The following is my email interview with Jennifer Zeng, author of Witnessing History.
(I thought I'd just put in this note - 30 July - about the following text. A few people have expressed surprise that I have not made any amendments to Jennifer's English. In my article The Thought Crimes of Jennifer Zeng, I did make a few very slight changes to Jennifer's English so it flowed more easily. But I thought here I would just keep Jennifer's English exactly as she wrote, for the sake of authenticity. I didn't want to manipulate her words in any way, even ever so slightly, like I did in my article. Besides that, I think Jennifer's English excellent. As you can see from the following, except for a few hiccups, she expresses herself admirably.)
On page 250 you describe the labour camps and a rush order to make toy rabbits for Nestle. Can you remember what other multi-nationals you made goods for? Any other brand names? How prevalent do you think this practice is? What thoughts went through you head as you made toys for western children?
No, I don’t know any other multi-nationals I made goods for, though I do know that all the sweaters we knitted in the camp were exported to west countries.
Recently I am helping ABC TV to make a program about labour camp products. By helping them interview quite some Falun Gong practitioners who had similar experience as me, I learnt that the practice is very widely prevalent. Several other Falun Gong practitioners even discovered labour camp products in Coles, Woolworths, or bargain shops everywhere in Sydney. Apart from hand knit sweaters, these are some of the products they were forced to produce in the labour camps: hand picking cashmere( picking up and sorting out cashmere from raw wool), hand knit hats, scarf, slippers, sandal shoes, chopsticks, Teddy bears, hair-band, Christmas lights, Christmas beard, soft dolls of different kinds, silk flowers, hairpins, necklace, ear-rings, luxury straw and toothpick, umbrella, plastic flowers( for decoration), brooch, Christmas bags, Christmas dolls, mobile phone bags, wallet, jeans, clothes, table clothes, cushions, etc.
As far as I know, almost every labour camp, jail, and many detention centres in China force people to do slave work. Given there are so many labour camps and jails in China, forced labour is a very common practice in China.
To be frank, while in the labour camp, to only feeling I had towards life is tiredness; the only longing I had was one more minute of sleep. Everyday I worked like a machine or an idiot and fought so hard to achieve my quota. I did not have any ability to think/ponder about anything. I even had no time or ability to miss my family. The only two thoughts that were constantly in my mind were: when will we be allowed to sleep today; what kind of trick or torture method they will use next to “reform” us…
After I came to Australia, of course I found it very sad that Australian know very little or nothing at all about the forced labour practice in China. We must work harder to let people know.
How do you feel about the ban being placed by Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, on Falun Gong protesters outside the Chinese Embassy in Canberra? Do you feel he may have succumbed to requests from Chinese authorities?
I feel very bad and sad about it. Australia is the only democratic country doing so. This betrays Australia’s basic principles.
I do believe Mr. Downer did this because of pressure from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He banned Falun Gong banner one day before Foreign Minister of China, Mr. Tang Jiaxuan’s visit to Australia in 2002. During yesterday’s press conference (10 July), Mr. Chen Yonglin said that Mr. Tang Jiaxuan expressed how pleased he was by Mr. Downer’s action. Initially he had prepared many ‘heavy bombs’ (to charge against Downer); but as Mr. Downer had signed the certificate to ban Falun Gong banners, he did not use them in the endl.
What do you make of Mr Chen’s claims that there are up to a thousand spies in Australia, information apparently gleaned from an official Chinese document on the matter? Would you be surprised by such a number?
I was not surprised at all by Mr Chen’s claims. My family back in China warned me more than a dozen of times that they were not only warned, but also convinced by Chinese authorities that everything I am doing and saying here is monitored. The Chinese authorities obviously have shown my family members substantial proves for them to believe that not only my mobile phone, but also my landline telephone is tapped.
Early last year, after the publication of the Chinese version of my book in Taiwan, two members from the National Security Ministry were sent to Sydney to find me out. Fortunately enough, I just moved from Melbourne to Sydney several days after I came back from my book launch in Taiwan; even my fellow practitioners in Melbourne and Sydney did not know my new address. So these two persons ended up going back without finding out where I was or where I worked.
