Aug. 16, 2021 | By Minghui correspondent Zhenyan Ji
Simon Vereshaka, a Falun Dafa practitioner from Australia now living in New York, gave a short speech during the rally against the persecution in Washington D.C. on July 16, 2021. He began practicing Falun Dafa when he was young and was one of the first Westerners to appeal in Beijing for Falun Dafa.
Reading Zhuan Falun
Simon and his twin brother Nicholas Vereshaka ran a gardening company in 1997. Simon’s Tai Chi class teacher was Grace Chen, a Chinese woman in her 50s. After she practiced Falun Dafa for a few months, she recommended it to her students. Half of the students in her class expressed interest, including Simon and Kati (Ana Caterina Turcu). A few years later, Kati became Nick’s wife.
Simon used to have a bleeding liver, lower back pain, and joint pain. After his parents divorced he became addicted to drugs, which caused his health to deteriorate further.
He spent several years and a lot of money to find a cure. At that time, he had practiced Tai Chi for eight years, but the effect was limited. Simon was always looking for a better way, a spiritual path.
When he learned about his Tai Chi teacher’s tremendous physical and mental changes after only practicing Falun Dafa for a few months, he also got a copy of Zhuan Falun in English.
He said, “I started to practice Falun Dafa in 1998. When I read Zhuan Falun for the first time, I was deeply moved. I realised that Master Li taught the righteous cultivation practice. I immediately gave up Tai Chi.”
Grace closed the Tai Chi class. She held a free nine-day Falun Dafa workshop during which videos of Falun Dafa’s founder Master Li Hongzhi’s lectures were played. The Simon brothers and Kati all attended it.
After Simon started practicing Falun Dafa’s five sets of exercises, all his illnesses disappeared within a week. He said Falun Dafa saved his life.
Since then, Simon has maintained a peaceful mind. No matter what kind of tribulations he encounters in life, he deals with them using the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. The problems are always resolved quickly. As a gardener, he sometimes had to do heavy labor. But as soon as he did the exercises, his fatigue was gone.
His younger brother Nick had similar experiences. Before he began practicing Falun Dafa, Nick’s leg pain was unbearable. He tried physical therapy and various treatments, but none of them worked. Frustrated, he felt that he might have to stop gardening, and find another job.
One day in early 1999, Nick met some Falun Dafa practitioners at Simon’s house. “When I met them, I felt like I had entered a pure land as their spiritual realm was very high. I felt that everyone was truly kind, not just pretending to be,” Nick said.
Nick watched the video of Mr. Li’s lectures. He began to practice the exercises and follow the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance in his daily life. Before long, he realised that his pain completely disappeared. “I only practiced for a month or two, and I completely forgot about it,” Nick said.
“After practicing, I knew how to face hardship and find my inner peace. My mind became peaceful and stable. Falun Dafa turned me into a good person. Everyone in my family knows what I was like in the past and what I’m like now. My father is very proud of me.”
Kati began practicing Falun Dafa earlier than Simon. As soon as she heard the Tai Chi class teacher recommend Zhuan Falun she got the book the next day.
She said, “When I read Zhuan Falun for the first time in 1997, it took me two days and one night to read it from beginning to end. The entire time I read it felt like I was holding my breath. I immediately realised that this book is the secret that I had been searching for all my life.”
As an undergraduate Kati studied Buddhism and read many books on spirituality. She even thought of becoming a nun. She also dreamed many times that someone wanted to accept her as a disciple. But she did not feel any of them was her true master. She was deeply eager to find someone who would guide her to the true meaning of life.
Kati recalled, “When I finally found Dafa, I cherished it very much. I even thought it was too precious and too advanced to share with others. Of course, I quickly realised that this was not Master Li’s wish at all. So I started participating in various activities to introduce Dafa to the public.”
Deciding to Go to Beijing to Appeal for Dafa
The situation abruptly changed. On July 20, 1999, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began its frenzied persecution of Falun Dafa practitioners in China, which also interrupted the peaceful and happy life of the three practitioners in Australia.
The CCP’s suppression of Falun Dafa escalated step by step. Thousands of practitioners in China went to Beijing to petition, asking the government to rescind the wrong decision and not bring disaster to the Chinese people through one of it’s many political campaigns.
Simon and the other Falun Dafa practitioners in Melbourne continued to hear the news from practitioners in China. The CCP continued to turn right into wrong and slander Falun Dafa and Master Li with lies. Their misinformation campaign also spread to Western media. The Western media carried no reports about how practitioners in China were being abducted and tortured.
Simon, Nicholas and Kati and several other practitioners went to Hong Kong to participate in the Asia-Pacific Falun Dafa Cultivation Experience-Sharing Conference on December 11 and 12, 1999. More than 1,000 practitioners from nearly 20 countries including China, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand, Britain, Switzerland, France, and the United States participated in the conference.
Representatives from each country together handed over an open letter to the Chinese government and leaders in front of the Xinhua News Agency. The open letter expressed the voice of the practitioners: Falun Dafa is righteous; the innocence of Mr. Li Hongzhi must be restored; the cruel persecution of Falun Dafa practitioners must stop immediately; and Falun Dafa practitioners must be allowed to practice freely.
After returning from Hong Kong, the three young practitioners thought about how to help fellow practitioners in China, have the Chinese government hear the voices of practitioners from abroad, and let Australians know the real situation in China. They decided to go to Beijing.
Kati said, “I thought that after arriving in China, we might be able to share our experience of practicing outside China. I also wanted them to know that Falun Dafa practitioners all over the world are asking their governments to help stop the persecution in China.”
