"She wasn't allowed to sleep and didn't have much food...It's worrying because she's not young and I don't think it's fair..." Kate, age 9
We're in the aptly named Deli Lama cafe on the corner of the symbolic and historic Bexley Square, scene of the 1931 Battle of Bexley Square, when police brutally attacked ten thousand unemployed protesters demanding the human right of a better life.
Inside the cafe, 9 year old Kate Li, a student at Chetham's School of Music, is playing a sad and beautiful tune on her violin, called Be Saved*, which tells of the struggle of Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, practitioners in China. Kate has been practising the piece for ages, hoping to play it to her 64 year old gran, XiuEr Meng.
But this Christmas, the only sound her granny will hear is the sound of Chinese security officials trying to force her to renounce her beliefs. XiuEr Meng is being held in a cell around seven metres square with twenty other people, and has been deprived of sleep and food.
In October, XiuEr was seized in the street by police as she went to support a local Falun Dafa practitioner's trial in Nan Gou detention centre's court, in Fushun city, Liaoning province – and has been detained ever since in the centre facing possible torture and a potentially lengthy sentence.
Her `crime'? Practicing Falun Gong, a peaceful Chinese meditation that was once encouraged by the Chinese Government, but was then outlawed in 1999 by former Chinese Communist Party Leader, Jiang Zemin.
The oppression has continued under new President Xi Jinping, and when he visited Manchester last year Falun Gong protesters were out in force – meditating – much to the horror of Chinese officials (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
Over 190,000 legal complaints against Zemin have been filed, citing "unlawful imprisonment, torture, corruption and abuse of power" and 3,858 deaths have been documented, although the actual number is likely to be much higher...
Campaigners are adamant that, once killed, organs are harvested from the prisoners. Indeed, the European Parliament passed a resolution in 2013 stating that it "expresses its deep concern over the persistent and credible reports of systematic state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting prisoners of conscience in the People's Republic of China, including from large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners imprisoned for their religious beliefs..."
Now Kate and her parents are worried that XiuEr Meng could be the next statistic... "She got taken into detention because she had books to do with Fallon Gong in her house, and got taken in where she wasn't allowed to sleep and didn't have much food" says Kate "It's worrying because she's not young and I don't think it's fair."
Her dad, Qiong Li, explains that, once in detention, the police will be trying to force XiuEr Meng to denounce Falun Gong by signing an agreement... "Even if you sign they still detain you, to show the others how bad it is and that she wants to give up" he explains "It is used."
Kate's mum, Chang Wang Li, explains that it's hard for western people to imagine what is going on, and has been going on since 1999...
"In China the Communist Party is the only voice people can follow, so they do not have freedom of their religion and belief" she says "Before the prosecutions, the number of people practicing Falun Gong exceeded the number of people in the Chinese Communist Party and they didn't like the situation
"Falun Gong is a meditation, a very peaceful movement that believes in the principle of truth, compassion and tolerance, so it helps people become a better person, to improve their moral standard" she adds "It's quite good for the people's health and the moral standard of the whole society but the nature of the Communist Party is different from the traditional Chinese culture and they cannot accept the values.
"Yet these are normal people who just do their jobs and at home read Falun Gong books, so it's no harm to anyone" she insists "But it's not a democracy; the top person didn't like Falun Gong so he says `We'll stop it'. A belief is everyone's choice, but in China they force people to stop practicing Falun Gong, and oppress some Christian people as well. All the media back the government, so the police and courts all have the same voice. It's a very different situation in China."
Chang Wang's mother is now in grave danger and the family, British citizens, have enlisted the support of Salford and Eccles MP, Rebecca Long-Bailey, who has passed on her concerns to the Foreign Office...
"At the beginning of my mother's detention I was told she was deprived of sleep for three days and three nights; she is 64, which is quite old and I think it is very hard for her to tolerate the suffering" says Chang Wang "She's not been charged and I don't know what's happening to her because it's very difficult to get information from China."
Despite the human rights atrocities, both Salford and Manchester have growing links with China. Less than half a mile across from Bexley Square is the site of the giant Middlewoood Locks development of over 2,000 flats and houses, a hotel, cafes and restaurants (see previous Salford Star article - click here).
Middlewood Locks is being part financed by Scarborough International Properties Limited and Chinese developer, Hualing Group; and constructed by Chinese group, BCEG, which recently made a big deal out of signing an £85million contract for the construction of phase 1...
Michael Rex, Director of Investments of Hualing Group, said at the signing ceremony, which came complete with Chinese flags: "This is a major regeneration scheme which highlights the benefits of global collaboration..."
Obviously not when it comes to collaboration on human rights. Officers and councillors from Salford City Council have been falling over themselves to praise the development... "I am absolutely delighted to see the Scarborough Group and their partners bring this outstanding new development forward" declared former Salford Mayor, Ian Stewart.
"Because British interests are with China a lot, they keep silent about the Falun Gong issue" says Chang Wang "We understand that but I think the words of justice and human rights should be heard too; it's the value of the democracy. I think they know everything, they just keep silent for business interests but if people are for justice they can do this intervening for us. It's their choice to support justice."
Meanwhile, the Li family are split apart and worried about the consequences of XiuEr's incarceration. Chang Wang hasn't seen her mother for 14 years and Kate has never met her grandma...
"Both us practice Falun Gong so we can't go back because of the persecution" explains Qiong "When my wife's father died, and when my father died, we couldn't go to the funerals as we would face danger. It's very sorrowful."
For Chang Wang, the sound of her daughter playing the Be Saved tune on the violin brings it all home...
"It's difficult for the little one to understand what's happening" she says "The song was composed and written by Falun Gong practitioners and she wants to play it to her grandma, to encourage her to be free and strong."
After a stunning violin rendition of Be Saved which gets staff at the Deli Lama clapping, Kate says "I would like to play it for my grandma at Christmas but I can't..."
Over the coming months, Kate will be out and about in Salford and Manchester city centre playing the song to draw attention to her grandma's plight, while petitions are being launched and human rights organisations are being urged get involved.
The Salford Star emailed the Chinese Embassy in Manchester for a comment and is awaiting a response.
We've fallen to the maze
Lost, helpless, can't find the way
Searching thousand years
One day master reappeared
Be saved. Be saved.
Don't miss the chance again
Be saved. Be saved.
Don't miss the chance again
Don't miss the chance again
For further details on the persecution of Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, and more information about the practice in China – click here