Yesterday Mr Chen release a list containing about 300 Falun Gong practitioners’ names sent from Chinese Embassy in Canberra to Sydney and Melbourne Chinese Consulate. Another hand-written document was sent to the Chinese Consulate by an informant listing almost all the activities Ms Kong Huiling did from 1999 to 2004, including the file number of a case she lodged with HK police for being beaten in Moocow, and .her parents passport’s numbers and expire date. Isn’t this scaring? Mr Chen also mentioned that the Chinese Consulate has a black list of more than 800 Falun Gong practitioners. You can hardly achieve this very only dozens of spies.
(I had the copies all the three files Mr Chen released yesterday. If you feel interested, I can fax or scan and send them to you.)
Mr Chen also claimed that a man called Lan Fu, who was once the mayor of Xiamen, was in Australia on a tourist visa in November of 1999, and was forced to return to China after his son, who was studying in this country, was kidnapped by Chinese agents. Have you heard of similar stories in Australia, through your Falun Gong network? (Mr Chen claims he was executed in 2000.)
From my personal experience of dealing with the CCP, I don’t doubt at all about Mr Chen’s claim about Lan Fu’s son being kidnapped. I know the CCP is capable of such a thing. Actually this kind of deed is too “normal” to them.
No, I didn’t not hear about kidnap stories among Falun Gong practitioners. But today I heard a similarly alarming one. Last Tuesday, Ms Zhang Cuiying( please go to this report for background info: http://www.theepochtimes.com/news/5-6-24/29770.html) found that one of the screws in one of the front tyres of her car was gone, another was extremely loose, and the other three were all loose. As her tyres had covers outside (for decoration and protection purposes), her husband found this by sheer luck when going to service the car. This could have caused serious accident and even killed her in a “natural” traffic accident!
Back in 1999, she had a similar accident. She parked her car near the Chinese Consulate and sat in front of the Consulate for a whole day to appeal for an end of the persecution. One day after she drove home, her husband found that there was only one screw left on one of her tyres! And it was very loose! Her husband was very surprised how she managed to drive the car home safely. They lived 40 km away from the Consulate!
Another example. A Sydney Falun Gong practitioner, David Liang was shot in South Africa only two hours after he arrived there. The accident nearly killed him. (reports:
(By the way, Mr Chen did not say that Lan Fu was executed in 2000. He was sentenced to death in 2000 with two years suspension. A death sentence like this can usually be reduced to life imprisonment)
What do you make of Madame Fu’s response, on ABC’s Lateline programme: ‘ I'm not very familiar with the case, but I don't think the case sounds like true. Kidnapping a foreign citizen by Chinese is really out of the blue. I think the Australian society, Australian police, Australian security, work quite efficiently and I haven't heard any foreign country could kidnap their citizens from Australia.’
After the Tian’anmen Massacre in 1989, the spokesperson of the State Council of the P. R. China, Yuan Mu announced to the whole world that “nobody was killed in Tian’anmen Square”. Making lies is just one of the characters of the CCP. I was not surprised at all about Madame Fu’s lies.
Recently on the ABC’s Lateline programme (23 June), host Tony Jones interviewed Trade Minister and newly elected leader of The Nationals, Mark Vaile, about trade and human rights with regards to China:
“TONY JONES: All right, Mark Vaile. You are keeping the trade portfolio so let me ask you a question you probably haven't heard yet on the China trade. Do you accept the fact that a 250,000 Chinese are being held in gulags that they euphemistically refer to as re-education through labour camps? MARK VAILE: We have seen a lot of reporting in terms of some of the aspects of governance in China and obviously some of those things we take with a grain of salt, but we're not blind to any of these things. What I do say, Tony, and where you are leading with this question, and I continue to make this point, that we do have an ongoing dialogue with China on human rights issues and we will continue to be candid and frank on that front, but at the same time we maintain an ability to continue to enhance our economic relationship with China which is going to be so critically important for the future development of the Australian economy and we intend to keep it that way.”
Do you think Australia is being vocal enough on human rights abuses in China, especially with regards to the 250,000 people being held in re-education camps? Are we only helping China further in its crackdown by turning a blind eye and keeping quiet on the subject, in the hope of winning more trade concessions?
Definitely yes to the second question.
