Though the influence of the Falun Gong cult has declined on the Chinese mainland, the cult's hierarchy has continued to fight overseas against the Chinese government.
An important method the cult uses is to sue Chinese officials through foreign courts when these officials travel overseas.
In November last year, a New York court in the United States handed down a ruling by default after a lawsuit by Chinese citizen Peng Liang from Wuhan City in central China's Hubei Province accused a Chinese civil servant in Hubei of "murdering" his younger brother Peng Min and mother, both devout Falun Gong followers.
The judgment in the case, the first of its kind, has been heralded by the Falun Gong hierarchy as a "great victory."
In the lawsuit, the cult claimed prison officers beat Peng Min badly, breaking his neck, and Peng's mother also died at a hospital because of persecution from the police.
However, the truth is the Chinese civil servant sued in the lawsuit has long been in charge of transport administration and had never handled any work related to Falun Gong.
Peng Liang, Mo Chou, Li Xinyi and Zhang Jing, all of whom are former Falun Gong followers and were involved in the lawsuit, have revealed the truth behind the death of Peng Min and his mother, and the overseas case.
Peng Liang comes from a family of five. His father Peng Weisheng, and Peng Liang and his brother Peng Min supported the family by repairing bicycles. Led by the father, the family of two boys and one girl all began to practice Falun Gong in 1997, with Peng Min the most diligent.
Peng Min told his elder brother Peng Liang that when he was detained he lived with other criminal suspects who constantly cursed Falun Gong and its leader Li Hongzhi. The inmates were bored to death, he said, and unhappy with Peng Min for practicing Falun Gong in front of them.
Peng Min couldn't stand it. He threatened to commit suicide if the inmates continued to curse Falun Gong and Li Hongzhi. On Jan. 8, 2001, Peng Min hit himself against an iron door of the ward and collapsed.
"That day Peng Min went to use the toilet, I was at the entrance," said inmate Peng Hongwei, who witnessed Peng Min's suicide attempt. "On his return, Peng Min suddenly ran toward the iron door and I attempted to drag him back, but failed. Peng Min hit himself against the door."
After the incident, Peng Min was conscious, but his lower body was numb. He was not breathing when he was rushed to the hospital. After some emergency treatment, he regained consciousness.
Peng Min was later diagnosed with a broken neck and damaged nervous system, which required surgery but could not be fully cured.
"You're done for," Peng Liang told his younger brother when he saw him at the hospital. Peng Min said he did not regret his act.
"At the time, both my mother and I had the same feeling that Peng Min did the right thing because Master Li Hongzhi instructs us to 'protect Falun Gong with our lives', and individual lives are meaningless," said Peng Liang.
Therefore, Peng Liang told doctors not to operate on his younger brother. According to Peng Min's wishes, Peng Liang had his brother sent home. Peng Min was cared for by his elder brother and mother day and night. But he was returned to the hospital whenhis condition worsened.
At the hospital, Peng Liang himself treated his brother's bedsores, leading to a serious infection. Peng Min eventually died on Apr. 6, 2001.
Their grief-stricken mother caught typhoid and died of a cerebral haemorrhage at the hospital within a month, said Peng Liang.
Peng Yan, 25, Peng Liang's younger sister, who is serving a jail term, said she believed her brother Peng Min died from a suicide attempt for the cause of "protecting Falun Gong".
She recalled that she and Peng Min attended a meeting of Falun Gong believers. At the gathering, organizers played an audio recording produced by a Hong Kong Falun Gong organization, telling how a Falun Gong follower from Shijiazhuang City in Hebei Province had thrown himself against a wall to prevent others from cursing Falun Gong and its leader Li Hongzhi.
"I told my second elder brother, it is right to use your life to protect Falun Gong and prove its existence when necessary, " said Peng Yan.
Peng Liang, Mo Chou, Li Xinyi and Zhang Jing, all of whom had a role in the lawsuit against the Chinese civil servant in Hubei Province, said they believed Peng Min died for the cause of "protecting Falun Gong with their lives" instead of "being beaten to death by the police", as the former followed the teachings of cult leader Li Hongzhi.
However, why did the Falun Gong followers who claim to worship "truth, kindness and tolerance" furnish false evidence for an overseas Falun Gong organization?
"We were made use of and hoodwinked by the cult and its leader Li Hongzhi," said the four former followers. "It is really an immoral, base and insolent act for the Falun Gong cult to use us to distort facts and perjure ourselves," they said.
Mo Chou, 25, an economics graduate, another former diehard Falun Gong follower, said Li Hongzhi time and again told Falun Gong followers to consult the cult's website, Minghui Net, on important matters.
Mo resigned from her job with a local company in Wuhan City in Hubei Province to practice Falun Gong and was put in charge of underground affairs relating to publicity and liaison.
On Jul. 12, 2001, Mo received a coded e-mail from Minghui Net informing her that a civil servant from Hubei would visit the United States and urging her to find Peng Min's relatives or those of other victims to indict the Chinese official while he was overseas.
Mo was also ordered to write a letter entrusting the Falun Gong organization in the United States as the agent for suing the civil servant.
Mo Chou found Peng Liang, who was persuaded to sign a power of attorney which was later altered to give false information on the case to the court. With the power of attorney, Falun Gong organizers in the United States sued the Chinese civil servant when he was in that country on a business visit.
As well as praising Mo via e-mails for managing to find a witness and prepare the power of attorney, Minghui Net operators sent 3,999 US dollars to a bank account opened by Mo Chou for arranging Peng Liang to be smuggled into the United States to testify at the New York court.
Peng Liang was first sent by Mo to southwest China's Chengdu City in cooperation with two other Falun Gong followers, Li Fengyou and Zhang Jing, a husband and wife team.
After Li Xinyi, another Falun Gong diehard, moved in and traveled between Wuhan City and Zhanjiang City in south China's Guangdong Province to make arrangements in a bid to smuggle Peng Liang to the United States via Hong Kong, their secret operations were uncovered by Chinese public security officers in late August 2001. All those involved in the plot were detained by police.
When Peng Liang, Mo Chou, Li Xinyi and Zhang Jing were first detained, they were quite defiant. Police officers at the detention center have tried hard to help them change by breaking the cult's hold on them while giving them real care.
The former followers revealed their experiences to prove the harm done by the cult to themselves and their relatives.
These days, the four, who all look healthy and often exchange greetings with police officers at the center, have all renounced the cult and have developed a new understanding of Falun Gong.
"Now, I have realized my younger brother's death was not worthwhile. He was only 27 years old. Li Hongzhi should be blamed for his death, because if my younger brother was not so obsessed with the cult, his fate would have been quite different," said Peng Liang.
According to Peng Liang, Peng Min read "Rotating the Wheel" over 40 times during his confinement to bed after his suicide attempt, hoping for a miracle.
"My mother had also practiced Falun Gong for many years, but nothing could prevent her from dying," said Peng Liang. "I feel I was cheated.
"My transformation is at the cost of two of my relatives, so I'm asking other Falun Gong diehards to wake up as soon as possible."
Mo Chou, Li Xinyi and Zhang Jing also showed remorse.
"It's Li Hongzhi who caused all this, so it's Li Hongzhi who should face trial, not only us, " Mo Chou added.
(Xinhua, October 17, 2002)