Spouses, parents, children, and siblings of those who practise Falun Gong have suffered various degrees of persecution, ranging from loss of employment, being expelled from school to torture. Meanwhile, some relatives have directly taken part in persecuting their loved ones, often under extreme levels of pressure from the communist state. The number of broken families this persecution continues to create is staggering. Almost every Chinese Falun Gong adherent one meets outside of China has such a story: They cannot safely return to China. Most have been separated from their relatives for over ten years. They have missed their children’s marriages and, often enough, their elderly parents’ passing as they can't go back to China without being persecuted.
Three main reasons for the CCP to persecute Falun Gong practitioners' relatives
When tens of millions of Chinese who practise Falun Gong were outlawed and began being targeted in 1999, even their relatives who did not follow the spiritual discipline were implicated at once. There are three main reasons for this:
- The Party sought to deter Chinese people from supporting their family members from opposing the campaign. By targeting family members as well, protests were silenced. Family and siblings were intimidated so intensely that quiet acquiescence, and often proactive support of the persecution could be enforced.
- The Party feared family members would publicly expose the torture and other abuses their loved ones faced if they were not put under pressure.
- Police and jail wardens learned that one way of breaking the determination of jailed Falun Gong practitioners is by showing them how miserable their children, spouses, or elderly parents are.
Methods used in the persecution of family and siblings
While Falun Gong practitioners are being tortured in prisons, their family members have struggled to pay enormous fees for the hospitalisation of those recovering from torture. Those whose relatives died of torture have also often had to deal with enormous fees on top of their grief. Besides these, relatives of Falun Gong practitioners are persecuted in other ways such as:
- Spouses are pressured to divorce and threatened with repercussions such as an end to their careers if they do not.
- Relatives are dismissed from their workplaces after their family members petition the government to end the persecution or distribute informational material.
- Sons and daughters are expelled from schools if one of their parents remains an active Falun Gong practitioner.
Elderly parents have suffered heart attacks or collapsed under the pressure of seeing their children arrested and beaten. Others, like Charles Lee’s mother, passed away while worrying about their children and not being able to see them one last time.
In part of a story that won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, Ian Johnson describes how Zhang Xueling was jailed after trying to seek justice for her mother (news) who was beaten to death by Chinese police. (news)
Not only adults have become victims of the persecution of Falun Gong. With the hundreds of thousands of people having been arrested and brought to labour camps, and many of them being tortured to death, many children of Falun Gong practitioners have been temporarily without parents or even orphaned. These children have suffered irreparable harm. Some children have entered into shock because their parents were arrested in front of their eyes and in the end they died of their trauma through mental and physical exhaustion.
In addition, hundreds of thousands of children have been forced to slander Falun Gong at schools, or are expelled from school if they refused to do so. These children are only targeted because of their faith in Falun Gong.
Persecution by relatives
Relatives were given a painful choice between supporting their loved ones at great risk or following the Party and thus wrecking their families and betraying their kin. Some were influenced by the the Party’s propaganda portraying Falun Gong as a "dangerous organisation", or they feared repercussions for supporting their family. This led to many situations where people have taken part in persecuting their relatives who practise Falun Gong. This varies from threatening with divorce, trying to talk their relatives into signing a statement slandering Falun Gong under pressure of the police, to turning their relatives in to the local “brainwashing classes”. In this last situation, family often didn't know that Falun Gong practitioners would be deprived of sleep, beaten, and forced to blankly stare at anti-Falun Gong videos for days on end. When these practitioners “graduated” and were allowed to return home, the severe mental trauma they had experienced made them no longer recognisable as being the same person (more on brainwashing).