Monday, August 22, 2005
Zhang Shanshan looked like any other carefree 6-year-old as she played near the fountain in front of Waco City Hall on Sunday afternoon. That appearance may be deceiving, though, as Shanshan and her family have faced years of persecution by the Chinese government, according to her mother and leaders of the "Rescue Falun Gong Orphans" van tour across Texas.
The weekend long van tour, which seeks to raise awareness of the Chinese Communist Party's persecution of practitioners of Falun Gong, made a stop in downtown Waco Sunday. The tour previously made stops in Austin, Houston, College Station and Dallas.
In November 2000, when Shanshan was 1 year old, her dad was sentenced to 10 years in prison for posting Internet articles critical of the Chinese Communist Party, tour organizers said.
When Shanshan was 2, her mother, Hongkin Wong, fled China for the U.S. after years of monitoring by government officials, leaving Shanshan with relatives.
Last month, Shanshan was reunited with her mother in New York and is now touring Texas with the group.
Falun Gong is a practice of meditation and exercises that bases its teachings on the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. To date, more than 2,800 Falun Gong practitioners are confirmed to have died as a result of governmental persecution in China, according to Hongyi Pan of the Epoch Times.
During the stop in Waco, Shanshan's mother spoke about her experience with persecution. Shanshan's 9-year-old brother, Wesley, who came to the U.S. with his mom, made a plea for help for his friends in China, many of whom have been orphaned.
Though the group's tour is designed to increase awareness of the plight of Falun Gong practitioners, Wong said she hopes it will indirectly lead to her family being reunited, a bittersweet process that began at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York last month.
"When I met my daughter in the airport, she didn't recognize me and she asked where her father was," she said through an interpreter. "When I saw my daughter I was very happy, but at the same time it was painful - I had to finally tell her that her father was in prison."
Pan said support for the CCP in China is waning, with more than 3.8 million people having already resigned from the party. He said more people would resign if they either knew how or were not afraid of the CCP.
The tour was to conclude with a stop in Crawford, in hopes that attention will be brought to the group's cause before Chinese Communist leader Hu Jintao visits President Bush's ranch in mid-September. Falun Gong practitioners demonstrated against Chinese President Jiang Zemin during his visit to Bush's ranch in October 2002.
"The persecution against Falun Gong and Chinese children is unacceptable and must be stopped," Pan said.
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