It's been nine years since Bin He, who lives in Herndon, last saw his parents. In the meantime, since emigrating to the United States from his native China, He and his wife have had two sons of their own, ages nine and three. He wants to bring his parents to the states to meet their two grandsons, but his mother's religious beliefs have made travel to or from China impossible.
Last week, He, along with thousands of other Falun Gong practitioners, silently protested the Chinese government on the lawn of the United States Capitol.
"I asked my parents to visit us. However, my parents failed to get passport because they were asked to present statement that my mother has given up practice of Falun Gong, and the police office also required proof that I have stopped practicing Falun Gong in the U.S. So my parents just could not get the passport."
A simple "white lie," that's all it would take for He to see his parents. His father does not practice Falun Gong, only his mother, who does it in the dark windowless room in her home. One problem: There is no such thing as a simple lie, he says. "The spiritual guides our daily lives," He said. "We cannot lie."
Part of the importance of Falun Gong, He says, is feeling safe.
"My mommy just practice privately," He said. "She is scared."
U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10), He's congressman, has been a consistent voice in the House against human rights violations, including the abuse, torture, rape and deaths of Falun Gong practitioners in China. "As we speak out for human rights and religious freedom, our words can be a light for the persecuted who languish in the darkness," Wolf said in a statement. "Those suffering persecution are encouraged when the United States speaks out on their behalf."
ATTRACTED TO FALUN Gong's connection to ancient Chinese culture and spirituality, He started the practice in 1998 after reading a book, "Zhuan Falun," about it. "Ever since I was introduced to Falun Gong, I have felt very good."
Supporters and practitioners, alike, say Falun Gong helps everything from stress and anxiety to physical health and spiritual growth.
Rooted in the ancient Chinese culture, Falun Gong, or Falun Daffa as it is sometimes known, is made up of slow-moving exercises, meditation, and teachings designed to improve mind, body and spirit. Despite its old world appeal and its ode to the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance, Falun Gong only originated in China in 1992. Since then, more than 100 million people in over 50 countries have signed on, supporters say.
Four years ago on July 20, Chinese president Jiang Zemin banned the practice and reportedly began imprisoning and torturing more than 700 religious prisoners. "We have no political agenda," He said.
While Zemin is no longer president, he is still in charge of the military and his grip is still felt throughout the country, He and Dong Xiang, a fellow Herndon Falun Gong practitioner, said. Chinese-run television portrays a "twisted understanding of the Falun Gong principles," Dong said. "He has a small heart and mind and is threatened by the numbers of followers."
He said most Falun Gong practitioners in China feel pressured and most don't want to risk talking on the phone. "All the Chinese media carry the same message," He adds.
While He's wife is scared of potential repercussions, He says he needs to get his story out to as many people as possible.
"What we want to do is reveal the truth," Dong said. "Truth is our victory."
That's why, along with an estimated 4,000 other Falun Gong members, the two men took part in the series of weekend long events around Washington. "I don't think Jiang Zemin is listening, but I want to appeal to the International community. I want them to add pressure to let China know we won't give up," He said.
"Never," Dong added.
At the very least, He says he wants his Herndon neighbors to be aware of the "persecution going on in China."
He has his congressman's ear. "It is time for the state-sponsored, state-led persecution in China to stop," said Wolf.
AS PART OF the sacred principles of truthfulness and compassion, devotees of Falun Gong cannot lie. "We can't lie, we don't do that," He said. "If you lie, we would not be practicing Falun Gong.
He says there are many nights where he thinks about his parents and the daily crackdowns throughout China. "It's just such a sad situation," he said. "It bothers me very much."
He said he could travel back to China to see his parents, but he would never see his family, again, he said. "If I go back, I turn up in prison," he said from the dining room of his Herndon town home.
It has gotten so bad that He says even his mail to his parents is intercepted. The software programmer says he is positive that the Chinese government both in China and the United States have him, along with thousands like him, on blacklists. "We sent a lot of pictures there. They didn't get them," he said, holding back tears. "We went to Sears to get nice pictures. They didn't get them."
Asked if he holds out hope of his long-overdue family reunion, He looks down at his feet and says, "I have to have to have a dream."