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XUAN: An empty seat, a broken heart
Reunion denied by China’s ongoing religious persecution
Have you ever waited at an airport for a loved one you have not seen in a long time? Surely you remember the giddy expectation, scanning arriving passengers for that familiar face. But what if your loved one never arrived?
My husband never turned up. On Feb. 18, I waited for him at Newark International Airport with flowers. It had been over three years since I last saw him before fleeing China. Jiang Feng was to arrive on a Continental Airlines flight from Shanghai, but after the last passengers left he was still nowhere to be seen. My calls to China confirmed my greatest fears: He checked in, but never boarded the flight. Chinese secret police abducted him.
We married 12 years ago in Anhui province. I was a musician and he worked as a piano tuner. But before our first anniversary we were kidnapped from our workplaces and jailed. That was July 20, 1999, the first round of arrests of Falun Gong practitioners like us.
Our worlds collapsed as the campaign rolled in with a force equal to that of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Suddenly, we were enemies of the state, cut off from our family and friends. We were arrested for practicing meditation and following our discipline - principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. Falun Gong was becoming too popular for the Communist Party’s liking and our crime was having an independent belief system.
As I was a prominent musician, my director pulled strings to get me out, but my husband was jailed for three years. In 2002, literally days before his release, I was standing on a sidewalk when plainclothes police suddenly shoved me into a taxi and drove me to a detention center. They imprisoned me for four years. I was tied to a chair for 75 days without being allowed to sleep or use the restroom. My fingers and feet swelled three times their size. I was electrocuted, beaten and repeatedly knocked unconscious. I watched my friends, one after another, take their last breaths. Somehow, I survived and, after being released in 2006, fled to the United States.
My husband and I planned to reunite here. After I was generously granted political asylum, he also received the status of “derivative asylee,” obtained a U.S. visa, packed his bags and checked in at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport.
He would have been with me in Washington this week, as thousands of Falun Gong practitioners from around the world mark yet another anniversary of persecution in China. Instead, he is in an Anhui province labor camp in which prisoners toil in a coal mine. In addition to torture, my husband now faces the dangers of being trapped, suffocated or crushed underground in China’s most fatality-prone work.
Many people think the persecution of Falun Gong is mostly a thing of the past, a blotch on China’s slow but steady progress. Quite the contrary. In the months before the Olympics, over 8,000 practitioners were arrested, often from their homes for no apparent reason other than their faith. Many were sent to labor camps for periods far exceeding the length of the Olympic Games. Last year saw an upsurge in sham trials with hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners sentenced to prison for up to 18 years, often simply for downloading an article or distributing leaflets exposing persecution.
My husband and I were wed 12 years ago but, separated by persecution, we have shared married life for only a few months. I am extremely worried about his safety as I know what he faces every minute.
As you notice the Falun Gong activities this week, please remember that these victims of oppression are real people. They are our husbands and parents and children. They need your international voices of support. We have seen how, when the world looks away, we face the darkest pitilessness of the Chinese Communist Party. Your direct, public statements of support have a great restraining effect.
Mei Xuan is a former prisoner of conscience who spent four years in a Chinese jail. She is now a musician with New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
By Tom Fitton
New photos confirm the attack's coordination and its cover-up
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