Candlelight Vigil in Washington Mourns Those Killed in Persecution of Falun Gong in China

WASHINGTON—The air was fresh after a sweltering July day in the nation’s boggy capital. An evening storm had cut up the sticky heat, paving the way for brilliantly colored clouds as the sun set over the Washington Monument.

Serene Chinese instrumentals rippled through the air, as more than one thousand candle flames dotted the lawn in front of the towering obelisk that pierced the darkening sky.

The scene ushered in a somber mood. Each candle held by a seated Falun Gong practitioner was lit in memory of the untold number of those killed by the Chinese communist regime for nothing other than practicing their faith.

NTD Photo
Falun Gong practitioners hold a banner calling for an end to the 23-year-long persecution in China, ahead of a candlelight vigil in front of the Washington Monument on July 21, 2022. (Lisa Fan/The Epoch Times)
Xu Yanjie practitioner
Falun Gong practitioner Xu Yanjie (C) doing the exercises at the Washington Monument on July 21, 2022. Over a thousand Falun Gong practitioners held a candlelight vigil at the Washington Monument on July 21, 2022, commemorating those killed in the 23 years of persecution in China. (Courtesy of Lu Tao via The Epoch Times)

The day earlier, July 20, marked 23 years since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched its nationwide persecution of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice involving meditative exercises and a set of moral teachings based on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.

The practice’s immense popularity, drawing an estimated 70 million to 100 million adherents in China by 1999, was perceived as a threat to the Party’s authoritarian control over society.

Since July 1999, millions of adherents have been detained in jails, detention centers, labor camps and other facilities across the country, where they are subjected to torture, slave labor, indoctrination, and forced organ harvesting.

There are over 4,700 documented cases of Falun Gong practitioners dying as a result of torture and abuse in police custody since 1999, yet the true number is likely many times higher due to the extreme difficulty in verifying information in China, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center.

Family Torn Apart

At the vigil, Yu Ping, from New York State, and her mother Wang Chunyan, a local from Fairfax, Virginia, had a special loved one in mind. Ping’s father Yu Yefu died in 2002, as a result of the persecution, she said.

Ping, now 39, was then a 19-year-old freshman at the China Medical University in Shenyang, the capital of China’s northeastern Liaoning Province, when her father left the world during the winter break.

Yu Ping at a rally held on the National Mall in Washington on July 21, 2022, holding a picture of a Falun Gong practitioner killed in the persecution in China. (Lisa Fan/The Epoch Times)

After the persecution began, Ping had expected the loss of some freedoms but not death in the family, especially since her father was not a Falun Gong practitioner.

“It felt so unreal that I was detached in a weird way,” she told The Epoch Times. “It was almost like my feet didn’t step on solid ground and my hands didn’t touch anything real.”

During most of her high school years in her home city of Dalian, Ping’s mother, a Falun Gong practitioner, was forced to leave home to avoid being captured and forced to give up her belief. Therefore, Ping’s father was the one who took care of her.

Every day, he rode a bike to drop her off and pick her up from school. On their way home, she would sit on the back of his bike, enjoying an ice cream bar he bought for her. Sometimes, seeing him making much effort riding uphill, she would ask him, “Am I too heavy, dad?”

“No. You are not heavy at all,” he would reply, Ping recalled.

Ping still remembers the morning when he died. He had been in a coma for half a month. She was back in Dalian during her winter break and staying at her cousin’s house near the hospital. During that period, she wasn’t able to sleep well due to her worries for her father. She didn’t even bother changing into her pajamas at night.

In the early hours of Jan. 3, 2002, she got a call from her aunt who worked at the Dalian Central Hospital, where her father was hospitalized, telling her that her father was in critical condition.

She jumped out of the bed and started running out to get a taxi.

Ping remembered seeing this dark hallway when she arrived at the hospital around 3 a.m. She felt so lonely and sad. For some reason, she didn’t recall seeing anyone else. And the hallway seemed neverending. As she was running, she comforted herself, “If I could make it to the ward, dad would be okay.” However, he passed away within the next two hours.

During the first three years after her father’s death, Ping was still in shock. Other family members dreamed of her father, but he never visited Ping in her dreams.

It was not until 2003 when Ping went back home to Dalian for the first time after her father’s death that everything began sinking in. Seeing the familiar home apartment, she was overwhelmed by sorrow. Then, her father appeared in her dream. He told her that he was in a good place.

“I then realized that father hadn’t come into my dreams because he didn’t want me to be sad,” said Ping, with tears in her eyes.

On Jan. 9, 2002, Ping’s family went to the crematorium to collect her father’s ashes. In his remains, her aunt showed her a black area on the skull with a diameter of about four inches, and told her, “Ping, remember, your father didn’t die a natural death.”

