‘America! America!’ and Freedom From Persecution

‘America! America!’ and Freedom From Persecution

A long-suffering family leaves China to make a new life

By Matthew  Robertson
Epoch Times Staff Created: Apr 27, 2011 Last  Updated: Apr 27, 2011

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Related articles: China > Democracy  and Human Rights

REUNITED: Zhang Lianying and her family arrived to New  York in late January and spent two days making phone calls to friends,  relatives, and acquaintances in China to tell them of their experiences and  escape. (Courtesy of Zhang Lianying)

NEW YORK—It was a dark, rainy day on June 14, 2005, and the family had just  returned home from grocery shopping. Suddenly, someone jammed an arm under Zhang  Lianying’s neck and a black bag was thrust over her head. The eggs she was  carrying smashed on the concrete as she was dragged away. Her husband Niu  Jinping was taken too by the Chinese security forces, leaving their 2-year-old  daughter crying and screaming in the stairwell until a neighbor came to  help.

Niu was later released, but little Niu Qingqing didn’t see her mother again  for 2.5 years. From that day in 2005, Qingqing lived with her grandparents while  Zhang was in and out of labor camps and torture chambers. Qingqing barely spent  two yeas with her mother before the age of 7.

That was the first time in Qingqing’s life that her parents were abducted,  but the couple’s ordeal began 12 years ago, in 1999.

Now, after years of persecution, the family is finally out of China and safe.  They arrived in New York in January. The family recalled the scene onboard the  flight from China to JFK, where Qingqing was bobbing up and down on her seat  exclaiming, “America! America! We’re free!”

While Zhang and Niu tell their story at The Epoch Times’ New York office,  Qingqing crawls between chairs, giggles, runs around, and now and then furtively  tells her parents important secrets while they are in the middle of  speaking.

She’s a happy 7-year-old now, but she used to cry a lot. In 2006, for  example, when 3-year-old Qingqing was presented to her mother, she started  crying and said, “Who are you, aunty?” Zhang had just been released from hard  labor and had lost 80 pounds from maltreatment in custody, and Qingqing couldn’t  recognize her.

Both Niu and Zhang are living witnesses to modern Chinese history. In 1997  they began practicing Falun Gong, a mind and body discipline consisting of five  exercises and moral teachings centered on the principles of truthfulness,  compassion, and forbearance.

SAD BIRTHDAY: Qingqing on her sixth birthday in November  2009. She cries at the dinner table with relatives because her mother and father  were in labor camps. (Courtesy of Minghui.net)

Both were present at  the historic appeal in Beijing on April 25, 1999, when over 10,000 Falun Gong  practitioners gathered outside the leadership compound of the Chinese Communist  Party and asked that their faith not be harassed. Three months later, a  nationwide campaign of propaganda and persecution was launched.

When the family arrived in the United States in late January, they spent two  days making phone calls to China to tell family, friends, and former colleagues  that they were safe. They now spend much of their time telling people about what  it is like in China for practitioners of Falun Gong, and what it was like for  them.

Over the years, Zhang wrote numerous articles and produced videos in China  describing what she was going through. Zhang was subjected to dozens of torture  techniques, refined by communist labor camp administrators over a decade, in an  attempt to “transform” her—make her renounce her belief and even join the  persecutors.

There is the “stretching torture” (also called “five horses splitting a  body”), for example, which is often used at Masanjia, the labor camp she was  sent to in 2008. The torturers forced her to bend at the waist, then pulled her  arms up to their limits behind her, tying her hands at opposite ends of a top  bunk of a bunk bed.

While the Olympics in Beijing were underway, Zhang was subjected to the  stretching torture 10 times, for between one day and up to three days each time.  Male guards shocked her in sensitive places with electric batons while she was  stretched out. She could not use her fingers properly for a year.

At another point, when her head was badly beaten, she had a chance to look in  the mirror. “I was truly shocked. My face had turned a dark purple color. Both  my eyes were swollen and the sockets had turned black. … My faced looked  downright scary. At that moment, I made up my mind: I wanted to get out of here  alive,” she wrote in a statement.

“I wanted to tell the people of the world how the Communist Party carries out  its persecution here, how the torture chambers are drenched in blood.”

When United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak arrived in  Beijing in November 2005, Zhang was taken to a basement and tied and gagged.

Guards once told Zhang that her arrest and torture had been  personally ordered by mayor of Beijing, Guo Jinlong. As a long-term and hardened  Falun Gong adherent, they wanted to break her and make her case an example to  others. But she survived the camps without renouncing her faith, and so did her  husband.

They are now living in Flushing on the outskirts of New York City, supported  by friends and are looking for work. Qingqing is in her first year of school.  Last Friday, she brought back pictures of flowers and homes she drew for school. “We’re so free here,” Zhang said, while Qingqing stood smiling.

See a timeline chronicling Zhang  Lianying and Niu Jinping’s time in prison.



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