‘Faith Through Difficult Times’: Falun Gong Practitioner Tells His Story to Raise Awareness of the Dangers of Communism

What Winston Liu found in Falun Gong was a system of practices and principles that not only allowed him to cultivate balance in his life but also filled an empty void in his heart.Finally, there was meaning and a sense of purpose that transcended the day-to-day routine of rote existence. However, just as this new light grew, a jealous shadow was spreading across the hearts and minds of those who sought control. That shadow soon cast itself over the sun-lit parks where Falun Gong was practiced in the open air, and the freedom with which practitioners exercised their movements toward inner peace was eclipsed by fear. Though Liu escaped years of persecution in China for being a practitioner of Falun Gong and is now a chemical engineer in Greenville, North Carolina, what he said he’s currently witnessing in the United States is not unlike that from which he fled, which is why he tells his story. Liu began practicing after he watched his then-girlfriend at the time find a level of wellness through the practice that Liu himself said he had craved, he said. After reading the primary book, Zhuan Falun, he said he was “touched by the principles and teachings of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.” “Before practicing Falun Gong, like many Chinese people my spiritual life was empty because of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) destruction of traditional cultural values, so when I came across these guidelines on how to be a good, more responsible person to myself and others, I was very excited,” Liu told The Epoch Times. “After becoming a practitioner, I became a kinder, more energetic person with inner peace.” Falun Gong is a practice that was founded by Li Hongzhi in the early 1990s and is rooted in Buddhist and Taoist traditions. Its two components are self-improvement through the study of the teachings, and a series of qigong exercises and meditation. Liu explained that in the early 1990s, the CCP had opened its market to the world and relinquished control over its formerly prohibited cultural practices, which in turn allowed for Falun Gong communities to spring up and be practiced freely throughout China. “Because it aligned with traditional teachings and values, it became very popular and welcomed by everyone immediately,” Liu said. But this didn’t last, he said. Liu cited a report titled “The Battle for China’s Spirit” from a human rights and civil liberties organization called Freedom House that lists reasons why the CCP saw Falun Gong as a threat, the first being its popularity. “In 1999, the number of Falun Gong practitioners reached 70 to 100 million, which is the number the CCP published in the first half of 1999 based on their monitoring Falun Gong very closely,” he said. This means that Falun Gong practitioners outnumbered the CCP, which at the time had 63 million members, something he said upset the CCP. “The second reason is Falun Gong encourages the pursuit of truth, compassion, harmony, and tolerance, while the CCP encourages the pursuit of materialism, extreme nationalism, and to engage in political struggles,” Liu said.  “The CCP’s foundation is its demanding of loyalty. It turns community harmony into hostility, hatred, and struggle.” Also, Liu said, Falun Gong doesn’t have a formal membership that requires a list of members. “Since the CCP established power in 1949, they have monitored groups closely,” he said. “They wanted to create internal CCP branches in any civil group, including Falun Gong, which was in violation of the principles of Falun Gong.” Living in Fear As a result, there was growing oppression from 1996 to 1999 when it could still be practiced in public, Liu said, even though some CCP officials held favorable views of the practice. Zhuan Falun was banned in 1999, Liu said, as state-run media outlets launched an intensive smear campaign against Falun Gong. Liu was a Ph.D. candidate at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University at the time with his then-girlfriend, whom he later married one month before widespread attacks on Falun Gong began. “I started practicing in June 1998 right about the time there was news from Beijing’s largest television station defaming Falun Gong,” he said. “Practitioners appealed to the TV station, and they later corrected their news and issued a statement.” Continually, Falun Gong practitioners found themselves having to implore government officials and media outlets to stop their persecution, he said. On July 20, 1999, the CCP dictator Jiang Zemin launched a nationwide campaign against Falun Gong. “I still remember the state-controlled media running hate propaganda 24/7,” he said. “That was a really hard time for us.” The national campaign included his university, where there began propaganda efforts geared toward students designed to steer them away from Falun Gong. “I often asked myself, if a political party says universal principles of truth, compassion, and tolerance are bad, then what is good?” Liu asked. “As human being

‘Faith Through Difficult Times’: Falun Gong Practitioner Tells His Story to Raise Awareness of the Dangers of Communism

What Winston Liu found in Falun Gong was a system of practices and principles that not only allowed him to cultivate balance in his life but also filled an empty void in his heart.

Finally, there was meaning and a sense of purpose that transcended the day-to-day routine of rote existence.

However, just as this new light grew, a jealous shadow was spreading across the hearts and minds of those who sought control.

That shadow soon cast itself over the sun-lit parks where Falun Gong was practiced in the open air, and the freedom with which practitioners exercised their movements toward inner peace was eclipsed by fear.