Even though the official cause of death was gas poisoning, the family didn’t believe so.

NTD Photo
Ping’s mother, Wang Chunyan, at a rally in the National Mall, Washington, on July 21, 2022, holding a wreath remembering a Falun Gong practitioner who was killed in China for their belief. (Lisa Fan/The Epoch Times)

In mid-December 2001, the family lost contact with Ping’s father for three days and then reported the case to the police. Eventually, he was found unconscious at home with the gas turned on.

When the family demanded an answer from local police, they were told, “If you want to know the reason for this man’s death, ask his wife to check in with us.”

It felt like a trap to capture her mother who was in hiding, Ping said. Surely, the death cause could be shared with her grandparents, the parents of the deceased, she thought. The police, according to Ping, was trying to bait their family: if they didn’t turn in her mother, they would have to live with the regret of not knowing the truth of the father’s death.

The family found the circumstances around her father’s death to be suspicious. Several days before he was found unconscious at home, a police officer visited him at his workplace, then the Dalian Shipyard and now Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company, to find out the whereabouts of his wife Wang. The officer hit Ping’s father, who fought back. Then, the officer threatened to take revenge on him.

Even after over 20 years, Ping still couldn’t hold back tears when sharing memories of her father. However, the sorrow has subdued and been replaced by peace knowing that he was in a good place.

Ping now works as operational support at an e-commerce company in upstate New York, years after she first made it to the United States in February 2008 through an au pair care program. Before her mom joined her in the country in 2015 through a United Nations refugee program, she practically lived as an orphan for years.

Ping credited her practice for not sinking into an abyss of depression or resentment, “My practice of Falun Gong helped me stay positive throughout the difficulties and maintain the belief in good people.”

‘Something Has to Be Done’

Makai Allbert, a 21-year-old senior at Fei Tian College in upstate New York, attended the vigil. He said he would never forget how he found out about the Chinese regime’s repression of Falun Gong.

“This must be a joke,” the then-high school student thought to himself in February 2018 when he first searched “Falun Gong” online and watched a video about the persecution.

Makai Allbert, a 21-year-old senior at Fei Tian College in upstate New York, at the candlelight vigil commemorating those killed in the persecution of Falun Gong at Washington Monument on July 21, 2022. (Lisa Fan/The Epoch Times)

Makai and his twin brother Rumi had practiced Falun Gong since their sophomore year in high school in Arizona.

Prior to this, Makai, in particular, thought there might be more to life than alcohol, drugs, and parties. So he began searching for answers in philosophical books.

That search ended in the summer of 2017 when a friend of his mom’s gave him a box of books. Among them was “Zhuan Falun,” the main text of Falun Gong, and a DVD teaching the meditative exercises. The book caught Makai’s attention because “it had a powerful aura,” he said.

Within a week of practicing the exercises and reading “Zhuan Falun,” Makai said he became a version of himself that he thought was “unreachable or just didn’t exist.” As a result, the teen’s relationship with his family improved, and his health improved.

After practicing with his twin brother for about half a year, Makai thought they should search online. “There might be more people like us out there,” he told Rumi. Sure, there were. And they were persecuted, according to the first video they found online.

“As the video was playing, I had to stop halfway because I could not believe my eyes,” Makai recalled. After the video finished, the twin brothers just sat there. None of them said anything. Then they played the same video again.

“I remembered clearly, by the time the video finished, my face was completely wet because I was not necessarily crying, but tears flowed down my cheeks. I felt so much pity, so much sadness that people like me, just because they were meditating, just because they wanted to be better people, were killed,” recalled Makai.

Makai said it became clear to him that the persecution was real after watching a second video. He continued his research online. And later in the day, he also learned about the Chinese regime’s forced organ harvesting of detained Falun Gong practitioners and that it was not something that only occurred in the past but was still going on.

In 2019, an independent tribunal found that Beijing has for years killed prisoners of conscience for their organs to supply the state’s organ transplant system on a “significant scale.” The main source of these organs is Falun Gong practitioners, the tribunal found, adding that the practice continues today.

“That just broke my heart,” said Makai. “Just thinking about people being worried about their organs. It’s unfathomable and made me very sick to my stomach.”

To him, July 20 marks another year of suffering. And the persecution doesn’t only involve Falun Gong practitioners. It also involves police officers and everyone in China’s national apparatus. So, in a way, it affects the entire Chinese population and the rest of the world, he said.

A biomedical science major, Makai has volunteered for Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, an advocacy group consisting of medical professionals. He said he wanted to tell more people about the persecution, “It was very clear to me that something had to be done.”

From The Epoch Times

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