When Jane Dai's husband Chengyong Chen lost his life fighting for his beliefs
the couple's daughter was just a baby.
Fa Du Chen will never remember the short time she spent with her father and
must now learn about the strong-willed man through stories and photographs.
Ms Dai said her husband was one of thousands of Chinese people persecuted for
following Falun Gong, a practice that focuses on meditation, exercise and the
principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance.
Falun Gong is reported to have 100 million followers worldwide but was outlawed
by former president of the People's Republic of China Jiang Zemin in 1999.
Ms Dai said her husband died in 2001 after being arrested for publicly supporting
Falun Gong. Since his death, Ms Dai and her daughter have traveled the world
to bring awareness to the plight of the thousands of Chinese people who have
been arrested for supporting the practice.
Ms Dai's humanitarian work as recognized last month with an award from the
Australian Altruism Foundation at a ceremony in Hawthorn. She was one of five
recipients of the Turtle Awards, which acknowledge "leaders who have stuck
out their necks for the common good".
The tireless campaigner and her new seven-year-old daughter have visited 45
countries since 2002 to speak with politicians, lawyers and humanitarian organizations.
"It was very painful for me but so many mothers and children don't get
a chance to speak out so I wanted to take my chance," she said. "It's
very important to stop the persecution because the children are suffering, children
are innocent, children are beautiful and they don't deserve that."
Ms Dai, who is based in Glen Waverley when visiting Melbourne, migrated to
Australia from China in 1992. She became an Australian citizen but said she
was still searching for fulfillment in her life and decided to move back to
China in 1997. There she discovered Falun Gong and me and married her husband,
who continued to publicly support Falun Gong following its ban in 1999.
After Chengyong's arrest in 2001, Ms Dai's visa expired and she was forced
to return to Australia where she learnt, through a Falun Gong website, that
her husband had died.
Ms Dai's story has been told in a documentary Plum Blossom in Snow in Swedish
filmmaker Elefteria Kalogrista, whom she met in Geneva in 2002 at a meeting
of the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
Lotus link to Falun Gong
In Chinese culture the lotus flower is a symbol of beauty and purity.
The flower has now also become a symbol of support for Falun Gong followers
as part of the worldwide Petals of Peace project.
Jane Dai said the lotus flower was a good analogy for persecuted Falun Gong
followers as it came from the mud but maintained its beauty and purity. Ms Dai
said the project used the story of her daughter, Fa Du Chen, and other children
whose parents have been persecuted for following Falun Gong, to encourage people
to speak out against the injustice.
"As part of the project we teach children to fold paper lotus flowers
to support Falun Gong practitioners," she said.
To find out more about the project, go to www.petalsofpeace.com. For details
on Falun Gong, go to www.faluninfo.net.