Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Tuesday, April 09, 2002
Falun Gong Survivors Speak of Self-Immolation
Her face scarred with massive skin grafts and her hands missing, Chen Guo recalls the events which led her to set herself on fire in Beijing's Tiananmen Square more than a year ago. "Falun Gong is indeed an evil cult and it led me to this," said Chen Guo, showing her horrific injuries to Chinese and foreign reporters at a hospital in Henan province, central China.
"Falun Gong is indeed an evil cult and it led me to this," said Chen Guo, showing her horrific injuries to Chinese and foreign reporters at a hospital in Henan province, central China.
A former Falun Gong believer, Chen joined her mother Hao Huijun in setting herself alight. They were both severely burned, but their lives were saved after an all-out effort by medical staff.
Another mother, Liu Chunling, and her 12-year-old daughter, Liu Siying, died.
"I remember Li Hongzhi (the leader of Falun Gong) published a lecture entitled 'Beyond Tolerance' and after reading it, we decided not to wait any longer," Chen said.
"We felt we must strengthen the force of Falun Gong in a special way and at that time we thought of self-immolation," she said.
"Some overseas Falun Gong organizations claim that you self-immolation people are not Falun Gong followers. What is your response?" a reporter from Reuters asked Hao.
"I began to practice Falun Gong in 1996," Hao said, "I was then a music teacher at a middle school in Kaifeng, my colleagues and friends will testify that I am a Falun Gong follower."
Abandoned by Li Hongzhi after self immolation
Reporters from the United States, Britain, Japan, Hong Kong, and China also visited the Wang Jindong, Xue Hongjun, and Liu Yunfang, who were jailed for organizing the incident.
"We went to Tiananmen square on January 23, 2001. I was one of the main organizers and I burned myself first," Wang told reporters.
"We went there just wanting to attain 'all-round fulfillment' claimed by Li Hongzhi," he said.
Despite medical operations, his face and hands were covered with black scars left by the fire.
Falun Gong organizations abroad say Wang is not a believer and his wife and he are not really married, but are hired to act as such by Chinese government.
"It's ridiculous," he said, showing old pictures to reporters. "These photos were taken in the early 1980s when we got married and our daughter was born."
"Li Hongzhi started to spread Falun Gong in 1992 and it would be very strange for the government to hire me as early as the 1980s," Wang said.
Apart from physical burns, the victims suffered deep mental anguish after the self-immolation.
"The memory of the past is painful. I had devoted myself to Falun Gong and Li Hongzhi, but in the end I just found I trusted the wrong person," said Wang, who once ran an artware store and had a close family life, but now is serving a 15-year term in prison.
"Li Hongzhi is the biggest liar in the world," he said.
Xue Hongjun, another plotter of the incident, told the Press that Wang and he had been good friends since they were in their twenties. He admitted introducing Wang to Falun Gong by giving him Li Hongzhi's book.
"I am very sorry for Wang's wife and daughter," he said.
Falun Gong believer equally treated in jail
However another of the self-immolation survivors, Liu Yunfang, 59, is still a believer. "Falun Gong is good," he told reporters.
"Are you treated in an equal way with Wang and Xue," a CNN reporter asked him.
"They have quit Falun Gong. I haven't, but we are treated equally here," Liu answered.
"Falun Gong material usually accuses prisons of abuse, but I haven't found any such thing here," said Xue.
Wang now studies philosophy, Chinese and writing in prison.
Many Falun Gong practitioners throughout the country have killed other people or committed suicide in attempts to "ascend to Heaven" or "attain all-round fulfillment" in line with Li's teaching of "neglecting life and death".
To date, up to 1,660 practitioners and innocent people have died in such incidents. The Chinese government outlawed Falun Gong in 1999 and has since made great efforts to help followers escape spiritual entrapment. So far, almost all former believers have returned to normal life.
Former Falun Gong Practitioners on Falun Gong
"The Falun Gong cult misled me into killing my beloved uncle".
"I suspected that my uncle was plotting to murder me and could not control myself when thinking about a Falun Gong cult lecture which summons followers to endure until there is no need to."