As far as I am concerned, the closed door human rights dialogue does no good at all. Mr Chen mentioned he read summaries of the human right dialogue in Beijing and did not see any cases raised.
Another very good example is the case of a Melbourne resident, Mr Ouyang Yu’s bother, Mr Ouyang Ming. He had been listed on the report of Australia and China Human Rights Dialogue for two years, but in that time, Ouyang Ming suffered all kinds of torture in a Chinese labour camp and eventually was tortured to death. (report:
So in Mr Chen’s words, the human right dialogue is just a “show”.
The saddest thing of this all is, yes, every single penny put in China could be used some way to help the CCP to persecute innocent people.
Another point I’d like to make here is, as a financial consultant, I know how fake the so-called economic growth of China is, and how dangerous the whole situation is.
1. the GDP growth rate is fabricated. During the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in this March, even the head of the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics was openly condemning the fabrications of the statistics all over the country. For example, the total of the GDP published or estimated by each province was 2583.35 billion Yuan more than the national GDP, and the total of the fabricated statistics almost equals to the financial income of the whole country in a year. In 2004, the total of the GDP submitted by each province shows 3.9 basis points higher than the rate of the increase of the national GDP published the Bureau. In order to stop such “international jokes”, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics has declared to withdrawal the right of each province to announce its GDP. (all these figures were quoted from a report from the Chinese official website in Chinese)
2. The stock market has been kept on dropping for 4 years. The index has dropped from more than 2100 to only 1000, more than half of the market value was gone. Recently the State Council issued a draft bill about how to deal with emergent financial crisis such as run on banks, collapse of stock market, bankruptcy of financial institute, etc. For me, this is an alarming sign of how fragile the whole financial system is. It is already an open secret that the state bank system has a bad debt rate as high as 40-60%.
3. In order to maintain an irrational high GDP growth, China’s natural resources and environment have been damaged to the point of extreme dysfunction- perhaps to the very verge of total collapse. – perhaps to the very verge of total collapse. Many factories in China now cannot operate full-time because of a lack of electrical power.
4. The total corruption and social injustice have gone to such an extent that social crisis and (violent) uprisings could break out at any moment. Actually a lot of large scale (the largest one was more that 100,000 people) uprisings happened in the past months. Stability has become the first priority because instability is everywhere in the society.
5. Overall, there are no trust, no honesty in the society. Isn’t this frightening?
Then why does the world still think China’s economy is great? Because the world has underestimated the CCP’s ability to lie and to fabricate false impressions. GDP growth is not reliable, while the impressive sky scripts of the several large cities were built for the world to see and at the expense of the whole nation. Travel only 100 km away from Beijing and you’ll find people there are so poor that they can hardly afford eduction to the kids. Travel 800 km from Beijing and you’ll find a whole village of people died of AIDS as a result of taking selling blood as their profession and thus being affected because the instrument were not properly sterilized. The sign in Chinese in this photos says: people who sell blood please go to the first floor:http://www.chinathink.net/world/bookpic/20041318205449663.jpg
You won’t find all these people lining up to sell blood in Beijing or Shanghai. But more than 900 million peasants are still living in poverty.
Another reason why investors still want to go to China is that although they do know the chaos of the society, they regard this as opportunity to make money. In a chaotic situation, chances to make quick money do exist. But for me, this is not healthy and reliable. There is a saying in Chinese that “those who play with fire will definitely be burned in the end.”
Well, I’ve said so many words just to convey one single message: even if the economic benefit is our only concern, China is still not a right place to go. Betraying our principles in a hope to win trade interest is even more stupid (in the long run).
The Chinese Communist Party sees the Falun Gong movement as something that is being fostered by outside, Western powers. Mr Chen has said so explicitly on the Lateline programme. Whilst being ‘re-educated’, were you accused of following through with a Western inspired campaign to undermine the Communist Party?
The Chinese Communist Party will never really understand Falun Gong. Even though they know very well that Falun Gong is independent of everything, to cheat and incite hatred(nationalism mentality) from the people, they always say that Falun Gong receives money from the US or Taiwan, so they are “enemy of the nation.” They will never understand why spiritual strength is more powerful than any money in the world.
