Looking at the smiling faces on a picture hanging on the wall of a four-room apartment, 78-year-old Huo Xiuzhen feels as if a knife has pierced her heart: The smiling faces could never smile again.
Huo is the adoptive mother of Liu Chunling, 36, a Falun Gong practitioner who set herself on fire and was burnt to death on January 23, the eve of the traditional Chinese Lunar New Year. Liu 's 12-year-old daughter Liu Siying also suffered from the same ordeal. The girl, with severe burns on face, head and hands, is now hospitalized in Beijing.
"I have never thought that Siying's life would be ruined by her mother," said Huo.
Liu Chunling had lived with her adoptive mother and daughter since she divorced in 1989.
"She treated me well at the beginning," recalled Huo. "But our quiet life was changed two years ago when she became obsessed with Falun Gong." Liu Chunling no longer cared for her daughter but worshipped the portrait of Li Hongzhi, the Falun Gong founder, everyday. She repeated what Li said to her daughter and taught the little girl to practice Falun Gong.
"My daughter began to quarrel with me, and even tried to drive me away from home," said Huo, who brought Liu up.
"Li Hongzhi and his Falun Gong have done people great harm," said Huo, "They have ruined my daughter and grand-daughter." Liu Siying, without eyesight currently, is not informed of her mother's death yet.
Together with Liu Chunling and Liu Siying was another pair of mother and daughter Hao Huijun and Chen Guo, who attempted suicide also on January 23.
Hao Huijun, 47, became a music teacher in Kaifeng city, central China's Henan Province, after she graduated from Henan University in 1974. Music programs composed or edited by her have won her over 12 awards in Kaifeng.
Cui Li, a younger sister of Hao, said that Hao used to be a friendly and warm-hearted career woman. Her personality altered a lot after she became a Falun Gong practitioner. She did not like to talk to and show care for other family members, but often staring blankly.
Hao was sent to a mental hospital for treatment of schizophrenia last March. But she refused to take medicine or receive an injection and left the hospital days later.
Hao then asked local police to send her to prison which she believed was "a temple" good for cultivating herself according to Falun Gong rules.
Being worried about Hao's situation, her younger sisters helped her move into their mother's home. At the end of last October, Hao was found burning all the pictures of her own family and sold her apartment.
Cui said that the last time she saw Hao was at noon on January 16. Hao bought the family some steamed bread and then disappeared.
Cui and others had been looking for her for a few days but failed to get her. Since Hao left her ID card and cotton-padded coat at home, her family did not expect she had left Kaifeng to Beijing.
"Falun Gong rescues no people at all," cried Cui, "it was designed to hurt people, damage their lives, and push them to death. My sister and niece all became sacrificial lambs of Li Hongzhi and Falun Gong." Hao’s daughter Chen Guo is a sophomore at Beijing-based Central Conservatory of Music. The pretty 19-year-old student is a Pipa player.
"She would have a promising future if she had not been addicted to Falun Gong," said Cui. "It is more than sorrow that my sister trained my niece into a music talent and then ruined her."
Liu Baorong was lucky. She tried to set herself on fire on Januarty 23, but failed, thanks to swift police action. "It was the police who saved me," she said after the tragedy.
Lu Jinjun, her husband, could not hold back his indignation upon his knowledge of what had happened. "Falun Gong is a kind of sugar-coated slow poison," he said. "This tragedy mirrors clearly that Li Hongzhi is trying to sell it to kindhearted people in the name of so-called science." Liu Baorong, a textile factory worker who left her post due to an industrial injury in 1984, began practicing Falun Gong in 1997.
Lu's first thought was that his wife went to her hometown in Shandong Province when he came back from work and did not see her at home on January 16. But he and their children have never expected that Liu would attempt suicide on the Spring Festival Eve.
"As the relative of Falun Gong victims, we strongly request the government to resolutely uproot the cult,” said Lu.
Liu Yunfang, 58, was as lucky as Liu Baorong. He was found with two bottles of gasoline at the Tian'anmen Square by police before he set himself on fire.
Li Qiuli, his wife, said that the whole family should express gratitude to the government, that has saved Liu Yunfang.
Like other Falun Gong practitioners, Liu Yunfang became silent and cared little though he was the only bread-earner of the family.
What he talked most to his family about was Falun Gong.
Liu Heng, Liu Yunfang's son, said that his father stuck stamps of Falun Gong on the electronic appliances and furniture. Liu Heng often argued bitterly with his father for not accepting Falun Gong.
"We are waiting for him," said Li Qiuli with tears in her eyes.
"He will not be discriminated by the society so long as he returns from the lost way and breaks completely with Falun Gong at an early date."