Why Do I Write This Book?

Preface of Witnessing History: One Woman’s Fight for Freedom and Falun Gong

Throughout my school years, I always disliked writing compositions and when I enrolled in science at university was delighted that I would never have to write another. Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine the day would come when I would consider writing a book.

However, our lives often take unexpected turns, and twelve years after graduating from university I was sentenced to twelve months’ re-education through forced labor for simply writing a letter to my parents-in-law explaining why I practice Falun Gong. The letter was sent by email and I was subsequently charged with ‘using the Internet to voice grievances on behalf of Falun Gong’. Initially I was sent to the Beijing ‘Re-education Through Forced Labour Despatch Division’, where the conditions were unimaginably dreadful. Within the confines of the labor camp, I sometimes spoke jokingly of writing a book to expose the horrors of this place. Halfway through my sentence, I started to take the idea more seriously. By then I had witnessed and experienced far more brutality and darkness than I ever thought existed and certainly more than I could bear. I was determined to expose all these evils and was writing this book in my heart from then on.

I thought carefully about starting with an account of my first arrest, but realized that this wouldn’t work because my story is about practicing Falun Gong. Had I not embarked upon this journey, given the Chinese Central Government’s suppression of Falun Gong it would have been almost impossible for me to disregard my personal safety and risk arrest, beatings and death—for defending what I believe to be true. As this is the story of what happened to me as a Chinese practitioner in China, I have used my Chinese name (Zheng Zeng) throughout, although I now use my English name in my new, English-speaking country.

I was among the first group of people in Beijing to be sentenced en masse to re-education through forced labor for practicing Falun Gong. Within a few months, the number of inmates at the Beijing Xin’an Female Labour Camp had swelled from around 200 to about 1000. I witnessed the vast changes in the labor camp as a result of the large influx of Falun Gong practitioners. I also witnessed the ever-widening and deepening impact that Falun Gong was having on Chinese society and the whole world.

There is an old Chinese saying, ‘Still water runs deep’. Although we can hardly see or feel the rapid current underneath the ‘still’surface, what is occurring below can be truly terrifying. This is what is happening to the countless innocent Chinese Falun Gong practitioners locked behind the oppressive walls of the hundreds of forced-labor camps throughout China; the world is still largely unaware of the vastness of the current. With the world now at such a critical moment, I feel that documenting my experiences through writing this book has become my responsibility to history.

I also wanted to work unflaggingly with the untold thousands of decent people who long to bring this brutal suppression of Falun Gong to an early end and so save more lives. I feel that writing this book was a mission set for me by present reality.

After I was released from the labor camp in April 2001, to avoid further harassment from the police I left my home and went to my hometown in Sichuan province, thousands of kilometers to the west. That was when I found out that my younger sister had been forced to leave her home several months before because of her involvement with Falun Gong. Her daughter was almost eighteen months old and just starting to talk. When my mother and I went to see her, she ignored her well-known grandmother and ran unsteadily to my arms, calling ‘Mummy, Mummy’ instead of ‘Auntie’. Her expression was one of joy and her voice so innocent. I embraced this little child tightly, not knowing whether to answer her or not. Words fail to express how I felt at that moment.

My brother-in-law stood motionless, his head bent, and didn’t make a sound while I held my sister’s daughter in my arms. I realized his heart must be bleeding inside to hear her repeatedly crying out ‘Mummy’. As I looked at the broken family in front of me, my heart bled too.

I also visited relatives implicated to varying degrees because of my sister and me. For generations, these good and decent people had never had any dealing with the police and now the police were coming to their homes constantly to search for my sister as an ‘escaped criminal’. They now pass their days in a perpetual state of anxiety over the police and worry themselves sick over her.

And then there are our friends . . . I have discovered through world human rights organizations that more than 1000 Falun Gong practitioners have been persecuted to death, and tens of thousands have been incarcerated in forced-labor camps and prisons. It is impossible to calculate how many others have been sentenced, detained or forcibly enrolled in government-run ‘brainwashing classes’; how many have effectively been deprived of their freedom through being under constant surveillance by local police; how many have become destitute and homeless; how many have been dismissed from their jobs for no apparent reason, finding themselves with no means of earning a living. The true number of innocent people affected by this oppression must be in the tens of millions.

So my book is dedicated to them too. I appeal to all kind-hearted people around the world to take note of what is happening to the Falun Gong practitioners in mainland China. Extend your helping hands to these millions of innocent beings, save them and, at the same time, save yourselves. For this, I am prepared to sacrifice my life.

At this point, tears cover my whole face and I am unable to continue. I can but turn to an ancient Chinese saying, ‘Kowtowing with a bleeding heart’. I want to kowtow with a bleeding heart to those who are willing to read my book. With all my strength and my entire being I offer this book. I offer my heart, and the essential principles of the universe that I validated through my life.

I do not know when this human calamity that is the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of Falun Gong will cease, so most of the names in this book have been changed to protect the identities of innocent people. All the events, however, are absolutely true.

Zheng (Jennifer) Zeng
China, 24 May 2001
Revised in Australia in September, 2004

Click here to purchase a copy of "Witness History" or learn more:

Chinese version of Jennifer's book. Available at  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1981879927

Chinese version of Jennifer's book. Available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1981879927


Photo: Jennifer at Central Park in New York in 2017. 
Photo credit: Benny Zhang Studio 張炳乾