The Gong Show

Chinese officials say Falun Gong is a cult and forbid it. Jason Wang is one of the true believers who won't abandon his faith, even if it means deportation or death.

But Jason's father quit practicing a few weeks after he began. Before banning Falun Gong, the government arrested 20,000 people during an anti-superstition campaign. "His head is full of government influence," Jason says. He says his father stopped practicing because he remembers watching his friends be tortured to death during the Chinese cultural revolution. "He has a very deep memory of how cruel, how brutal the government is," Jason says.

Shortly after Falun Gong was outlawed, Jason's mother, Jizhen Han, traveled from her home in Nanjing to Beijing (a journey equivalent to traveling from Houston to St. Louis). Before she could appeal to the government to lift the ban on Falun Gong, she was arrested and placed in a mental institution. There, Jason says, she was injected with nerve-damaging drugs that prevent her from sitting, sleeping, walking or talking without pain.

Jason flew to China, where a psychiatrist told him that his mother's mental illness stemmed from her Falun Gong practice. After two months, Jason's father asked the doctors to release her for the Chinese New Year. The day she arrived home, police officers asked her to sign an oath swearing that she would never again advocate Falun Gong. She did.

Jason and friends practice Falun Gong regularly outside the Chinese consulate.
Deron Neblett
Jason and friends practice Falun Gong regularly outside the Chinese consulate.
Dianna Roberts: Jason's time "is about up."
Dianna Roberts: Jason's time "is about up."

The next day, officers reappeared and demanded that she sign another statement promising never to practice Falun Gong again. When she refused, a police officer said she clearly needed more mental health care and carted her back to the psychiatric ward.

She was released two months later, and Jason's parents obtained visas and plane tickets to fly to the United States for Jason's son Darrell's first birthday. At the Shanghai airport, police officers refused to let Jason's mother on the plane. "Her name is on the blacklist," Jason says.

And so is his, he says.

An active, outspoken advocate for Falun Gong, Jason has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, the local Chinese newspaper and on nearly every television news station. He led the UH student Falun Dafa Society, and teaches free classes in public libraries throughout Houston, Beaumont, Spring, Galveston and Corpus Christi. He's traveled to Falun Gong conventions in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He met Master Li twice, and has written dozens of letters to nearly every member of Congress. Jason even went to Washington, D.C., to speak to politicians in person.

On Tuesday, February 22, 2001, a month before his passport expired, Jason went to the consulate and paid the extra fee to expedite his passport renewal. When he went to pick it up, he was told it wasn't ready.

Jason says he spoke for two hours with a man at the consulate who told him that as a scientist, he shouldn't believe in superstition and supernatural beings and multidimensional worlds.

"He tried to persuade me to give up Falun Gong," Jason says.

When he would not, the man refused to stamp or return Jason's passport.

Nine months later, Jason's 32-year-old wife applied to renew her passport. She says a man from the consulate told her that since she was young and naive and inexperienced, he was willing to give her a chance to change her mind, renounce Falun Gong and be a good Chinese citizen.

She refused. Without her passport, she said, she wouldn't be able to renew her visa, work, pay the rent or buy food. "We can't survive," she told him.

She says the consulate representative told her she was responsible for the consequences, and to call him when she changed her mind.

The Wangs' living room wall has large posters of Master Li wearing orange monk robes, sitting in the lotus position inside a giant lotus blossom. On the bookcase is a framed photograph of Master Li when he spoke at a conference in Los Angeles three years ago. In the bedroom, there is an ornately framed eight-by-ten of Master Li wearing a white polo shirt beside a fountain in Chicago, and another photo of the master wearing a suit and tie. There are no pictures of family or friends.

Jason's father won't speak to him. He says his son is destroying his family and begs him to quit sending his mother Falun Gong materials because her rearrest is imminent.

Jason's brother recently e-mailed him that it is their father's greatest wish that Jason and his family return home for the Chinese New Year. But Jason's brother wrote that he hopes Jason never comes home. When Jason visits, he brings both the police and trouble with him.

Jason's request for asylum has been ignored and not granted. He sent a two-inch-thick application in February and mailed a second copy in March. At the end of April, after a staff member from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee's office phoned to check on Jason's application, the Houston asylum office of the U.S. Justice Department wrote Jason a letter stating that he had not established that he's a refugee and proved any past harm.

Because Jason did not begin practicing Falun Gong until five years ago, after he had arrived in America, he cannot prove that he was persecuted in China -- because he wasn't. Plus, the asylum office said he didn't establish that there is a "reasonable possibility" of future persecution.

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