Leejun Taylor, a Chinese native who lives in Mayfield, said the Human Rights Torch Relay will pass through Albany April 30, and people who want to show their support for human rights can take part in the event. It is part of an international campaign pressuring China to respect human rights, she said.
“Everything we do can make a difference,” Taylor told a gathering of the Lions Club at the YWCA of the Adirondack Foothills Wednesday. “It is up to us, as individuals, to make a stand.”
Taylor was born and raised in Beijing, but left the country after the Tiananmen Square protests were brutally suppressed in 1990. When Taylor saw what happened to the protesters, she decided it was time to live in the United States.
It can be difficult for people in this country to understand the conditions in China, she said, because the attitudes of the governments toward
human rights are very different. While American citizens have freedom of speech, religion and assembly, Taylor said, that is not the case in the country where she was born.
When citizens of China who recently arrived in the United States talk about human rights, she said, most will list the rights given to animals.
“Despite all of our trade with China, we have not brought [its] understanding of human rights to the next level,” she said.
When the Chinese government applied in 2001 to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, the government promised to improve its record on human rights, Taylor said.
Instead, things have gotten worse, she said.
Taylor said the Chinese government is known to persecute Tibetan Buddhists and Christians, as well as Falun Gong practitioners.
For Taylor, that is something her family understands all to well.
Almost one year ago, Taylor lost contact with her then 73-year-old mother, Li Xiulan.
Xiulan had been detained for practicing Falun Gong, which involves meditation and exercises and is based partly on Tai Chi, Qigong and other ancient Chinese arts. The movement was established in 1992 with the publication of a book by Li Hongzhi. By 1999, Falun Gong had attracted millions of followers in China, and the government began to crack down on it.
“Tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been arbitrarily detained in China since the spiritual movement was banned as a ‘threat to social and political stability,’” a March 2007 report by Amnesty international said. “Many detained Falun Gong practitioners have reportedly been tortured or illtreated, particularly those who refuse to renounce their beliefs.”
Xiulan had been placed in a “brainwashing center” by the Chinese government, Taylor said. Held there for nearly one month, Xiulan was drugged and intimidated into signing a statement renouncing Falun Gong and its leader. Afterwards, she was placed under house arrest until being allowed to board a plane to the U.S. on Sept. 5, Taylor said previously.
Speaking to the Lions Club Wednesday, Taylor spoke about a number of basic human rights violations the Chinese government committed.
The infamous one-child policy, the government-controlled church and media, and its willingness to arrest people for any reason were just a few of the topics she spoke of.
While visiting China a few years ago, she said government agents kidnapped her off the street. Knowing her as someone who practiced Falun Gong in the United States, the government decided to forcibly recruit Taylor as a spy to collect information on other Falun Gong practitioners in this country, she said.
After being held in a detention center for 10 days, and refusing to work for the government, Taylor said she was released.
“I asked ‘I live in Mayfield, and [the Chinese government wants] information on people who practice Falun Gong? In Mayfield there are [mostly] cows, and no one to get information on,’” she said to laughs.
It was a rare lighthearted moment, however, because so much of what Taylor described horrified the members of the Lions Club.
Johnstown resident Anthony Caruso said it was time for the people in the U.S. to say something about the conditions in China.
“I personally feel we should not go to the Olympics,” he said. “[The U.S.] should not go to a country that treats its people the way they do.”
It was an eye-opening experience, Gloversville Councilman-at-Large James Handy said. It was shocking, he said, to hear about the oppression people still have to live under in the world.
Taylor pointed out the goal of people protesting what is happening in China is not anti-Chinese, and it is not an insult to the Chinese people. The issues are with the government.
“The goal is to raise awareness, so people all over the world understand what is going on,” she said.
The Human Rights Torch Relay started in Athens last year, with just that purpose. The torch will visit 34 cities in the U.S. and will be in Albany April 30.
The official ceremony, were Albany Mayor Gerald D. Jennings will light the torch, will start at 11 a.m. on the steps of the Capitol building.
Anyone interested in attending, or who would like more information, can contact Leejun Taylor by phone at 588-8712. If an e-mail is preferred — Leejun@taylormadegroup.com'>Leejun@taylormadegroup.com'>Leejun@taylormadegroup.com'>Leejun@taylormadegroup.com
The wife of Gloversville businessman Jim Taylor, Leejun Taylor is the president of Shanghai April, a Gloversville-based Chinese and Tibetan furniture import company.
Rodney Minor covers Gloversville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org'>email@example.com'>firstname.lastname@example.org'>email@example.com.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor
Leejun Taylor, left, of Mayfield talks about China and the 2008 Olympics while Wally Truesdell listens at the Lions Club meeting at the YWCA in Gloversville Wednesday.
Fact BoxTo get involved
The Human Rights Torch Relay will be in Albany April 30. Anyone who would like more information or wants to attend may contact Leejun Taylor at 588-8712 or by e-mail at Leejun@taylormadegroup.com.