Though Liu escaped years of persecution in China for being a practitioner of Falun Gong and is now a chemical engineer in Greenville, North Carolina, what he said he’s currently witnessing in the United States is not unlike that from which he fled, which is why he tells his story.

Liu began practicing after he watched his then-girlfriend at the time find a level of wellness through the practice that Liu himself said he had craved, he said.

After reading the primary book, Zhuan Falun, he said he was “touched by the principles and teachings of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.”

“Before practicing Falun Gong, like many Chinese people my spiritual life was empty because of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) destruction of traditional cultural values, so when I came across these guidelines on how to be a good, more responsible person to myself and others, I was very excited,” Liu told The Epoch Times. “After becoming a practitioner, I became a kinder, more energetic person with inner peace.”

Falun Gong is a practice that was founded by Li Hongzhi in the early 1990s and is rooted in Buddhist and Taoist traditions.

Its two components are self-improvement through the study of the teachings, and a series of qigong exercises and meditation.

Liu explained that in the early 1990s, the CCP had opened its market to the world and relinquished control over its formerly prohibited cultural practices, which in turn allowed for Falun Gong communities to spring up and be practiced freely throughout China.

“Because it aligned with traditional teachings and values, it became very popular and welcomed by everyone immediately,” Liu said.

But this didn’t last, he said.

Liu cited a report titled “The Battle for China’s Spirit” from a human rights and civil liberties organization called Freedom House that lists reasons why the CCP saw Falun Gong as a threat, the first being its popularity.

“In 1999, the number of Falun Gong practitioners reached 70 to 100 million, which is the number the CCP published in the first half of 1999 based on their monitoring Falun Gong very closely,” he said.

This means that Falun Gong practitioners outnumbered the CCP, which at the time had 63 million members, something he said upset the CCP.

“The second reason is Falun Gong encourages the pursuit of truth, compassion, harmony, and tolerance, while the CCP encourages the pursuit of materialism, extreme nationalism, and to engage in political struggles,” Liu said.  “The CCP’s foundation is its demanding of loyalty. It turns community harmony into hostility, hatred, and struggle.”

Also, Liu said, Falun Gong doesn’t have a formal membership that requires a list of members.

“Since the CCP established power in 1949, they have monitored groups closely,” he said. “They wanted to create internal CCP branches in any civil group, including Falun Gong, which was in violation of the principles of Falun Gong.”

Living in Fear

As a result, there was growing oppression from 1996 to 1999 when it could still be practiced in public, Liu said, even though some CCP officials held favorable views of the practice.

Zhuan Falun was banned in 1999, Liu said, as state-run media outlets launched an intensive smear campaign against Falun Gong.

Liu was a Ph.D. candidate at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University at the time with his then-girlfriend, whom he later married one month before widespread attacks on Falun Gong began.

“I started practicing in June 1998 right about the time there was news from Beijing’s largest television station defaming Falun Gong,” he said. “Practitioners appealed to the TV station, and they later corrected their news and issued a statement.”

Continually, Falun Gong practitioners found themselves having to implore government officials and media outlets to stop their persecution, he said.

On July 20, 1999, the CCP dictator Jiang Zemin launched a nationwide campaign against Falun Gong.

“I still remember the state-controlled media running hate propaganda 24/7,” he said. “That was a really hard time for us.”

The national campaign included his university, where there began propaganda efforts geared toward students designed to steer them away from Falun Gong.

“I often asked myself, if a political party says universal principles of truth, compassion, and tolerance are bad, then what is good?” Liu asked. “As human beings, we should insist on good values, and not compromise them with other benefits.”

For many, loyalty to the CCP’s narrative overrode the truth of Falun Gong’s principles, Liu said.

Liu watched fellow practitioners around him get arrested and never see any of them again, he said.

Having heard that many of them were tortured to death, Liu said he “lived in fear.”

Epoch Times Photo
Winston Liu at Tsinghua University in 1997. (Courtesy of Winston Liu)

In January 2000, a CCP official came to his home, he said.

“She said, ‘Go with me; no question,’” he said.

“She brought me to a hostel 40 miles outside of Beijing City where they had set up a brainwashing class,” he said.

Though they weren’t practitioners, CCP officials had detained his parents as well, using them as leverage “to break my will,” he said.

They used his mother and made her cry in front of him daily, among the other brainwashing methods.

“My mother became ill and could not sleep,” he said. “CCP officials offered no treatment. One official told me that if I didn’t renounce Falun Gong, my parents and I would stay there forever.”

To get his mother treatment, he verbally renounced Falun Gong but said he preserved his practice in his heart and mind.

On June 18, 2000, he was detained again, this time for 38 days, for holding a banner of support for Falun Gong during a protest at Tiananmen Square.

He wrote an article about his experience that was published on the Falun Gong practitioners’ website minghui.org, he said.

