‘Free China: Courage to Believe’ to be shown Monday in Rolla

A Rolla homeschooling mother invited members of the Rolla City Council and the community to attend a screening of a documentary about oppression in China Monday night.

"Next Monday is International Human Rights Day," Sara Effner told the council. In honor of that event, she, her husband and their son have invited a representative of New Tang Dynasty TV to show the movie, "Free China: Courage to Believe," about the Chinese government's crackdown on the practitioners of Falun Gong, a system of meditation with exercise.

Falun Gong was founded in 1992, although it is based on ancient practices. Effner said the Chinese government at first thought the Falun Gong movement was good for the communist nation, but changed its mind when the movement grew rapidly.

Now that the adherents may number 100 million people, the government is persecuting the followers.

There will be a private screening Monday night, she said, and anyone who wants to see it may reserve a seat by calling 308-0077.

The documentary follows the persecution of two people.

Here's a description from the movie's official website:

"The fates of a woman living in Beijing and a man living in New York become inextricably linked because of a common conviction.

"A mother and former Communist Party member, Jennifer Zeng was imprisoned for her faith. As she endures physical and mental torture, she has to decide: does she stand her ground and languish in jail, or does she recant her belief so she can tell her story to the world?

"A world away, Dr. Charles Lee, a Chinese American businessman, wanted to do his part to stop the persecution by attempting to broadcast uncensored information on state controlled television. He was arrested in China and sentenced to three years of re-education in a prison camp where he endured forced labor, making amongst other things, Homer Simpson slippers sold at stores throughout the U.S."

The film "exposes the widespread human rights violations that still take place today in China. It examines the conditions in the Chinese prison re-education program, the brutality of an authoritarian state against tens of millions of Falun Gong practitioners, and the efforts by people of conscience to stop the persecution."

Continuing, the website notes, "This timely documentary also highlights the issue of unfair trade practices with the West and how Internet technologies and the re-emergence of traditional Chinese culture are helping bring freedom to 1.3 billion people in China.

Completed in February of this year, the movie has won several awards. Among them:

• Best Feature Film at IX International Short Film Festival - FENACO (Peru, Nov. 17)

• "Best of the Fest" at Freethought International Film Festival (Denver, Aug. 3)

• Winner at American Insight Free Speech Film Festival (Philadelphia May 16)

Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline introduced in China in 1992 through public lectures by its founder, Li Hongzhi, combines the practice of meditation and slow-moving exercises with a moral philosophy.

Effner told the council it has three main tenets: Truth, Compassion and Forbearance.

Those who practice it have claimed it leads to spiritual enlightenment and better health. In fact, Effner said, one woman reported being cured of multiple sclerosis after beginning the meditation and exercises.

It is related to Buddhism and Taoism.

The Chinese government declared Falun Gong a "heretical organization."

Effner said the film has disturbing information about persecutions of the followers of the movement, including the killing of some followers and the sale of their organs.