An Open Letter to President Obama: A Girl’s Wish
passes out literature about the spiritual practice on the National Mall on July
23, 2004. ( Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)
As a proud dad, you have often mentioned your two lovely
girls—Malia and Sasha—in your speeches. I’d like to tell you the story of a
Chinese girl visiting Washington, D.C., from China.
One hot day this
summer, Meilian, a Chinese lady in her ’70s, followed her daily routine and put
up a banner on the National Mall. She was there to do what she calls “truth
clarification” to the Chinese visitors—telling them the facts about the persecution of Falun Gong (also known
as Falun Dafa).
of teenage kids had arrived in the United States from China for their summer
camp and were touring Washington. Among them was a teenage girl who approached
Meilian with tears in her eyes and whispered, “Grandma, you know what? My
grandma also practices Falun Gong.”
The old lady, also with tears in her
eyes, patted the girl’s back, “Please say ‘hi’ to your grandma and ask them to
take good care of themselves. We know what they’ve been through.”
lady Meilian knows too well how much depression and sorrow lay behind the girl’s
tears. A picture could instantly appear before her eyes. The Neighborhood
Committee, controlled by the Communist Party, may have come to harass the girl’s
grandma from time to time, warning her not to travel to Beijing.
sets of meditative exercises and living
according to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. After it
was first introduced to the public in 1992 by Mr. Li Hongzhi, Falun Gong spread
rapidly by word of mouth among the Chinese people.
extraordinary improvements in their health as well as in their character. They
reported having less stress, becoming kinder, and more thoughtful people,
enjoying more harmonious family lives, and having a deeper understanding of the
meaning of life.
In early 1999 an official with the Chinese Sports
Authority indicated that 100 million people were practicing Falun Gong in China,
approximately 1 in every 12 people. Falun Gong is now practiced in more than 100
countries around the world.
The then-head of the Chinese Communist Party,
feared that this spiritual practice, which counted among its practitioners
high-ranking Communist Party members, members of the armed forces, and of the
security agencies, could somehow be a threat
to the ideological control the CCP held over the Chinese people.
ordered a campaign to “eradicate” Falun Gong in July 1999, which continues to
this day. The Falun Dafa Information Center can confirm 3,400
deaths due to torture and abuse, but fears the actual death toll is in the tens
of thousands. Hundreds of thousands are held in China’s brutal labor
The police may even have dragged the grandma to a police car, right in front
of the girl’s eyes. At school, the girl may have been shouted at almost
everyday, “Shame on you! Your grandma is Falun Gong. Shame on you!” The parents
may have been hopelessly worried, “Can our only daughter still go to college?”
The old lady Meilian also knows
how much relief and hopefulness is behind the
girl’s tears. As soon as she saw words “Falun Gong” on the banner, the hope lit
up in her heart, “It is not dark everywhere, as it is in China! People can
freely practice Falun Gong on free soil like that of the United States! My
grandma and I are not bad people!”
Mr. President, I bet the very first
thing the girl will shout to her grandma upon returning home is, “Grandma,
Grandma! People in America also practice Falun Gong! They do it right at the
National Mall in the nation’s capital! No police kick them around and beat them
Imagine, Mr. President, how much hope and encouragement this would
give to the girl’s grandma and her friends, many of whom are also senior
citizens and also live with the daily worry of whether their children will have
to visit them in prison next week.
Yet, all of this happens not because
the U.S. government has done a lot for them, but just because the United Stated
does as little as allowing people to have the freedom to express their opinions
in any public place like the National Mall.
Mr. President, imagine how
much more hope and encouragement you can give to tens of millions of Chinese
people living under the tyranny if you say to Hu Jintao, the chairman of the
Chinese Communist Party, “Mr. Hu, give Falun Gong freedom!”
You will be
remembered by people around the world, especially Chinese people, for
generations to come, just as President Reagan has been for his famous statement,
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Mr. President, in China, millions
of Falun Gong parents love their children no less than you and Michelle do Malia
and Sasha. They also want to take their kids to piano and tennis classes, and to
do gardening with them and even teach them how to eat healthily.
know that all of these simple pleasures are luxuries beyond their reach. They’d
be happy if they are not deprived of their jobs for their belief in Falun Gong
and can still put food on the table for their
They’d be happy if their children can enter college without
having to sign a declaration statement saying, “I don’t practice Falun
They’d be happy if their children won’t be summoned
to the police station only to be given their parents’ ashes.
letter to Malia and Sasha before your inauguration you wrote of what you want
for them. You hoped they would take up the work of “righting the wrongs that you
see and working to give others the chances you’ve had.”
Mr. President, as
I’m writing, tens of millions of children in China just like that teenage girl
visiting the National Mall, as well as their parents and grandparents, are
waiting for you to tell Hu Jintao, “Give Falun Gong freedom!”
Chang is a Chinese American who has been living
in the United States for 19 years.