By Collin Binkley
September 25, 2008

Before he came to the United States, graduate student William Huang served five years in Chinese prisons because of his religious beliefs. Now free, he is speaking out against the oppression and torture he faced.

Huang began following the spiritual practice of Falun Gong 10 years ago while he was senior class president at Tsinghua University, one of the top universities in China. Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice based on meditative exercises that are meant to improve both body and mind.

"It is a peaceful exercise rooted in traditional Chinese culture," Huang said. "Its main principles are Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance."

In 1999, while Huang was a first-year graduate student, the Chinese Communist Party banned Falun Gong. Within weeks, the government began a campaign of persecution and propaganda against the 70 million Falun Gong practitioners in China.

During the crackdown, Huang and other students at Tsinghua University were barred from registering for classes and were sent home to "reflect" on their choice to practice Falun Gong. After being readmitted to classes three months later, Huang was suspended from the university because he continued to practice Falun Gong.

"I went home for about three months ... and in the end I became homeless because the university didn't permit me to go back to school and I had no work at that time," he said.

In October 2000, Huang left Tsinghua University and moved to Zhuhai City, where he wrote about the persecution as a volunteer reporter for The Epoch Times, an international news agency that reports news without being censored by the Chinese government. But two months later, the Chinese Communist Party arrested Huang and nine others from The Epoch Times for "subverting the political power of the state."

Huang served the first two years of his five-year sentence at Zuhai Detention Center, where he was forced to make decorative flowers and crack pistachio nuts for 16 to 20 hours every day. "The environment was very dirty and small, with over 20 prisoners in a very small room, about 10 square meters," Huang said.

To protest his imprisonment, Huang participated in several hunger strikes, eventually leading to force-feeding by prison officials.

"They locked my wrists and my ankles into a kind of plank, like a cross, with my wrists and ankles chained on the four ends," Huang said. "And they used pliers to open my teeth and used chopsticks to stick food in my throat and pour liquid into my mouth. It was very painful."

Prison officials also deprived Huang of sleep and beat him with electro-shock batons.

In 2003, Huang was transferred to Sihui Prison, where he again was forced to perform slave labor until he completed his sentence in 2005.

"Perhaps because of the pressure of international society and the efforts of overseas Chinese, at last I was admitted back into Tsinghua University in 2006 and resumed my studies from 2006 until 2008," he said.

At the beginning of this year, Huang obtained a six-year student visa to study mechanical engineering in a graduate program at OSU. While in Columbus, he has joined the Falun Dafa Practice Group at OSU, which meets Wednesday evenings at Buckeye Village.

Lucia Dunn, a professor of economics and member of the organization, said there are other group members who have faced similar persecution. "We have another person in our group who was arrested," Dunn said. "It's a very common story."

More than 3,000 Falun Gong practitioners have died "as a direct result of the persecution campaign that the Chinese Communist Party launched in 1999," according to Falun Gong's official press source, faluninfo.net.

"Although I have experienced so much, it's just the tip of the iceberg of what mainland Chinese are enduring," Huang said. "Many practitioners were tortured even worse, even now." Huang said his future after he graduates is uncertain because he has spoken out in the US and that he cannot return to China until the persecution ends.

September 25, 2008