Daring to describe the Chinese government’s brutality, Zeng’s revealing memoir details her experiences fighting for her life as a Falun Gong practitioner.
In 1995, the author was diagnosed with hepatitis C. Once she exhausted every possible cure to no avail, Zeng begin reading Zhuan Falun, a multi-volume manual written by the founder of Falun Gong. She learned the key principles of Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance (zhen, shan, ren); she practiced the five exercises essential for any follower (two involve meditation poses, three are body movements). A month later, blood tests revealed that the hepatitis C was gone. As Falun Gong membership grew through the late ’90s, the Chinese government labeled it an “evil cult” and officially set about eradicating it. When Zeng and other followers protested, they were rounded up and sent to re-education camps. Prisoners, glibly called “students,” were regularly beaten, mentally abused, shocked with electric prods and deprived of sleep. Portraying case after case of the torture that she witnessed, the author stalls her narrative. Numerous fellow practitioners are introduced, briefly sketched and then lost in a sea of bruised faces, bloodied knees and blistered backs. A deeper connection with these sufferers fails to materialize. “Reformation” was the camps’ main goal. Followers were forced to sign guarantees that they would no longer exercise the principles of Falun Gong. After suffering imprisonment for nearly a year, Zeng capitulated and signed a guarantee in the hopes of getting out and telling her story. Months later, in exile in Australia, she came to the painful conclusion that, no matter her motives, she had betrayed Falun Gong’s central tenets by compromising with evil.
Thought-provoking, though often reading like a history lesson more than a tale of one woman’s emotional journey.