Yes, in the labour camp, I was forced to ‘study’ official propaganda including articles attacking overseas Falun Gong activities.
Do you think Australians really have a grasp of the totalitarian nature of the Chinese government? What have you found to be the most common misconceptions amongst Australians? How different is your life in Australia, compared with China?
I don’t think the general Australian public has the totalitarian nature of the Chinese government. Overall, I feel that the general Australians are more than one hundred times better than the general Chinese public. In China, you can hardly expect any trust or help from a stranger in the street, while in Australia, most people are very kind. At least it is my feeling.
However, perhaps because of human weakness such as greedy, or because of lack of real understanding of how evil the CCP could be, many Australians have wrong impression about China, wrong hopes to wish that CCP will change for better after the economy is developed.
My life in Australia is of course very different from my life in China, at least I have the freedom to practice my own belief. Unfortunately, the freedom is limited, by both Mr. Downer and many other “invisible” factors. We were often excluded from community activities, thanks to CCP’s pressure put on Australian society. Many people in the Chinese community are either still deceived by the CCP propaganda against Falun Gong, or too fear to befriend with us. We are monitored, harassed, discriminated and treated like “abnormal” persons. I did not expect these when I planned to escape to “free world” back in China.
However, I don’t complain. I know there is no free lunch in the world and we have to continue to fight our way to the end. In some sense, it is not important how we are treated, but it is important to uphold the principles concerning everybody.
It seems that the Falun Gong spiritual movement has been almost forced to become political, despite being an apolitical movement. Would you be happy for the Communist Party to remain should Falun Gong practitioners be given absolute freedom to pursue their beliefs, with no government harassment? Or if you had the choice, what sort of government would you prefer? Would a democratic government suit Falun Gong practitioners? Do you think there is a possibility that the resilience of Falun Gong practitioners, plus their huge numbers, has the power to bring about a change in the Communist Party, if not the end of it?
I don’t think Falun Gong has become political, as we don’t have any political aims. But I do understand why people think Falun Gong has become political. I learnt from a lawyer that according to Australian law, an attempt to change a government policy is viewed as political. As Falun Gong practitioners want to stop the persecution, so it is ‘political’.
We don’t think we are political as we don’t have any political agenda. We only want a basic right to practice.
Before the crackdown, Falun Gong had no problems at all with the CCP. The problem now is, whether I am happy for the CCP to remain or not, I can’t change its fate earned by its own past crimes. Just like many people believe that only good persons can go to heaven and bad people will go to hell after their death, it is my belief that heavenly principle will not allow such a thing as CCP to exist in the future. More than 80 million people died of unnatural death under CCP’s rule.
As a whole, Falun Gong practitioners don’t have any preference to the form of government, nor do they have an idea of any political “Utopia” in the human society. Just like in Taiwan elections, Falun Gong as a whole does not have a stance toward any party. Each individual practitioner just vote for whichever party he/she feels like.
We don’t believe in mingling religion with politics. Although we don’t regard ourselves as a religion because we don’t have any religious formalities to follow, the purpose is the same: to achieve something beyond the human world. So we don’t interfere with worldly affairs as a practitioner; but of course we must fulfill our responsibilities as a member of the society.
Yes, I believe Falun Gong practitioners have change many things for better, especially in China, where nobody dares to uphold principles after many years of ruthless Communist suppressions. The CCP has chosen its own fate. We only want to tell the world the true nature of it and what we believe will be the end of it, in order that more people, especially the party members will consider stopping following the party policy to do more evil and be saved. People might regard our action of revealing the true nature of the CCP as political; but we regard it as an effort of trying to help people.
Below is an article of Mr Li Hongzhi in 1996. No matter people believe it or not, Falun Gong practitioners are trying to following his teachings all the times.
