Mr. Wang Jianzhong, 62, is a famous Chinese calligrapher and painter. His calligraphy and paintings have been exhibited in the National Museum of China, in museums in Hong Kong and Tokyo, as well as in the Louvre.
In 2010, one of his works won the gold medal at the 10th China Cultural and Art Exchange Exhibition in Paris, France. His interviews and works have also been featured in many professional art journals.
Mr. Wang established Longdu Painting and Calligraphy Studio in Binzhou City in October 2000 and became its director. Many officials, such as the minister of propaganda of the Municipal Party Committee, the director of the Culture Bureau, and the chairman of the Literary and Art Associations all attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony on opening day. Mr. Wang’s work became sought-after collectibles by business people, politicians, and celebrities alike.
However, while on a Sino-American culture and art exchange in 2012 at the height of his career, Mr. Wang chose to leave his home country and stay in the United States to seek political asylum. This is his story.
An Accident that Changed Mr. Wang’s Life
By the early ’90s, Mr. Wang had already won many national and international awards for his art. His works often graced national publications. He was a celebrity in his field and often a guest of honor for local government officials. However, a traffic accident changed everything.
“It was in March 1998,” Mr. Wang recalls. “I was crossing the street when a young man on a motorcycle ran into me. I was thrown almost ten meters. It was all so sudden that I didn’t even know what had happened when I came to. I was later told that the driver was drunk.”
Mr. Wang was taken to a hospital and had six stitches. The doctor told him that he had a bad concussion and needed to stay in the hospital for at least a month.
A friend heard about the accident and visited Mr. Wang at the hospital. He recommended that Mr. Wang give Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, a try. After hearing his friend’s experience with cultivating Falun Gong, Mr. Wang decided to start practicing Falun Gong himself. He left the hospital and started reading Zhuan Falun, the main teachings of Falun Gong.
Mr. Wang can still recall his feelings upon reading the book the first time.
“I couldn’t put the book down once I started reading. The more I read it, the more I wanted to read. I felt that my whole person was immersed in the principles described in the book. Although I had brain injuries from the accident, I completely forgot my symptoms when I read the book.”
Mr. Wang finished the book in two days. He then decided to reread the book several times. Within a week, he had completely recovered from his injuries. His friends and family thought it was a miracle.
When asked why he read the book over and over, he said, “Because of the propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), I didn’t believe in gods or spirits in the past. The book Zhuan Falun changed my mind completely. It’s hard to describe the excitement I felt—it felt like I suddenly understood many things. Falun Gong is so profound and mysterious. I was deeply intrigued by it.”
Mr. Wang felt very fortunate that he came across Falun Gong, and wanted to share the practice with others. He began to spread the word and soon became a volunteer coordinator at a number of practice sites in Binzhou City.
Appealing for Falun Gong in Beijing
When the CCP launched the persecution of Falun Gong in July 1999, Mr. Wang was thought to be a key figure and was detained right away. During two weeks of brainwashing sessions, Wang was forced to watch propaganda created to defame Falun Gong.
After being released from the brainwashing centre, Mr. Wang did not stop practicing Falun Gong. As he witnessed the persecution intensify, he decided to appeal for Falun Gong in Beijing. On December 31, 2000, Mr. Wang and three other Falun Gong practitioners arrived in Beijing.
To avoid being stopped by police, Mr. Wang and his companions had traveled to another county to catch a bus to Beijing. He remembers, “As soon as I got on the bus, I felt that all of the distracting thoughts in my head had disappeared. I had never experienced such a pure, relaxed, and sacred sensation before.”
Mr. Wang and the three other practitioners got to Tiananmen Square on the morning of January 1, 2001. After Mr. Wang passed through the entrance of the square, the three practitioners were questioned by police and taken away. Mr. Wang was left alone. He only had some flyers with him, as the banner they had prepared was with the other three.
Mr. Wang recalls, “I stood next to a flagpole. The sky was shrouded in dark clouds. The sun was blocked out and I could only see a faint disk of light.”
Mr. Wang witnessed many practitioners displaying banners on the square, spreading flyers and shouting “Falun Dafa is good.” He also saw that the place was full of police, both plainclothes police and armed police in uniform.
