A Chinese Woman’s Greatest Wish: Helping End A Persecution
By Stephanie Lam
The 7th Side
Zhao Suhuan was sent to a brainwashing center and tortured in labor camps for her belief of Falun Gong. (Courtesy of Zhao Suhuan)
“Thank you,” I told Zhao Suhuan (趙素環) after the interview, to which she replied, “no, I should be the one thanking you.” I fulfilled her greatest wish, she said.
At the surface, it is hard to tell how much the 55-year-old has been through. Behind her eyes one can see an extraordinary calmness—one that is brought out from great compassion, one that helped her get through the ordeals she faced, and one that kept her from giving up her faith under indescribable pressure.
Coming from Shenyang, Liaoning, Zhao used to own a business and earned a lot of money, but couldn’t enjoy her life, because she was seriously sick, having various illnesses including heart disease. She said she was a really bad person back then. She was constantly fighting with others over personal gain, and deceived many people in order to earn more money.
In 1996, a friend introduced her to the traditional Chinese cultivation practice Falun Gong due to its renowned effect of curing diseases, and within half a month of practicing, all her illnesses disappeared, but there is more to that. Falun Gong is based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, and its moral teachings changed Zhao completely. She no longer lied, and didn’t get money unjustly anymore. She started to care for others, and became the kind of person who “would rather lose [her] own interests” than hurt someone. She knew that what she obtained was not an ordinary practice, because it not only improved her physical health, but also her mind.
Her story was just a drop in the sea. Falun Gong grew so popular that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) started to feel uneasy. The government administrated investigations on Falun Gong, and apart from the health benefits, the State Sports Administration found that in 1999, in China alone, there were at least 70 million people from all walks of life practicing and benefiting from Falun Gong—more than the number of CCP members. To the dictatorship regime, that is a threat, and it decided to suppress the practice.
“It is precisely because [Falun Gong] is so good that the CCP persecutes it,” Zhao said.
In the morning of July 20, 1999, Zhao went to her practice site as usual. Everything was the same, except that the coordinator of the practice site was not there. The previous night, Falun Gong coordinators all over the country were arrested.
In light of the mass arrest, Zhao and her fellow practitioners went to the Liaoning Provincial to appeal. What awaited them there were policemen who forced them to get into trucks, which took them to the Liaoning Stadium. For the whole day they were not allowed to have food or water, and they weren’t released until 1am that night.
The next day, they went to the Provincial again, still believing that the government would listen to them. There, Zhao witnessed many practitioners being beaten and arrested.
“I lost my hope,” Zhao said. That afternoon, she left Liaoning, wanting to go to the Beijing Appeals Office.
The train station was full of police, and the hotels in Beijing were forbidden to receive Falun Gong practitioners, so Zhao could only stay on the streets. Shorting after escaping from a police car, one of the practitioners that she met was arrested for going to the Appeals Office.
In light of policemen gathering outside the Appeals Office and arresting people who went there, Zhao decided to go to Tiananmen Square. “We didn’t want to go there,” she said, “we wanted to appeal through regular means,” but they had no other choice. “If we go to the Appeals Office, we will be arrested and no one will know about it. If we go to Tiananmen Square, we will also be arrested, but the whole world will know about it.”