“This irritated CCP authorities and on January 1, 2001, policemen broke into my apartment, abducted me and my ex-wife, and took us to a detention center,” he said.

His charge was publishing and spreading information about Falun Gong on the internet, he said.

“At the end of the trial, I was sentenced to three years in jail, and my ex-wife was sentenced to 12 years,” he said.

Liu explained that the number of years sentenced to prison was determined by how much information was disseminated.

Because his wife had been involved in a campaign to release balloons carrying information about Falun Gong, as well as mass email efforts that reached more people, her sentence was higher than Liu’s.

Liu endured physical and mental torture in prison, he said, and toward the end of his jail time, his hair had turned grey and he was on the verge of a mental breakdown, he said.

He received an extensive medical exam with 40 other practitioners, he said, that at the time guards had told him was normal.

He later found in 2006 that practitioners had been targeted for potential organ harvesting, which is a part of the gruesome economy of the CCP that involves forced organ removal from prisoners of conscience.

“I believe that had I been one of the unwilling organ donors, I could have been killed at any time if my physical indexes matched with a patient who was looking for an organ,” he said.

After he completed his 3-year sentence, he returned to Tsinghua University where he got his master’s degree in thermal engineering in 2005.

His wife at the time stayed in prison for ten years, and later, in 2014, they divorced.

“She couldn’t get a passport to join me, so she just told me, ‘You just need to pursue your life,’” he said. “In about 15 years of marriage, we were together less than one year.”

Epoch Times Photo
Winston Liu at Tsinghua University in 2005. (Courtesy of Winston Liu).

‘The Feeling of Touching Freedom’

He got an opportunity to study at the University of Calgary in the Ph.D. program on a scholarship, but getting there and out of the clutches of the CCP would take maneuvering.

“I really had no confidence that the CCP would let me go,” he said.

He purchased his plane tickets with a Japanese instead of a Chinese airplane company, and it wasn’t only his luggage he brought with him, but also fear.

“I was a targeted person; it was a hostile climate, so I was nervous until I landed,” he said.

He carried no material related to Falun Gong and he spoke as little as possible to avoid drawing attention, he recalled.

Each passport check was an attack on his nerves, he said.

When he finally landed, he breathed a sigh of relief, he said.

It had come time for him to say goodbye, he said, not only to the endless fear, assault, and harassment but also to his family.

To his loved ones in spirit, he said, “I’m sorry for leaving this country; please take care of yourselves.”

Then, he cried, knowing he was finally going to be safe in a country that accepted him as refugee status and allowed him to become a Canadian citizen.

One Sunday morning, he came across a scene he thought he hadn’t witnessed in years: Falun Gong practitioners publicly exercising in the park in Calgary, Canada, which he said flooded his eyes with tears.

“It was the feeling of touching freedom,” he said. “They were practicing so freely and peacefully; it was like I came to a different planet.”

While at the University of Calgary, he got his second master’s degree in chemical engineering before moving to Wyoming in 2012, then later to North Carolina.

Epoch Times Photo
Winston Liu in Calgary, Canada in 2006. (Courtesy of Winston Liu).

A Familiar Shadow

Since he’s been in America, Liu said there have been what he called disturbing trends, he said, which have reminded him of how the CCP carried out its social engineering in China.

Critical race theory, cancel culture, the defunding of the police movement, and censorship in American media have all been used by the CCP, he said.

“Critical race theory (CRT) is an attempt to divide people and encourage them to hate each other,” he said. “That’s the trick of the communist regime to establish power and control over people.”

CRT is a Marxist philosophy that claims society is a class struggle between oppressors and the oppressed, specifically labeling white people as the oppressors and all other races as the oppressed.

Another method of the communist ideology is to destroy families, which he said was done during the Cultural Revolution when Chinese communist dictator Mao Zedong implemented the “Four Olds;” a title that referenced the citizen’s traditional ideas, cultures, habits, and customs that, according to Mao, needed to be eradicated for the party to thrive.

“I saw similarities to this in cancel culture that encourages the same ideology of upending culture, tradition, the founders, and the principles of the country,” he said. “Typically, traditional values include moral standards that keep society in harmony.”

Communist ideology demands loyalty, he said, which leaves little room for spiritual beliefs.

“The communist regime always wants people to worship the communist regime, not God, and it doesn’t encourage people to believe in a constitution,” he said. “A constitution in a communist country is just a piece of paper that can be revised as needed.”

This is why, he said, he believes there is a movement to defund the police: to get rid of the police who are loyal to the Constitution and replace them with law enforcement loyal to a new government.

For Liu, seeing these similarities provoked “really bad memories,” he said.

There is also censorship in the media, he said, citing its coverage of Falun Gong as an example.

