Brighton-Pittsford Post

Wednesday, July 19, 2000

A few days ago, a colleague of mine shared with me a story about the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence. These soft-spoken men of means and education chose liberty over their personal security.

In the end, five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and were tortured before they died.

Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons to serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.

Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or difficulties related to the Revolutionary War.

Reading of the sacrifices and hardships these 56 men endured to bring America liberty and independence, I couldnt help thinking of the upcoming first anniversary of the Chinese governments crackdown on Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa).

Falun Gong is a traditional Chinese Qigong practice designed to improve the mind and body through exercise, meditation. At the heart of the practice is learning to embody the universal principles of Truthfulness, Benevolence, and Forbearance.

Yet its popularity ultimately proved too much for a troubled Chinese Communist Party. On July 22nd, 1999, Falun Gong was officially banned and denounced by the Chinese government.

Suddenly, an entire nation began to be torn at the seams by its very own leadership. In a year, tens of thousands of practitioners have been arrested; well over 5,000 practitioners have been detained and sent to labor camps without trial; hundreds have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 18 years; many have been detained in mental hospitals and given forced injections; and at least 24 practitioners have died due to maltreatment while in police custody.

Su Gang, a computer engineer, died on June 10 after receiving injections twice daily for seven days at a psychiatric hospital in Shandong province. Su became the 22nd practitioner known to have died while in police custody.

Chen Zixiu, a retired autoworker, was killed by her captors' torture. As described in Ian Johnsons harrowing April 20 account in the Wall Street Journal:

The day before Chen Zixiu died, the Journals story begins, her captors again demanded that she renounce her faith in Falun Dafa. Barely conscious after repeated jolts from a cattle prod, the 58- year-old stubbornly shook her head.

Enraged, the local officials ordered Ms. Chen to run barefoot in the snow. Two days of torture had left her legs bruised, said cellmates and other prisoners who witnessed the incident. She crawled outside, vomited, and collapsed. She never regained consciousness.

Matt Kutolowski, a practitioner from Brockport, had to return prematurely last summer from Tsinghua University in Beijing, where he was studying Chinese on a scholarship.

He was followed by undercover police, had his phone tapped, and witnessed friends and classmates being beaten or arrested for their practice. Here back in the States, he receives email viruses from Chinese sources.

More than two hundred years have passed since the Declaration of Independence. The Bill of Rights has become part of our constitution in America. Today, on the other side of this planet, however, millions of innocent, kindhearted Falun Gong practitioners continue to undergo persecution for their belief in Truthfulness, Benevolence, and Forbearance. They lost their homes, assets, jobs, education, futures, families, and even their lives.

Under brutal and inhumane treatment, these practitioners have forgone their personal security and individual freedoms for the larger freedoms of speech, conscience, and assembly.

After my colleague told me the story about our Declaration, he asked me to take a few minutes while enjoying my 4th of July holiday to silently thank those 56 patriots.

Today Id like to ask you to take a few minutes as well while enjoying your morning coffee at home, your lunch break at work, or anything else that you can do freely, and remember those who have been denied their most basic freedoms, especially in China.

For more information on Falun Gong, please visit and , or call (716) 671-7449.

Chou is a Penfield resident.