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Joyful Reunification on International Human Rights Day
Ben Hurley

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AUSTRALIA - This Christmas, Grant Lu has good reason to celebrate. He has been re-united with his fiancée, Li Ying, after she spent two years in a Chinese labor camp for her belief in a meditation practice called Falun Gong.
A Falun Gong practitioner himself, Grant and a number of others gathered outside New South Wales State Parliament House on International Human Rights Day to thank the Australian government for its role in securing the release of their relatives.

“This is surely the best Christmas gift for me this year, which our Australian government, the media and our kind Australian people enable me to have,” said Grant, beaming with his arm around his wife-to-be. Also present were Mr. Xiao Yan and Ms. Tao, each with sisters who had been recently released from labor camps.

Li Ying's arrival in Australia shortly follows the Australian Senate's passage of a motion that expresses concern over the numerous relatives of Australian citizens still detained in China for their belief in Falun Gong. The motion also recognizes the freedom of Australians to practice Falun Gong.

“The stories of murder, torture and imprisonment of Falun Gong practitioners are truly horrifying,” said Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, who raised the motion. “Many Australian citizens have relatives in China who are being subjected to such persecution and it would be wrong not to use the Parliament to speak out on their behalf and highlight their situation.”

Since Li Ying was arrested on October 2001 during a business trip to Hangzhou city, Grant has worked tirelessly with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to secure his fiancée’s freedom. He has also been deported from China twice, has bicycled over 500km from Sydney to the Australian Federal Parliament in Canberra to obtain petition signatures, and has even changed his name and appearance in order to reach Li Ying to obtain a photo required by the Shanghai Australian Consulate to process her visa application.

Grant's precautions were not without reason. “The phones have been tapped,” he said. “Last time I went [to Shanghai] in only two days they kicked me out just because I called my sister. Before I arrived at my sister's place, the 610 Office was already waiting at the front door of my sister's place. So they followed me 24 hours a day. After two days they kicked me out with no reason.”

Li Ying's run-in with the 610 Office, an extrajudicial entity specifically in charge of the persecution of Falun Gong, was much harsher. Having protested her arrest by going on a hunger strike, Li Ying was force-fed with a rubber tube. She was then made to work every day from 7am to 9pm—sometimes until midnight—making toys in the Shanghai Qingsong Women's Labor camp. She was also constantly under pressure to sign papers renouncing her belief in Falun Gong.

Grant has no doubt that the persecution against Falun Gong is wrong. “Falun Gong is simply peaceful ancient Chinese meditation, practice of mind and body with the principles of truth, compassion and forbearance,” he said. “China's former leader Jiang Zemin outlawed this peaceful practice, fearful of anything touching the hearts and minds of more citizens than the number of Communist Party members. China is the only country persecuting this practice.”

And the Australian government stands firmly behind him. Senator Stott Despoja said, “Motions, such as that passed by the Senate...not only send a message to the Chinese Government but also to the Falun Gong community in Australia - that their struggle is recognized and supported.”

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