(Minghui.org) This young Chinese woman is Ms. Yu Minghui. Long, dark hair frames her delicate features with an expression that is uniquely hers—looking down ever so slightly with her long eyelids, peaceful and serene. Despite her quiet demeanor, Minghui has the most remarkable story and an extraordinary family.

Ms. Yu Minghui stands in front of the painting An Orphan’s Tears at the Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance International Art Exhibition in June 2013, holding a postcard calling for the rescue of her father.

A Teenager’s Nightmare

Her story goes back 22 years and started in a small northeastern city called Mudanjiang in Heilongjiang Province. It was named after the Mudan River (literally “Peony River”) that flows through it.

Minghui and her parents lived in a typical apartment unit in Building No. 38 in the neighborhood of West Hailin Railroad Farm. The happy family life as she knew it was interrupted when the local police pounded on their door on a summer day in July 1999. Her 12-year-old life was turned upside down and her idea of home and family forever altered.

What was home to Minghui? The apartment was not spacious, but she had her own space separated by a drape of fabric. Her little world had a simple setup—a desk, chair, and a lamp—it was where she spent her time reading and drawing.

Her father, Mr. Yu Zonghai, is an intelligent, witty, and talented artist. He teased and called her “kiddo.” He always seemed to have a trick up his sleeve to make his daughter laugh—telling a story, showing a drawing technique, or pretending to be a conductor waving a chopstick in the air while eating. Everything Dad did amused her.

When Minghui started to read, Dad brought home big stacks of books from the city library where he worked. Minghui was a fast reader. When she sat down to read, she read for hours without moving. By the time she entered middle school, she had read almost all the children’s books at the library.

In Minghui’s memory, Mom, Ms. Wang Meihong, had really pretty eyes that sparkled when she looked at her. The winters in northern China are bitter. Each morning, Mom dressed Minghui with three warm layers underneath and three layers on top. Her long, thin fingers danced around, putting a hat, a scarf, and mittens on Minghui. She dutifully bundled her up each morning and never left anything out.

Minghui went to sleep each night listening to Mozart’s Serenade and woke up each morning to the beautiful exercise music of Falun Dafa. Mom and Dad are both practitioners of this spiritual belief based on the universal principle of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.

Mom and Dad were outstanding employees at work, and Minghui did well in elementary school. She had good grades and was always the student leader in her class, a position either assigned by the homeroom teacher or elected to by the other students. The student leader coordinates activities and communication between teachers and the students.

In her first year of middle school, Minghui was again elected class leader with almost everyone in class voting for her. She was also the assigned helper in both the Chinese and English classes. Her teachers had nothing but good things to say about her, and her classmates all liked her. Slightly chubby and always wearing a smile, the young Minghui didn’t know anything about being sad.

Then that summer after 7th grade, the Chinese Communist Party began its nationwide persecution of Falun Dafa (also called Falun Gong). Over the next twenty years, hundreds of thousands of practitioners in China were arrested, detained, sentenced to forced labor or prison, abused and tortured. Many lost their lives as a result, and others were killed to supply organ transplants in a state-sanctioned operation. Hundreds of thousands of families were torn apart, including Minghui’s.

The police pounded on their door on July 20, 1999, barged in, and took Mr. Yu away. Besides Dad, almost all the local Falun Dafa volunteer coordinators were arrested on that day. Soon after he was released, Dad went to Beijing to petition the central government for his right to freedom of religion. He was arrested again, taken back to Mudanjiang and given one year of forced labor.

His third arrest came after he spray-painted “Falun Dafa is good” on a wall in public, which led to a 15-year prison sentence. For telling people that Dafa is good, Mom was also sentenced to 11 years. At one point, Minghui herself was detained at a brainwashing center.

When other children her age were still babied by their parents, Minghui divided her free time between two prisons in two different cities. A train ride, a bus ride, walking for miles, then begging for half an hour before she could see Mom or Dad through a thick glass panel and hear their voices. Yet such rare chances at visitation were often denied because Mom and Dad refused to renounce their belief in Falun Dafa. Full of hope as she arrived, Minghui was often left in the lobby, waiting an entire day, until the janitor started sweeping the floor and kicking people out.

During the very few times Minghui was allowed to visit Dad in the prison, he was always optimistic. “Do you know how you clip your nails, kiddo?” “Use a nail clipper.” “I don’t have a nail clipper. This is prison.” “Then how do you trim your nails?” “Well let me tell you—you use your teeth and you bite them.” “But the nails are hard.” “Let me tell you kiddo, if you keep chewing on them, they become soft then you can bite them off. Oh, or you can file them off on cement. Ha ha.”

Sitting in the prison’s visitation room, he laughed and seemed genuinely happy, as if the father-daughter duo were just joking around at their home in West Hailin.

Coming to the U.K.

After high school, Minghui went on to college to study art and design. She stood out in a highly competitive selection process among art students in 2010 and was offered the opportunity to advance her studies in the U.K.

Bittersweet, Minghui left China to pursue her dream. She studied fashion design at the Cambridge School of Art.

When Minghui visited her parents in prison, they just smiled and encouraged her to be strong. They kept what they were going through in prison to themselves and didn’t mention a word to their daughter. Holding Mom and Dad’s words and the teachings of Dafa close to her heart, Minghui grew up to be a brave and independent young woman.

Not until she came to the U.K. and read reports on Minghui.org did she finally learn what had happened to her parents during their decade-long prison terms. Many a night, overtaken by worries, Minghui broke down and cried. She counted the days until her parents were released.

(To be continued)

Chinese version available

Category: Accounts of Persecution