Family Torn Apart for 14 Years: A Young Woman’s Mission to Free Her Parents

( “Dad is still in prison and now Mom has also been illegally sentenced to prison. All I want is for my family to be together and live a normal life. Is that too much to ask?”

This is the sincere plea of a young woman in China who has grown up amidst the persecution of Falun Gong.

Ms. Li Songrong once had a happy family life, but everything was shattered when the Chinese Communist Party began persecuting Falun Gong in 1999. The past 14 years have seen her parents repeatedly arrested and separated for their belief in Falun Gong and its core principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.

Ms. Li and her family are from Poxin Town, in the Maogang District of Maoming City, Guangdong Province.

Her father, Mr. Li Kun, was sentenced to a 14-year prison term in 2002, and is still being held in Sihui Prison in Guangdong Province.

Following her most recent arrest on November 2, 2013, Li Songrong’s mother, Ms. Liang Guifen, was sentenced to three and a half years on December 27. She appealed her case and is now awaiting the results at Maoming City First Detention Center.

Besides her parents, Ms. Li’s grandmother and brother were also once arrested for practicing Falun Gong. In particular, the local court sentenced her brother, Li Xinhua, to five years in 2002, even though he was still a minor at the time.

When her father, Li Kun, was arrested for the first time in 1999, Ms. Li was only nine years old. She was terrified and traumatized. She never doubted her father’s innocence, yet she could not face her classmates’ taunting that she was a criminal’s daughter. She became withdrawn and felt depressed at times.

Growing up amidst the persecution hasn’t been easy for Ms. Li, but she managed to pull through and finish college.

Now a 23-year-old young professional, she knows she must stand up for her loved ones, and she is determined to do whatever she can to get her parents released.

Below is an open letter Ms. Li wrote to the judicial system in Maoming City to expose the wrongs they have done to her parents and family. Putting her experiences on paper stirred up such painful memories that she cried uncontrollably.

She is appealing for her mother’s immediate release. She also hopes this letter will inspire people to help her family reunite.

A Happy Childhood, Once Upon a Time

I was adopted by my biological aunt when I was born in November 1990, and became the youngest in my new family. My parents and grandparents all doted on me, and they showered me with endless love, delicious food, and beautiful clothes.

My grandma and mother began to practice Falun Gong in the summer of 1997. They often brought me to their group exercise site, where I saw many other kids. While the grownups were doing the exercises, we had loads of fun playing together. Those days were full of joy.

I always looked up to my father. While serving in the military, he traveled to many different places and had many stories to tell. He was also very handy and could fix anything in the house. As a little girl, I felt that Dad was the most powerful person in the world.

Though I loved Dad dearly, I was also afraid of him whenever he lost his temper.

I remember being awakened one winter night by a commotion in the living room. Dad was cursing at and beating my eldest brother because he stole money from home to buy video games. Grandpa soon stopped my dad, but I couldn’t forget the furious look on Dad’s face.

After Dad started practicing Falun Gong, he became much calmer, and seldom lost his temper again. When I failed my very first test at school, instead of scolding me, he smiled and encouraged me to do better in the future.

Once a heavy smoker with dark yellow teeth, Dad also managed to quit smoking not long after he began practicing Falun Gong.

My first nine years were the happiest time in my life.

My Father Taken Away

In the early fall of 1999, Dad was washing his face after a long day’s work, when a group of strangers broke into our home. I don’t quite remember what happened exactly, but I knew our 32-inch color TV and music player were gone, and so was Dad.

Mom later took me to a place called the Drug Rehabilitation Center. I couldn’t understand why Dad ended up there since he never used drugs.

I always looked forward to Saturdays. Every Saturday morning I walked 30 minutes to the center with another little girl. I visited my Dad and she saw her grandma. We did our homework there and stayed until we were told to leave in the evening.

I was terrified when one day Dad lost consciousness after being on a hunger strike. We rushed to the hospital, and saw him there looking very pale. He gestured for me to come close and I heard him murmur, “Don’t be afraid. Dad is fine and will be home soon.”

He indeed returned home some time later, only to leave again not long afterward. He had to leave to get away from the police.

I overheard grownups saying that the police had offered 15,000 yuan as a reward to anyone who could help capture my dad. I desperately wanted Dad to come home, but also feared for his safety.

