Annie's family is still in China
In the Shadow of the Wheel
By Reuben Abraham
Annie was forced to leave her parents and her son in China because of her belief in Falun Gong.
It's early on a Sunday morning and, while most people are probably still curled up in bed, a small group of people are silently assembled on the greens at Leazes Park in Newcastle.
A soft voice calls out moves as the men and women, mostly Chinese immigrants, move with equal and effortless grace.
Bowing and stretching, twisting and turning, all in perfect synchrony.
The group meets at Leazes Park
They are practising Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, also known as the Wheel of Law. An ancient art, based on breathing and stretching exercises, that flourished for centuries all over China.
Every morning and evening, town squares were crowded with practitioners swaying to the voice of Li Hongzi, the modern day guru of the art.
But Falun Gong has been banned in China since 1999, after thousands of members demonstrated in about 30 Chinese cities against the arrest of group leaders.
According to state-run China TV, it is guilty of spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting disturbances and generally jeopardising social stability.
The movement itself, however, claims to have no formal organisation, money or resources, or even any political leanings. They have accused Chinese authorities of orchestrated persecution and torture of their members.
Chapters of the movement have now sprung up all over England including Newcastle, set up by self-exiled practitioners.
Annie practises Falun Gong at home
Annie took to Falun Gong after western and Chinese medicine failed to cure her of her ailments. Falun Gong finally seemed to provide relief.
But, early one morning, she was arrested at her home in Beijing and detained in a labour camp for two years.
"I couldn't take the starvation and torture any more and had to finally renounce my faith in Falun Gong," she says.
Annie then fled to England where she now lives, but unhappily away from her parents and only son. "Living is a cross now", she says.
last updated: 14/07/2008 at 16:34