Just a year ago, I was running for my life. A two-month journey that started with plainclothes policemen in northeastern China smashing my car window took me trekking through mountains, riding on cargo ships and eventually passing through Canada before arriving in San Francisco. As a torture survivor, I am lucky to be alive.
I had friends die from torture. One of my best friends, Yu Ming, is still imprisoned in China. My trip to Washington was for him. Yu Ming’s “crime”? Practicing Falun Gong, a Buddhist-style meditation discipline that I first took up in 1997.
As a wayward 21-year-old in a complicated social environment, the teachings on virtuous living and energizing exercises helped focus my life.
When the Communist Party banned it in July 1999 and the Ministry of Propaganda labeled it as a “foreign-linked heretical organization trying to overthrow the government through spreading superstition and hoodwinking people,” I spoke out.
As the persecution worsened, I exposed torture-related deaths on homemade fliers. I also printed fliers exposing an underground organ-harvesting industry that has developed alongside the persecution. I was abducted several times for these actions.
My longest detention lasted almost a year in a forced labor camp. I had helped to organize 10 brave attorneys to represent a group of Falun Gong practitioners, including my father-in-law, who were abducted in a nationwide pre-2008 Olympics roundup. It was the only instance I know of where a court upheld the constitution — freedom of belief is a protected right — rather than the whims of the Chinese Communist Party and acquitted all of them.
I paid dearly for my involvement, however. Severe mistreatment led to kidney failure and other complications that prompted the labor camp to release me in 2010 on medical parole. I stayed off the radar for two years.
But when my other good friend, Chen Zhenda, was abducted and sentenced to prison, I became active again. On May 17, 2013, on my way to the appeals office, four plainclothes policemen surrounded my car, smashing the windows. Almost simultaneously, my sister called to say that policemen were ransacking my home. My instincts told me that leaving China was the only option this time.
I am safe now. But what happened to me is still happening in China at this very moment.
So two weeks ago, I traveled with Yu Ming’s wife, now a San Francisco resident, to join several thousand others in Washington. We rallied against China’s 15-year genocide of Falun Gong members and sought help from Pelosi to rescue Yu Ming.
I hope the long journey to her office will be enough to persuade her.
Yu Yang was born in Shenyang City, China, and now resides with his wife in San Francisco. This article was translated from Mandarin.