“I saw practitioners being beaten by the police,” he said. “There was a female practitioner who was beaten unconscious. I thought she might be dead. Another male practitioner in his fifties was pushed towards a police car by two policemen holding his arms. He was still shouting ‘Falun Dafa is good! Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance is good!’”
The shouts of “Falun Dafa is good” went on one after another. Mr. Wang decided he couldn’t wait anymore. He threw the flyers he had toward the crowds and shouted “Falun Dafa is good! Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance is good!”
“My mind was very clear and pure. It felt wonderful!” he recalled. He was soon captured by four or five armed police.
In the first few months of 2001, many Falun Gong practitioners, ranging from children to the elderly, went to Beijing to appeal. They came from all walks of life, and included government officials, military soldiers, intellectuals, students, and businessmen.
One female practitioner from the countryside, who had never left her hometown before, also joined the appeal. Even practitioners in the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan or Xinjiang—all thousands of miles from Beijing—also went to appeal for their faith.
According to information from the Public Security Bureau, it was estimated that over 1,000,000 practitioners were in Beijing to appeal at the highest point. As of April 2001, there were over 830,000 arrests of practitioners. Many did not give their names for fear of implicating their families. Mr. Wang was one of them.
Tortured in Detention
Mr. Wang was put on a bus and taken to Jiujingzhuang, a location specifically used to detain Falun Gong practitioners. In two rooms that normally housed 50 to 60 people, over 200 Falun Gong practitioners were squeezed together. “We recited Master Li’s (the founder of Falun Gong) poems together. Although we didn’t speak loudly, I felt that our voice was powerful,” Mr. Wang remembers.
Later, Mr. Wang was taken to Beijing No. 1 Detention Centre, Section 7, which is known to hold all the political prisoners. After the persecution of Falun Gong started, this place also housed many so-called “key figures” of Falun Gong. Many were given heavy sentences.
The first day Mr. Wang was detained he was put into a room with other male practitioners. The police had them strip down to their underwear, with the room’s windows open. The outside temperature was -10ºC (14ºF). The practitioners leaned close to each other to keep warm. “We recited Master’s poems and scriptures for a day and a night.” Mr. Wang recalled.
The next day, Mr. Wang was assigned to another cell, and he was the only Falun Gong practitioner in the cell. The police instructed the other inmates to extract personal information from Mr. Wang. Instead, Mr. Wang told the inmates about Falun Gong. The next day, Wang was moved to another cell, where his cellmates were felons who had committed murders or other violent crimes.
Under the instigation of the police, Mr. Wang’s cellmates took turns beating him until he could no longer move. Mr. Wang went on a hunger strike to protest the abuse. On the twelfth day of his hunger strike, he had a dream.
“I dreamed that I was on an ancient battlefield. I was surrounded by many enemies. But I broke through the wall of enemies with a sword in my hand,” Mr. Wang recalls. “After I woke up, I thought to myself that maybe it was a hint: I could break out of the detention centre.”
Two days later, when police questioned Mr. Wang about his hometown, he told them he lived in Jinin City. The detention centre then notified the Jinin Liaison Office in Beijing to pick him up. Once he arrived at the Jinin Liaison Office, Mr. Wang was allowed to use the restroom. He saw a small square window that was half a meter in width and height. Mr. Wang climbed out of the window and landed in the courtyard of another building. After scaling another wall into another courtyard, he saw a busy street and got into a taxi right away.
He had only 100 yuan with him, but he could not find it. Because people were waiting to get in, the driver told him that there was no need to pay.
“I found the money after I got out of the vehicle. I wondered why he didn’t want the fee,” Mr. Wang recalls. “But I suddenly understood that Master Li was helping me. If I had paid for the taxi ride, I wouldn’t have had enough money to get home.” The bus ticket home cost 98 yuan.
Upon returning to his hometown Binzhou, Mr. Wang did not return home immediately. Instead, he spent a few days with other practitioners in another county. When the Chinese New Year came around, Mr. Wang decided to go home, knowing that his home had been under surveillance.