When I was finally able to see Dad again, he was in custody, first at Maoming First Detention Center, and later in Yangjiang Prison.

Every time we wanted to see my dad, we had to get up early in the morning and take two buses before walking some distance to the prison. Oftentimes it was already 3 or 4 in the afternoon when our visitation request was finally approved. We then had to wait in line to use the meeting room. By the time we saw Dad, we had at most 30 minutes. But still, every minute with him was precious to me.

However, even such brief meetings were not guaranteed.

One day our request to visit was denied, and the local 610 Office head who happened to be around saw my sad face and immediately reprimanded me, “Don’t you become a person who hates society!”

“Hate?” I felt like both laughing and crying at the same time. I had too many questions I wanted to ask him.

Why did the officer who came to arrest Dad say, “Your dad is a good person and I am a bad guy. That’s why I’m arresting him.”

Why did other inmates’ families have no trouble getting approval to see their loved ones, while we faced so many obstacles when trying to see Dad?

Why could other visitors talk to their loved ones without worries, while a guard had to monitor us at all times?

But instead of questioning the 610 Office head, I simply replied, “No, I don’t hate anyone.”

At that moment, I despised myself for being such a coward.

Whenever I heard others talking about their loving fathers, I had nothing to say. I could only remind myself that Dad would return home soon. I’ve been comforting myself like this for 14 years.

Grandpa’s Heavy Burden

Grandpa was warmhearted and he liked kids. I loved to read so he bought me numerous magazines and books. When I later went to a boarding school, he’d tell neighbors days before my homecoming that his granddaughter would be home soon.

For a long period of time, it was just me and Grandpa at home. My grandma and parents had all been arrested and my two brothers were attending schools out of town.

The local court ordered our house to be sold, and we were forced to move out, for no valid reason. Grandpa was busy with this matter all day long, yet he always came home on time to cook for me.

I often worried that if we became homeless, Mom and Dad couldn’t find us after they were released.

Grandpa cried when Grandma was released. Grandma asked, “You’ve gone through so much in your life, why are you crying now?” Grandpa sighed, “I’m worried that we will have no place to live in our old age.”

I only saw Grandpa cry twice in my entire life. The other time was when he heard that Dad passed out after being hung up by handcuffs and brutally beaten.

Since Dad’s arrest, Grandpa had to use his meager pension to support the entire family and my schooling. I always dreamed about how to make money when I grew up so I could repay Grandpa, but I never got that chance.

The first Saturday of my high school junior year, Grandpa passed away suddenly, and we were all caught off guard.

It has been six years since Grandpa passed away. Every time I visit Dad in prison, he asks about Grandpa and I give the same answer, “He’s doing great.” I feel bad for lying all this time, but I don’t want to cause him more pain.

Mother’s Illegal Sentence

When I was little, I tagged along with Mom everywhere she went. When I went off to college and even after I found a job, Mom was always the first person I wanted to call whenever I felt like talking to someone. Mom would always patiently listen and comfort me. When I returned home during school break, what awaited me were Mom’s homemade dishes.

I recall that 2000 was especially difficult for me. I was only 10, but both Mom and Dad had already been arrested several times by then.

I had trouble falling asleep since I was afraid of being woken up by the police again.

One cold winter night Mom was trying to get me to sleep when we heard people calling Mom outside and demanding that she open the door.

I was too scared to say a word and just looked at Mom. She ignored them and focused on me. The shouting stopped for a while and we thought it was over.

But then we heard a loud bang on the door downstairs. The banging kept going and going. It sounded like the door was about to break, and I felt my heart was about to stop.

Mom went downstairs to open the door, and in no time I heard heavy footsteps coming upstairs.

Mom asked, “What’s all this fuss for?” A voice answered, “It won’t take long. Just a brief meeting and we’ll bring you back soon.”

Mom thought for a while and told them she needed to get her coat first.

She came back to my room, and I knew a man was staring at us from the other side of the door. I cried and begged her not to leave me alone. Mom comforted me, “Don’t cry. Sleep tight. Mom will be back soon.”

I never dreamed that “soon” would mean almost two years later.

When Mom finally returned home, it was summer of the following year, and I was about to start sixth grade.