At first, they thought about going to Tiananmen Square to unfurl a banner to attract the government’s attention, but then realised that doing so might lead to their being quietly deported. In the end, they decided to submit a petition letter to the Chinese Communist regime to convey their request directly.
In their letter they solemnly wrote: “Falun Dafa is not a political movement. If anyone is interested in politics or fame, then he is not a Falun Dafa practitioner. When we hear that Falun Dafa is slandered, we cannot sit at home and ignore it, because what Falun Dafa has given us cannot be expressed in any language.”
Simon, Nick, and Kati were the first group of Western Falun Dafa practitioners to go to Beijing to petition.
Unforgettable Trip to China
They went to Beijing in early 2000, and met an 18-year-old girl when they arrived. Her entire family practiced Falun Dafa and her parents were arrested for appealing for Dafa. The girl brought them to Tiananmen Square the next day. The atmosphere there was tense. They saw policemen everywhere on the square.
A Chinese practitioner from Australia contacted Simon and asked if he would like to join a meeting of 20 local practitioners. They decided not to go. Later, they learned that the 20 practitioners were arrested by the police during the meeting.
After experiencing the danger that practitioners in China face at any time, Simon and the other two began to hesitate and ponder which department they should submit their petition letter to.
Simon thought of a European teacher he knew in Hong Kong who was teaching in Beijing. They immediately contacted him. This teacher had read Zhuan Falun, sympathised with practitioners and was willing to help them. Because his wife worked in a Spanish-language media stationed in Beijing and was very knowledgeable, he called her. In order to prevent their call from being monitored, he and his wife communicated in five languages on the phone.
In the end, the teacher and his wife suggested that Nick give the petition letter to the Xinhua News Agency. With the help of the teacher’s wife they contacted all the Western media in Beijing, and faxed them the petition letter. They went to the Xinhua News Agency the following day at 10am on January 9, 2000 to submit their letter.
Soon after they arrived in Beijing, they ran into a hotel owner who attended school in Australia. The night before the petition was submitted, which was also the last night Simon, Nick and Kati planned to stay in China, they stayed in his hotel. The owner insisted on inviting them to dinner.
The hotel owner looked cheerful and seemed trustworthy, so, they told him their plan. His demeanor unexpectedly changed. “He became irritable and rude, saying that we did not understand the situation in China, and told us not to interfere in Chinese politics.
“But just before he said that he did not like China’s political system and did not approve of some of the CCP’s policies,” Kati recalled. “He also told us not to hand in the petition letter, otherwise he might lose his business of millions of yuan because of his dealings with us.”
The hotel owner was obviously very afraid of the CCP. He said that he had no choice but to report them to the police, and told them to pack their luggage and prepare to go to the police station the next morning.
But in the middle of the night, the owner suddenly told them to leave immediately. He told them to move to another hotel. He said he didn’t want to get involved in anything.
Kati remembered that the owner wrote a note telling the taxi driver to take them to another hotel.
The morning of their last day in China, they went to the Xinhua News Agency. Western media reporters were already there, waiting for them.
Kati recalled, “As soon as we mentioned Falun Dafa and handed the petition letter to the front office, the person on duty immediately picked up the phone and began calling. Soon many people came to question us, and then a group of policemen came.”
The police took their passports and air tickets. The police officer in charge spoke very good English and asked who they met in China, where they stayed, and what they did while they were in China.
Because they did not see the three practitioners come out of the building, the Western media reporters at the scene immediately released the news. Simon’s father learned from the newspaper that they had gone to Beijing.
They were detained for five hours. They were not afraid but kept telling every policeman: Falun Dafa is good, Falun Dafa is popular and is practiced all over the world.
Afterwards, they were placed in a police car and driven from the Xinhua News Agency headquarters. The police told them that because their plane was about to take off, they would drive them to the airport office to continue the interrogation.
At the airport, the police made a Chinese transcript and asked them to sign it. They refused to sign because they said they could not read Chinese. They were firm in their minds that even if they were not allowed to go home, they would not sign.
Maybe it was because they were the first group of Westerners who went to China to petition for Falun Dafa, the police did not know what to do. Maybe it was because they kept clarifying the truth and awakened the policemens’ conscience, they were not treated violently. In the end, the police returned their passports and let them board the plane on time.
When Simon and his party returned to Melbourne, they learned that their trip was reported by The Age. Several other mainstream media outlets also interviewed them. Although Simon’s family was worried, they were proud of the brothers after they learned the whole story.
The two brothers and Kati felt that the Australian government should also learn about this issue. Since then, together with other practitioners they have continued to tell the Australian Members of Parliament about Falun Dafa and the CCP’s persecution in China. They also used various ways to raise awareness of the persecution to the Australian people and the media.
Simon, Nick, and Kati have been clarifying the truth and protesting the persecution for over 22 years.
Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong) was first taught to the public in 1992. Nearly 100 million people across China were soon practicing after experiencing improvements in their health and character. Jiang Zemin, former head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), perceived the spiritual discipline’s growing popularity as a threat to the CCP’s atheistic ideology and issued an order to ban Falun Dafa on July 20, 1999.
Minghui.org has confirmed the deaths of thousands of Falun Dafa practitioners in the persecution over the past 22 years; the actual number is suspected to be much higher. More have been imprisoned and tortured for their faith.
There is concrete evidence that the CCP sanctions the harvesting of organs from detained practitioners, who are murdered to supply the organ transplant industry.
Under Jiang’s personal direction, the CCP established the 610 Office, an extralegal security organization with the power to override the police and judicial systems and whose sole function is to carry out the persecution of Falun Dafa.
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