“At the beginning of the persecution, Western media reported on it regularly,” he said, referencing Wall Street Journal reporter Ian Johnson, who won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.

Since then, there has been a dramatic change in how Falun Gong is covered in American media, he said, with many platforms echoing the CCP’s “hateful propaganda.”

The media has become saturated with self-censoring, progressive journalists, he said, whose ideologies run counter to the principles of Falun Gong.

“Those stories of the victims of CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong are not useful for their social agenda, even though Falun Gong practitioners never attempted to impose their views on anyone,” he said. “Liberal elites view the Falun Gong teachings and its values as a threat to their agenda, and when I realized this, I became actually scared.”

It was supposed to be only in the past, he thought to himself, but here were the familiar sentiments of the CCP echoing through progressive media voices, he said.

“Are they influenced by the CCP?” he said he asked himself. “I cannot give an answer, but I was shocked by the hypocrisy of this elite culture.”

A Grassroots Solution

Under the “mask of the liberal agenda,” Liu said he fears there is a plan to get “total control” over the lives of the American people.

To break free of this, he said Americans need to “campaign for the truth.”

“It’s not easy to learn the truth because big tech media tries to confuse people,” he said. “They twist a lot of things that happen in the U.S., and if you try to speak the truth on social media, you get labeled as disinformation.”

Uniting under grassroots organizations, as many have done in China with underground printing presses in the face of imprisonment and death, is what Liu said can be an effective strategy to dismantle the false narratives being broadcasted from all sides.

“Because the Chinese people were surrounded by anti-Falun Gong propaganda, we realized that the best way to counter the CCP attack is to facilitate change inside of China,” he said.

Falun Gong practitioners launched the largest information campaign in modern history as non-violent resistance to CCP oppression, Liu said, which included practitioners operating more than 200,000 underground printing presses that produced flyers, brochures, and other modes of information that they distributed at night, “and at great personal risk.”

“Unsilenced,” a film about Tsinghua University students who risked their lives to reveal the CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong practitioners with the help of a Chicago journalist, was released in January and directed by Canadian filmmaker Leon Lee.

The film has brought more international attention to the persecution of Falun Gong, Liu said.

Internet censorship in China has been fought by overseas practitioners who formed teams of computer scientists who developed software that “helped millions in China breakthrough CCP’s firewall.”

Why Americans Should Care

There are several practical reasons why Americans should not tolerate the CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong, Liu said, one of which being that the persecution carries with it crimes within the CCP’s medical industry through COVID cover-ups and organ harvesting.

“If the West had investigated and requested transparency in China’s health system on the issue of organ transplant abuse that targeted Falun Gong, it would have known earlier about the COVID-19 outbreak in December 2019, which could have saved many lives,” Liu said. “Americans thought the cover-up was a joke, but for Chinese people, we all knew that a cover-up is the common response of the communist government to civil emergency events and human rights abuse.”

The Falun Gong Protection Act

Today, Liu tells his story to raise awareness about the CCP’s abuses, its nature, and how it impacts Americans, to prevent the shadow from fully darkening the U.S.

He attended a GOP state convention for the North Carolina members of the U.S. Congress to encourage them to co-sponsor The Falun Gong Protection Act, an act that “aims to end forced organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China and to protect American transplant patients and the international medical community from unwittingly supporting this crime.”

The bill was introduced by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) on Dec. 16, 2021.

Epoch Times Photo
Winston Liu in 2020. (Courtesy of Winston Liu)

Faith Through Difficult Times

Because of Falun Gong, he said he’s able to see those who persecuted him and his fellow practitioners not as enemies, but as sick people who have been poisoned by the propaganda of the CCP.

And through those difficult times of persecution, Liu said, he would take time to ask himself, “How can I value my life?”

“Under the tyranny of the Chinese Communist regime, there are two options as a Falun Gong practitioner,” he said. “The first is being a slave of the regime. It means wiping out the nature of humanity and living without dignity. This is the way of life the Chinese communist regime would have expected every Chinese to have since CCP took power.”

The second option, he said, is to retain the inner beauty—untouched by the exterior, fleeting circumstances—of the human spirit, and to pursue the traditional values like truth, compassion, and tolerance, he said.

“The former would have me living in a dark, selfish inner world; the latter would make me really happy from the inner heart and have a life with dignity,” he said. “From the teachings of Falun Gong, I valued the latter.”

Though he knew his physical body could die, he said he found that his interior journey could remain unwavering in the light of his practice.

“What is the meaning of life? To return to my true self,” Liu said. “This is the faith that got me through the difficult times.”

Epoch Times Photo
Winston Liu in China in 1993. (Courtesy of Winston Liu)
Matt McGregor

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Matt McGregor covers news from North and South Carolina for The Epoch Times. Send him your story ideas: [email protected]