Ziheng Huang, a Shen Yun dancer, embraces freedom in the West, fighting persecution through art.
“Actually, to me, being part of Shen Yun is a duty. To revive traditional Chinese culture in the United States, I feel that is an honor. It’s a sacred job to me.”
“The first year that I came to the United States, I watched Shen Yun in San Francisco. The moment the curtains went up, I thought: I want to be one of those performers,” said Huang.
Reporter: What kinds of pieces have you performed in? And what role do you play?
Huang: I play the role of a police chief. I was born in China and have seen many police officers there. And because I’ve lived through it, you could say I have a bit more experience.
Reporter: What was your life like growing up in China?
Huang: My parents started practicing Falun Dafa in 1995. Because of that, my father quit smoking and drinking. His temper also became better, which made my family more harmonious. When the persecution began, my father was sent illegally to a labor camp for three years. And his remodeling business was forced to shut down. I was only 1 year old then. In April 2004, after sending me to nursery school, my father was illegally arrested again by four police officers and was sentenced to serve another three years in a labor camp. The police were also looking to persecute my mother. So she went on the run after she heard the news of my father’s arrest. At the time, losing essentially both of my parents made me really depressed, so my uncle took me in. On Jan. 17, 2005, the police arrested my mother and put her in a brainwashing camp. She went on a hunger strike for as long as seven months. She only took in liquids, until her body couldn’t bear it anymore. And then she was sent home in an emaciated state. That same year in August, my father was released as well. In 2013, my mother and I were able to leave China, come to the U.S., and begin a normal life. However, my father, who had been living under immense pressure for decades, passed away on Sept. 4, 2017.
Reporter: What are some differences you see between China and the U.S.?
Huang: There is a lot of freedom in the U.S. You can do the exercises freely outside, practice Falun Dafa without the police arresting or harassing you. You have no such environment in China. I remember I used to feel worried if my parents didn’t come home by 8 or 9 o’clock. I would wonder if they were arrested again.
Reporter: When you joined Shen Yun and you began your training in classical Chinese dance, did you ever doubt your own abilities?
Huang: In the beginning, it was pretty difficult because flexibility is a challenging aspect for me. I need to stretch all the time and endure a great amount of pain, day by day and year by year. In Shen Yun, everyone works extremely hard. They wake up very early and go to bed very late. Everyone puts a lot of effort in studying dance. And we always help each other. If anyone has trouble with techniques or other issues, we all lend a hand. In Shen Yun, everyone puts others before themselves. Actually, Shen Yun has become a part of my life. Every day is filled with performances, dance rehearsals, and classes.
Reporter: If you could go back to China, and Shen Yun could perform there, how would that make you feel?
Huang: I would think that we are halfway to accomplishing our mission because then people can finally see traditional Chinese culture in China.