Minneapolis man home after Falun Gong arrest

Latasha Webb

Those who practice the Chinese mediation art of Falun Gong in China live in fear every day. Now that fear has reached Minnesota.

On Tuesday afternoon in Beijing, Minneapolis resident John Nania was arrested and detained in a Chinese jail for 19 hours after he was caught practicing Falun Gong in Tiananmen Square.

Nania, with approximately 35 other Falun Gong practitioners from 11 Western countries, traveled to China on Tuesday. The group planned to protest the Chinese ban on the meditation by practicing the art in the square.

Nania said all were arrested within one or two minutes of beginning meditation.

“The police arrived very quickly,” he said. “Some of my fellow practitioners were struck, punched, beaten.”

They were then taken to a jail where police took all of their belongings and interrogated them.

He arrived in Minneapolis on Wednesday afternoon. Several Falun Gong practitioners, grateful that Nania is bringing attention to the issue, greeted him.

“Chinese people are touched by what they did,” said Falun Gong practitioner Carolyn Lu. “This is an issue of humanity. It is a matter of lives being taken every day.”

Jared Madsen, a student at Northwestern Health and Sciences University, agreed.

“The simple art of meditation cannot only get one arrested; it can get one beaten, raped, brainwashed or killed,” he said, pointing to a display to his left that gave statistics of brutality relating to Falun Gong.

The display read, “At least 311 persecuted to death. Over 50,000 arrested. Over 5,000 sent to labor camps. Over 1,000 sent to prisons. Over 1,000 put in mental institutions. Millions losing jobs. Many expelled from school.”

Gruesome photos accompanied the facts. Those killed include a 27-year-old mother, her 7-month-old son and a 44-year-old professional.

These cases are not horrific exceptions. Many Chinese have tales of beatings, murders and other injustices they claim the Chinese government and police have inflicted on them.

But many are not willing to give up the meditation, even if it costs their lives. Some claim the meditation has actually saved their lives.

Sen Yang, an engineer in Chicago, was diagnosed with hepatitis “B” in 1982. He spent eight months in the hospital but was released when doctors thought they had done everything they could for him.

Yang said he spent the next 10 years feeling weak, but he finished school and moved to the United States.

In 1995, he began practicing Falun Gong. Yang claims that in only a few days he found two bruises on his stomach and back. He said he felt better after that.

Two years later after completing his doctorate, Yang said, he got a job and took many tests in order to get health insurance. The hepatitis was gone. Yang credits this cure to Falun Gong.

Others who had come to greet Nania had similar stories. Some claimed to have been cured of insomnia, migraines and other health problems.

“I had serious chronic health problems,” said Steve Gregory, an administrator who traveled from Chicago to greet Nania. “I stumbled across Falun Gong, and I’ve
experienced a huge change.”

Gregory said the Chinese government outlawed the meditation because it felt threatened after completing a study that found approximately 100 million Chinese citizens were practicing Falun Gong.

“It’s a case of state terror,” he said. “They have more control over the daily lives of the people who live there than any other totalitarian nation. And it’s hard to maintain control over a movement so large.”

Now that the movement has moved to the United States and even the University – a Falun Gong group meets every Tuesday and Friday on campus – the Chinese government will have an even harder time controlling it.

“We want the people in China and the world to understand the persecution in China is not a Chinese problem,” Madsen said. “It’s a human problem.”