Matt was living and studying in China when he began practicing Falun Gong. Before the persecution began on a large scale, he noticed the government started to disrupt practitioners.
EXCERPT FROM INTERVIEW:
“I remember one day I was at the practice site doing the exercises and some speakers were positioned oddly close to the park, blaring really loud music. I couldn’t work out who was playing it and why. I later learned this had been happening throughout China. It was harassment from the government trying to disrupt what was essentially very peaceful activities. Then it gave me a sense of what the government is doing; these are people being peaceful, yet the government is disrupting things in the park.
One day I had to get a health exam as a foreign resident in the city. After we exited the building my friend said: ‘Hey look, there is someone filming us!’ And indeed across the street there were two men in a sedan with tinted windows. The windows were rolled down and a man had a camera rolling on us. It occurred to me: ‘Oh, is this because I’m doing Falun Gong that now they are following me, monitoring me?’
A couple weeks later the persecution had begun. My program director called me in and said: ‘I just want you to be careful, you can know that they are reading your emails, you can expect that they are listening to your phone calls.’ She said they had begun executing people and that’s when I realized this is beyond anything I believed was going to happen.
People had been taken away throughout the country, primarily at night. People who had been considered ‘leaders’ of the practice had been pulled out of there home. You couldn’t find people, couldn’t communicate, couldn’t email, Falun Gong websites were suddenly blocked, people’s emails were being read or blocked. It really threw everything into disarray and chaos.
I wanted to find out what was going on, so I would turn on the television and it was propaganda marathons from the government. I would up a newspaper and it was just propaganda pieces denouncing Falun Gong.”