followed by two plainclothes officers after school. They tried to find out from the Head of Students and the Head of Class to find out where my mother lived.

In 2004, we traveled to Bangkok, Thailand, to explore the feasibility of seeking asylum there through the United Nations. I was on summer holiday from Cuiyuan High School in Shenzhen. After that, due to constant interference from the local authorities, my parents decided to leave Shenzhen and go to Xi’an to make a living. I was left on my own in Shenzhen.

In July 2009, the authorities raided my mother’s flat, detained her, and sent her to a forced labor camp in Shanghai for a year and a half.

Through the decade of persecution, my mother persisted in practicing her faith and stood up for Falun Gong with dignity. She worked to raise awareness of the persecution and to bring it to an end.

During this time, I wasn't yet 18 and suffered greatly from having to relocate and being followed and harassed. As a consequence, I could not make a living, and other relatives had to take me in. After our move from Changsha to Shenzhen, I had to stay with my classmates in their apartments so the authorities wouldn't find out where my parents lived.

In particular, when my mother was in Shanghai Forced Labor Camp between 2009 and 2011 and I was studying at Shenzhen University, I was terribly worried about her health and safety. Worst of all was the thought of what awful torture methods they might use on her to try to force her to renounce Falun Gong.

Harassment Continued Even After Being “Transformed”

My mother stopped practicing Falun Gong at the labor camp and after her release in 2011.

According to reports on Minghui.org, one of the widely used methods to “transform” Falun Gong practitioners is to redirect them to other schools’ teachings, such as the modern Buddha school. That seemed to reduce the probability of their returning to Falun Gong in the future.

This method was used on my father, Changgeng Li, between June and September 2010 at the Shenzhen Xili Education Center, which was actually a brainwashing center. According to a telephone call I had with the vice president, Qiuhu Chen, who was in charge of “transforming” him, “only by leading the compromised Falun Gong practitioners to a different school will they not easily return to Falun Gong after being released.”

My father was “transformed” this way and hence had a direct and heavy influence on my mother after her release from Shanghai Labor Camp and departure from Falun Gong.

I studied at the Glasgow School of Arts between 2012 and 2014. When I wanted to invite my parents to my graduation ceremony, I realized that neither of them would be able to get passports and visas due to their ongoing restrictions, even after they had announced they no longer practiced Falun Gong. This surprised me and violated the basic human rights of Chinese citizens.

In order to help them, I wrote to my Member of Parliament, Keir Starmer, about the persecution in China and cases like my parents. I received his reply in an official letter from his office at the UK House of Commons.

We also realized that my mother was still under surveillance at her latest residence. The letters I had sent to her through the Royal Mail in 2016-2017 were held by the local post office. She was alerted that the letters contained uncensored information and was told to collect them from the local authorities.

My mother was also denied a pass to travel to Hong Kong and Macau in September 2017 before coming to the UK. An immigration officer directed her to a state security officer in the Tianxin District of Changsha, who said she was being restricted because what she did on her trip to the UK in 2016 was “inappropriate.” When she asked what the behavior was, she wasn't given a clear answer.

The state security officer told her to report back to the Changsha office in person. As soon as I was aware of this, I arranged for her to leave Shenzhen for the UK immediately. She has not returned to Changsha or had any further contact with the state security officer.

Call to Action

My family is one of millions who have suffered in this persecution. Only by taking measures to increase pressure or carry out more direct actions to end the persecution in China can we fundamentally resolve the problem, provide a safe living environment for Falun Gong practitioners and their families in China, and protect their basic human rights.