Monday, May 12, 2008

Chinese Doctor Persecuted in China

It was fitting for Shu Min Shin to stand in the shadow of the bronze statue of Victory in Union Square on Saturday, for she has sculptured herself into the history books for a victorious stand in China against human rights abuses.

Persecuted for her refusal to stop practicing Falun Dafa meditation, she finally fled to Thailand where she became the first person there to be granted asylum as a Falun Dafa practitioner. Today she lives in San Francisco and on Saturday was in Union Square participating in World Falun Dafa Day. (see previous blog)

Three times Min Shin - Shu is her surname - who is a medical doctor, was kidnapped by Chinese police. Her crime was to refuse to sign an official letter promising that she would no longer engage in Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong as it is also known, meditation. A promise not simply to stop meditating in public places, for followers often gather in small groups in parks or squares, but also in the privacy of her own home.

Min Shin, who was first a doctor of Internal Medicine and then a psychiatrist who also taught her subject, told her story through a translator. She was in the square for the World Falun Dafa Day that sought to publicise the meditation and raise support against the terrible abuses of it's followers by the Chinese Communist Party: abuses that include imprisonment, torture, killing and the harvesting of organs for transplant from people while they still alive.

Her real troubles began on New Year's Eve of the Chinese New Year in January 2000. Chinese officials, expecting a high number of Falun Dafa protesters in Tiananmen Square to mark the New Year, had planned an ambush. But very few people attended. Followers had been in the habit of silently unfurling banners in Tiananmen Square ever since the government had begun a crackdown in the previous year. Faced that night though, with a near-empty square, officials turned instead to people's homes. Min Shin was one of the unlucky ones.

A group of police hammered on her door. She refused to open, so they broke down two doors. Min Shin then locked herself in her bedroom and shouted through the door that she was willing to risk her life to defend her rights and the rights of others for freedom to practise Falun Dafa. She also warned them that they would be held responsible if anything happened to her. So for seven days and nights, in freezing temperatures and with snow falling, police surrounded her home and broke every window. It was so cold, she said, that even the flowers in the house died.

Over the next few months, she was followed every time she left her house and her phone calls and letters were monitored. Once she was kidnapped when she just stepped out of her home. But the last kidnapping was the worst for, physically weak, she almost died. She believes that the only reason she was released was because her son was already in America and had anything worse happened to her, the news would have been published in the USA.

However, in August of that year, she managed to escape to Thailand and gain political asylum. Helped by US congressmen, with a delay caused by events of 9/11, she was able to settle in San Francisco where her son was living and still lives today. Her face lights up with delight at the memory of that precious date of her arrival in the city: June 25, 2003.

However, there is a cost to her exile. Separated from her remaining family in China, she has limited contact with them and has only a sketchy knowledge of how they are. She is afraid to communicate too much in case it provokes reprisals from Chinese officials. What she does know is that her father - her parents are elderly and in their eighties - has had a heart attack caused by the stress of everything. Also, because of her, her sisters' children are not allowed to leave China for travel or education.

Due to the language barrier here in America and her age, Min Shin is in her sixties, she has not worked again as a doctor. But is active, as she was on Saturday, in supporting campaigns to free her people from the terrible human rights abuses that they continue to endure in China, with particular urgency to do so before the Beijing Olympics.

***Since interviewing Min Shin, the catastrophic earthquake has occurred in China but I have not been able to contact her to ask if any of her family are affected. I'm sure when Min Shin or others known to her read this, a comment on this would be appreciated by other readers. Thank you, Liz.

Pics show Shu Min Shin in Union Square, and one of the paintings on exhibition there depicting torture in China

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