The Pitt News, Mar. 12, 2003
By KATIE LEONARD, Senior Staff Writer
Pitt researcher Cailu Xu is on a mission to free his wife, who is currently in a Chinese labor camp for practicing Falun Gong.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a combination of yoga-like exercises and meditation. Many practitioners believe Falun Gong has helped improve their health and mental clarity. The ancient practice gained worldwide appeal in 1992, when Li Hongzhi began holding public meetings to teach it.
Falun Gong practitioners try to emphasize a life of truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance.
While imprisoned, Falun Gong practitioners have been raped, shocked, injected with drugs, forced to have abortions and stretched and tied to the four corners of metal beds.
Xu and his wife, Xiaomei Jia, began practicing Falun Gong in 1996 after she was diagnosed with an allergy and asthma in 1992, which could not be treated medically, Xu said. Within two years of doing Falun Gong, her symptoms were gone, he added.
According to A Witness to History, a publication by Falun Gong practitioners, when the number of practitioners exceeded the membership of the Chinese Communist Party in 1999, Chinese President Jiang Zemin outlawed Falun Gong.
Xu said Zemin feared the large number of Falun Gong practitioners because the people did not elect him.
In 1999, the communist government in China began physically attacking people who practiced Falun Gong and Falun Gong itself – describing it as an “evil” cult.
According to Emma Jin, a software engineer who spoke at Carnegie Mellon University Monday night, the Chinese government began detaining practitioners that year.
She added that in July 1999, “Some Falun Gong practitioners were taken from their homes at night and some were never heard from again.”
In November 2001, Jia was taken into custody because she distributed information about Falun Gong and was put into the Beijing female labor camp. Xu said he and their son had not seen her since October 2001, when she left home to avoid being arrested.
Xu was not notified that his wife had been put into a labor camp until December 2001, he said. The letter he received did not tell him when she would be released.
Xu has written to her, but her sisters told him she has not received anything.
He has recently heard that she could get out as early as this May, but is not sure she will be released, he said.
Their son is now living with family members in China.
Jia was arrested several times before being sent to the labor camp. Two of her sisters had also been held in the labor camp and were released after being “re-educated,” Xu said. He added that they have seen his wife.
He has talked to some members of Congress about his wife’s situation and plans on talking to a few others as well as writing to members of the U.S. State Department including Secretary of State Colin Powell and President George Bush.
At the CMU meeting, Pittsburgh Councilman William Peduto said, city councils across the country and the U.S. Congress have passed resolutions condemning the Chinese government for torturing Falun Gong participants.
Xu said he did not think that his wife’s life would be in more jeopardy because he is working against the Chinese government to get her released. Rather it may help her because the Chinese government is getting negative publicity.
“[The Chinese government] always makes up lies, and they don’t want others – especially from the outside to know the truth,” he said.
Jia and Xu have had their phone lines cut, cell phones tapped and their electricity cut off since 1999.
According to a statement from Hongzhi from July 1999, “To date, the Chinese government has used any method available to terrorize and pressure people to renounce their faith. They have pitted society and family members against each other through threats and heavy fines, and thousands have lost their jobs and their homes.”
Xu said, the government encouraged intellectuals to publish articles against Falun Gong, telling people that it was actually bad for their health and that practitioners were idiots. These articles and television programming against Falun Gong became accepted as the truth since the Communist government controls the media, he added.
According to Amnesty International, Chinese officials have denied all wrongdoings; however, they have not provided information showing that they have thoroughly investigated the allegations made.
Chinese officials told the UN Committee Against Torture in October 1999 that reports of torture were “sheer fabrications unrelated to the facts.”
They added in May 2000 that, “In the course of dealing with Falun Gong practitioners engaged in illegal activities, the people’s police and judicial officers have acted in strict accordance with law.”
Official numbers indicate that between July 1999 and now, 600 deaths have been confirmed at labor camps, Xu said. However, there have been estimates that up to 7,000 people may have actually died.
Xu said he could not return to China. “I can be arrested at any time [there], so I decided to stay here,” he said.