This shortish documentary (61 minutes) tells the story of two people living on opposite sides of the earth who were both persecuted for their belief in Falun Gong, a modern Chinese spiritual practice that combines Buddhism and Daoism. It follows the stories of Jennifer Zeng, a Communist party member living in Beijing and Dr. Charles Lee, a US citizen of Chinese birth, both of whom ran afoul of the Chinese government all because they would not give up their belief in a peaceful practice that the Party deemed evil.
The film is a step inside the repressive Chinese labor camp system, where the Falun Gong faithful are all sent for nothing more sinister than their belief in a mind-body practice that the government initially praised and encouraged — that is until there were more Falun Gong practitioners than Party members, at which time they labeled it an evil cult and made its practice a crime against the state. Jennifer Zeng was a wife and mother and a regular member of the Party in good standing until she refused to give up her practice. She was thrown in jail and tortured both physically and mentally. Charles Lee wanted to help his fellow practitioners in China but was ultimately jailed as well, despite his US citizenship. Both ultimately found their way to freedom and worked to let the world know that not only does the Chinese government use these political prisoners as forced labor, making many of the products we in the West buy, but they have been harvesting organs from these same prisoners for sale to the highest Western bidder.
Free China: The Courage to Believe is a sobering indictment of the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights policies, despite their veneer of modernization and protestations of being maligned by troublemakers. Both Dr. Lee and Ms. Zang have been able to rally international support, but the question remains, how much does international condemnation actually matter to the Party? It is a well done film (except for the narration, that really was too heavy-handed for me), and is a worthy addition to the human rights documentary library. It should be required viewing for anyone interested in the workings of the Chinese government. And maybe you should wonder who made that stuffed teddy bear your kid is cuddling, too.
The filmmakers hope viewers will share the trailer and sign a petition to improve human rights in China, which you can see here.