Dafa Will Forever be Pure Like Diamond
Religion cannot be mingled with politics, or its leader will necessarily be preoccupied with worldly affairs. Paying lip service to teaching people’s hearts to be good and leading people back to the pure land, these people’s hearts are bound to be evil and hypocritical; what they pursue is surely fame and self-interest. Power is what everyday people crave, while fame is a great obstacle to reaching Consummation. This person is bound to gradually become the leader of an evil religion. Because religion’s goal is to teach people to be good so that they can eventually return to their heavenly paradise, the principles it preaches must be higher than those in human society. If they are applied to politics in the human world, it is the most serious corruption of heavenly principles. How could Gods and Buddhas be driven by human attachments to get involved in the dirty political matters and power struggles of human society? This is what a human being does when driven by his demon-nature. Such a religion is bound to be used by governments to engage in violence and launch religious wars, thereby becoming an evil religion that harms mankind.
Having “all people practice religion” will not do, either. First, this can easily alter religious doctrines and reduce them to theories of ordinary human society. Second, religion can easily be turned into a political tool that will tarnish the Buddha Fa’s image. Third, religious leaders will become politicians, and this will make religion come to an end, thereby turning it into an evil religion.
Falun Dafa is not a religion, but future generations will regard it as one. It is taught to human beings for the purpose of cultivation practice, rather than to establish a religion. There can be a large number of people learning Dafa, but it isn’t permitted to turn all of a nation’s citizens into religious followers and make everyone take part in the unified activities of cultivation practice. Dafa cultivation practice is always voluntary. Never force anyone to participate in cultivation practice.
At no time in the future may Dafa be used for any political matters. Dafa can make people’s hearts become good, thus stabilizing society. But by no means is it taught for the purpose of maintaining the things of human society. Disciples, keep in mind that no matter how much pressure there might be in the future from political forces and other powers, Dafa can never be used by political powers.
Never get involved in politics, nor interfere with state affairs. Truly cultivate and become benevolent. Keep Dafa pure, unchanged, and indestructible like diamond, and it will thereby exist forever.
September 7, 1996
By the way, as expressed in the postscript of my book, I believe Falun Dafa will bring fundamental changes in many aspects of society, but not in a worldly way, or in a sense imaged by some people. One way to explain this is that Falun Dafa can change people’s hearts and enhance people’s moral values. It is one of our fundamental beliefs that every kind of misfortune or disaster in the world was produced because human morality is declining; and only virtue can bring people true happiness in the end. If a society has a high standard of morality, we don’t have to worry (too much) about how to build up “idea” political and legal systems actually.
But we still need time to discover and fully see or understand the changes brought by Falun Dafa.
What do you believe would be the fate of Mr Chen if he were to be deported to China? (Update: I discovered today that Mr Chen has been officially granted asylum. What do you feel his fate would have been anyway?’
He could be severely punished. The CCP has a long tradition of having no mercy at all to its “traitors”.
Do you see any historical analogies to what is happening to Falun Gong today? Reading your story, I was reminded of Jews being forcibly converted to Christianity. And witches tortured into giving false confessions about their dealing with Satan.
Different spiritual believes have suffered persecution, especially during the process of their establishment. There are certainly historical analogies. But the scale of the persecution of Falun Gong, the extremely cruel methods used, and the unimaginable resources put into the persecution are all unprecedented in my opinion.
Lastly, reading your book I thought the whole Communist Party security apparatus a mix of the Orwellian and Kafkaesque. Both terrifying and ludicrous. The re-education reminded me of the main character in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith, who, after being broken down physically and mentally, says he loved Big Brother. He also said in that novel, that according to the party, the heresy of all heresies was common sense. Do you think that this expression could just as easily be applied to the Chinese Communist party?
I kind of totally agree with your comments here. Just like someone asked, ‘Is 1984 a warning of totalitarianism? Is 1984 a prophecy? Is 1984 simply a good story? After reading one may believe it to be much deeper; it is the psychology of totalitarianism.’ I do believe that everything in the universe is inter-connected one way or the other. The idea of 1984 would not have come into Orwell’s mind out of nowhere. Perhaps it is exactly for this day, for west people to understand the real face of CCP regime. It is exactly like an ‘Ingsoc’ no matter how the CCP wants to disguise this with its ‘opening to the outside world’. And the CCP has twisted the Chinese culture and language, re-written the whole history and all the dictionaries to create its own ‘Oceania’. And ‘thought criminals’! Didn’t the police of CCP tell me that I was arrested because of my thoughts? How many “thought criminals” are still in the CCP gulags and jails?
Thanks so much for your time!