RICHMOND, Virginia — On Feb. 23, Wang Chunyan — a Falun Gong adherent from China’s northeastern Liaoning Province, now living in Virginia — received special recognition from the Virginia State Assembly for her courage and perseverance in the face of unbelievable persecution. Wang’s story is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the resilience of those who refuse to be silenced in the face of oppression.
While addressing the group of policymakers, 38th District State Delegate Kaye Kory (D-VA) said, “Wang Chunyan is a survivor of the slave camps in Communist China. She was forced to help manufacture clothing for expensive labels [during this time], and suffered a great deal of religious persecution.”
“[Wang] is an example of what it means to be a tough survivor with the will to help others; she’s an example of what we should all aspire to,” Kory added.
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Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice that combines meditation exercises with a moral philosophy based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance (真善忍). After becoming widely popular in China in the 1990s — with millions of people, including high-ranking government officials taking up the practice — the communist authorities labelled Falun Gong an “evil cult,” and launched a brutal suppression of its estimated 100 million practitioners starting in July 1999.
Since then, thousands of Falun Gong adherents have perished at the hands of Chinese police — with the real number of deaths speculated to be in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions. According to Minghui, A U.S.-based website that documents the persecution of Falun Gong, at least 4,365 practitioners have been persecuted to death, with the number continuing to rise.
Wang began practicing Falun Gong in early 1999 — and like many others who have embraced the practice — found it to be a life-changing experience. She reported experiencing improved health and mental clarity, as well as a newfound sense of purpose and meaning in her life. “I used to suffer from several ailments, such as insomnia and arthritis in my bones; after taking up the practice, all these issues disappeared in no time,” Wang told Vision Times.
Prior to being targeted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Wang ran a successful foreign trade business in Liaoning, and enjoyed a harmonious family life alongside her husband and daughter. However, after the persecution began, Wang’s husband was tortured to death for trying to protect her.
In 2002, Wang was arrested for using her company to print truth-clarification materials, and was sentenced to two years in jail. While in prison, she was subjected to routine abuse and torture, and forced to perform hard labor including sewing designer clothes that would go on to be sold in the U.S. and Europe. Despite these hardships, Wang did not renounce her faith and continued to practice Falun Gong.
After being released, Wang was again arrested in 2008, and sentenced to five more years in prison.
During this time, Wang was one of the millions of Falun Gong practitioners who faced persecution for refusing to give up the practice. She was arrested multiple times, tortured, and sent to a labor camp where she was forced to do hard labor for up to 20 hours a day. During this detention, she was subjected to physical and psychological abuse — including electric shocks, beatings, and sleep deprivation.
On at least three occasions, Wang said she also had her blood drawn while in detention — presumably to see if she was a match for forced organ harvesting — a sinister and lucrative operation that continues to take place in China today.
READ MORE: New Report Shows Chinese Doctors Used Organ Harvesting as a Method of Execution
‘Seven years of injustice’
“During these times, I really had nothing, and didn’t even feel like I had the right to be a human being.” Wang said, adding, “Seven years of unjust imprisonment. Looking back on that time, it was really a nightmare.”
Despite years of ongoing torture and abuse, Wang refused to renounce her beliefs. She continued to practice Falun Gong and share its teachings with others, all the while knowing it could result in more persecution and scrutiny.
“This resolution is very important because it serves as an example of the people that we should be honoring, respecting, and emulating. [Wang’s] courage is so admirable and strong, and she deserves a lot of recognition — and for us to follow in her footsteps,” Kory said.
Wang’s story is just one of many that highlight the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China. Since the persecution began, thousands of practitioners continue to routinely be arrested, tortured, and killed for their beliefs. The CCP has also used a variety of methods to suppress the practice, including sweeping propaganda campaigns, surveillance, and arbitrary travel bans.
“I feel very happy and moved that the American government and its people have made a correct step towards addressing injustice,” Wang said. However, her heart is still heavy for her fellow practitioners who continue to face arrest and imprisonment in China today.
“The CCP is still persecuting Dafa disciples on a large scale — I stand with those practitioners,” Wang said, adding, “I don’t see this recognition as being addressed to me personally; it is a compliment to Dafa disciples, Falun Gong, and the recognition of its core principles.”
The Virginia State Assembly’s recognition of Wang’s courage, resilience, and steadfastness sends a powerful message of support to activists around the world; it serves as a reminder that their struggles have not gone unnoticed, and that their voices are being heard. The proclamation also represents a glimmer of hope for the U.S. government’s role in promoting human rights, and upholding religious freedom around the world.