After Mom was arrested, Dad was forced to avoid home and move from place to place to avoid the same fate. He was still detained, however, when he and my second brother went to visit Mom shortly before her release.

After that, Grandpa had to support the entire family with his pension, and Mom sold vegetables and crops to help make ends meet.

Though I was still young, I did my best to help where I could. In the winter I had to crawl out from under my warm comforter at around 4 in the morning to go pick vegetables with Mom. It didn’t get any easier in the summertime, as we had to endure the scorching sun and our clothes were often soaked in sweat.

After Grandpa passed away, Mom worked even harder to support our family. She grew as many vegetables and crops as she could. After she planted all of our own crop fields, she rented others’ spare fields for planting. Whatever money she made from selling her harvest, she spent on me and my brothers. This is how she supported me through college.

Despite the harsh life, Mom never lost hope, and she always reminded me to stay positive and conduct myself following the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. Thanks to her unwavering support and encouragement, I graduated from college in early 2013 and found a good job.

Thinking about how I could lessen my family’s financial burden and how I would welcome Dad’s homecoming in two years, I was full of hope and joy.

However, the brutal reality snapped me out of it. In early November 2013, I was about to go on a business trip when news came that Mom had been arrested at home.

Mom had just returned from a doctor’s visit when agents surrounded her and searched our home. They confiscated her cell phone and all the cash she had. They also took other personal belongings. Without an arrest warrant, they took Mom away.

I was totally devastated and could only comfort myself by saying, “Mom will be fine and she will be home soon.”

I attended Mom’s first trial on December 23, 2013, and had eye contact with her only twice. Mom turned around to look for me when she walked to the defendant’s seat, and she gave me a glance again as she exited the courthouse.

Mom was so close to me, yet she seemed so far away. She was pale and her steps were heavy. She also appeared disoriented.

Though Mom went through many ups and downs in her life, she was always very optimistic and healthy. What had happened to her in just one month of detention to have damaged her health this much?

When the public prosecutor read aloud the so-called evidence against Mom, one of the witnesses objected, “You’re fabricating evidence. I never said that.”

My heart sank and I felt helpless.

On December 27, 2013, Mom was tried for a second time and sentenced to three and half years, with no proof of having committed any crime.

Discovering That My Mother’s Conviction Is Groundless

Mom was convicted of “using a cult organization to interfere with the implementation of the law.” After researching legal documents, it was apparent to me that all the allegations against Mom were groundless.

First, the regime maintains a list of religions that are classified as cults. Falun Gong is not on that list. If Falun Gong was never a classified as a cult to begin with, how can the court use “cult” as an excuse to convict my mother?

Second, the public prosecutor accused my mother of being a ringleader that organized Falun Gong activities. The truth is Mom is a peasant with only an elementary school education. She only knows farm work and has no idea how to lead and mobilize others. Plus, she was so busy with farm work, how could she find time to organize “activities?”

Third, “interfering with the implementation of the law” usually refers to resorting to violent acts to disrupt social order. My mother’s Falun Gong practice has never harmed anyone, interfered with anyone’s freedom, or damaged anyone’s property. If she has never disturbed anyone in society, on what grounds can she be convicted?

Lastly, the police officers violated the law in the first place when they arrested her. They ransacked our home without a search warrant. They took her into custody without an arrest warrant. The public prosecutor also broke the law and failed to follow legal procedures in the prosecution. She cited certain evidence against my mother, yet she never presented any of it in the trials. Moreover, she fabricated some evidence that even her own witnesses discredited.

I feel sad that law-abiding citizens are convicted, while true criminals are still at large.

Dad is still in prison and now Mom has also been illegally sentenced to prison. All I want is for my family to be together and live a normal life. Is this too much to ask?

I was still an innocent and naïve little girl when the police broke into my home for the first time 14 years ago. When my classmates gossiped about my father being a criminal and kept a distance from me, I didn’t dare to say anything.

When it comes to Falun Gong, the police still disregard the law after 14 years, but I’ve learned to stand up for my parents.

I urge Maoming Court to immediately release my mother, Liang Guifen, unconditionally. I ask for help so that my family can finally be reunited.

Li Songrong

January 1, 2014

Chinese version available

Category: Accounts of Persecution

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