By Nicole Murphy
A group of people have been volunteering outside the Strathcona Farmers Market almost every Saturday for 20 years peacefully bringing attention to the modern day concentration camps happening in China.
“All the media in China is controlled by the government, all the news is censored and only the government’s voice heard. They put out propaganda through all kinds of media to demonize the practice of Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong), to generate hatred and pave the way for the persecution,” said Olivia
Olivia (who wants to remain anonymous) volunteers her time informing people about the mistreatment of those who practice Falun Dafa in China.
Falun Dafa is a spiritual practice rooted in Buddhist tradition, that consists of exercise, meditation and the study of teachings centered on three values: truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.
The practice was introduced in the early 90s by Mr. Li Hong Zhi.
At first the Communist Chinese Party (CCP) supported Falun Dafa because of the physical and mental health benefits people received by practicing it.
However when the number of the people practicing Falun Dafa, estimated between 70 to 100 million, exceeded that of the members of the Communist Party, there was a shift in media coverage.
In the early 2000s a breaking news story released by the Chinese state-run media claimed that five people practicing Falun Dafa set themselves on fire on Tiananmen Square in Beijing in an attempted suicide.
This event shifted public opinion against the practice.
Those who practice Falun Dafa say suicide is forbidden, and not in alignment with any of their values.
The most common belief with those who practice is that it was a planned propaganda stunt by the CCP to shift public opinion, making it easier for the average person to look the other way while the kidnapping, toture and imprisonment of innocent people is taking place.
Not only those who practice Falun Dafa question the validity of the event.
Olivia explains how the government laid the groundwork to commit these crimes against humanity, and why so many people find this information so hard to believe.
“They (Chinese Communist Party) have gotten very good at mixing concepts. Domestically, they mixed the concepts of Chinese Communist Party versus cultural China to rally Chinese people to defend the policy of the Party. And to the international community, they mix concepts like the Chinese Communist Party State versus Chinese people, and they implant the belief that anyone in the world that questions the Chinese Communist government is racist,” said Olivia.
Olivia translated an interview with Hong Jiang who was brought to Canada by the United Nations after years of persecution living in China for practicing Falun Dafa.
Jiang was first kidnapped in 2000 and sent to a detention centre for over a year and then sentenced to three years in prison.
When she attempted to practice the meditation in prison, her hands and feet were shackled together behind her back for days.
“I could not stand up, or lay flat and sleep, and it was so tight it cut into my skin. My entire body became swollen and the parts that were cut got infected. I couldn’t go to the washroom. I couldn’t have my meals. It is with the help of the other prisoners, that fed me and helped me go to the washroom,” said Jiang.
After being released she returned to her family’s home which was under constant watch by police and government surveillance.
Jiang’s family didn’t stop handing out flyers, CDs, and books about the persecution and the truth of Fulan Dafa. These actions led to the entire family being sent to various labour camps and what Jiang calls “brainwashing” camps at different times. Her father did not make it out alive.
On January 28, 2009 only 24 hours after a family visit where he was in prime health, Jiang received news her father was dead.
“We went to see his body and there were tons of cops. They said we could only see him from the neck up in a freezer. I saw his face and his teeth were clenched on his lower lip. I touched his face and it was still warm, so I said “Dad’s alive!” and tried to pull him out of the freezer. Then a bunch of cops pulled me and my family away,” said Jiang.
Jiang’s father was cremated without the family’s permission.
Jiang contacted lawyers and was told her family wouldn’t be represented because they practice Fulan Dafa. The first two lawyers that agreed to work for them were beaten, and then quit.
“For the past 20 years many times I couldn’t hold in my tears for losing my father and my broken family, but I learned that I need to understand them (those who have persecuted her). I need to be strong, and I need to forgive them because they have been brainwashed too,” said Jiang.