The persecution of Falun Gong practitioners was especially virulent in 2002.
Julia was very upset, and her heart ached to see so many practitioners suffering yet many Chinese people remaining indifferent or even assisting the Chinese regime with its evildoing.
She felt the urge to tell the world what was happening in China.
July 27, 2013
One of the oil paintings in the Art of Zhen, Shan, Ren International Exhibition is titled “Fortitude” and depicts a middle-aged man standing with immense poise in a swirling snowstorm. The blizzard fails to deter him from appealing to the public to help stop the human rights violations of Falun Gong practitioners in China.
Oil on Canvas: Fortitude
This work of art was actually drawn from real life. The man in the portrait is Leon Lemmon, who, together with his wife Julia, has been working tirelessly to raise awareness of the plight of Falun Gong practitioners in China during the past ten plus years.
Having benefited tremendously from the wonderful practice of Falun Gong, Leon and Julia just couldn’t sit still watching their fellow practitioners in China being tortured and killed just for believing in Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. An oil executive with a Houston-based petroleum company, Leon took early retirement in 2002, and the couple began a long journey of fighting for justice for their counterparts in China.
More than ten years have passed, yet the Chinese regime still continues to inflict harm on countless Falun Gong practitioners. Leon and Julia have never let up in their efforts, and they firmly believe that when more and more people come to see the atrocities of the Chinese regime, justice will prevail.
A Predestined Relationship with China
Born in Oklahoma, Leon earned two bachelor’s degrees and worked at a petroleum company for 23 years prior to his retirement. Now he lives in New York with his wife and daughter.
Leon’s wife, Julia, was originally from China and had a keen interest in different kinds of qigong practice. After she came across Falun Dafa in January 2002, she immediately knew she had found what she had been looking for. Her heart was filled with joy at understanding the true meaning of life, and she couldn’t wait for her husband try this wonderful practice, too.
So, just one week after Julia began her practice of Falun Dafa, Leon started reading the main Dafa text, Zhuan Falun . He really liked the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance and totally identified with the teaching that one should strive to be a good person in every social environment.
Leon once suffered from osteonecrosis and had already had the femur in his right leg replaced. After he became a practitioner of Falun Dafa, he no longer needed surgery on his left leg, and his high blood-pressure of five years was also gone. Leon was amazed by his own miraculous recovery and was convinced by Dafa’s extraordinariness.
A Critical Choice
The persecution of Falun Gong practitioners was especially virulent in 2002. Julia was very upset, and her heart ached to see so many practitioners suffering yet many Chinese people remaining indifferent or even assisting the Chinese regime with its evildoing. She felt the urge to tell the world what was happening in China.
After consulting with Leon, Julia began to do the Falun Gong exercises outside the Chinese Consulate in Houston after work every day.
A few weeks later, Julia asked if Leon could take early retirement so he could join her to spread the word of the persecution to consulate customers, especially Chinese people.
Leon was taken aback by his wife’s proposal. After all, he was just one year shy of regular retirement age. If he retired early, he would lose one year’s pay and his monthly retirement benefits would be reduced by 25%. Other housewives all wanted their husbands to work as long as possible so as to maximize their monthly retirement benefits. What kind of wife would ask her husband to take early retirement?
Julia explained to Leon about the brutal treatment of practitioners in China, and he immediately felt their pain and greatly admired their courage in standing up for their belief. He knew it was his responsibility to do whatever he could to stop the persecution.
When Leon submitted his early retirement application, top management were all taken aback because company policy stipulated that no early retirement was allowed for management positions except under specific circumstances.
Interestingly, the company somehow soon put forward a new policy of early retirement, and Leon got his application approved without incident. Several months later he ran into his boss while passing out flyers in public. His boss finally understood his choice.
A Beautiful Scene in front of the Chinese Consulate in Houston
Starting in the summer of 2002, Julia and Leon went to the Chinese consulate to “work” every day. They put up banners and poster boards right outside the consulate and talked to consulate customers about what was happening in China.
Every day Julia and Leon drove more than two hours round trip and had to load/unload more than ten banners and poster boards. It was quite a test for them, as they had been used to a comfortable lifestyle.
It was extremely hot in the summer, with temperatures often reaching more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most people chose to stay in air-conditioned places. There were no trees or other shade in front of the Chinese Consulate. Even young people had trouble enduring such heat, let alone people near retirement age.
Julia and Leon stood on the scorching cement sidewalk, and drinking water constantly didn’t help much. Their clothes were soaked with sweat, but were soon dried out by the sun.
At the beginning they still went to nearby restaurants to have lunch and cool off, but they soon realized the heat became harder to handle once they stepped outside. So later they packed their own lunch and drank as little water as possible so they didn’t have to use the restroom that often.
During the consulate’s lunch break, there were no customers, so Leon and Julia read Dafa books and did the exercises. To them, this was the best way to recharge themselves. They both felt Dafa was truly miraculous in enabling Leon, a person who once had femur replaced, to stand up all day and load/unload poster boards.
When the consulate closed for the day, they packed up everything and moved to the parking lot. In their own words, “When we walked past one restaurant after another with our empty stomachs, we smelled the aroma of food and felt the cool air and felt like we were in a different world.”
At that time, people had different reactions when Leon and Julia approached them in front of the consulate. “We got a lot of positive feedback, and it was really encouraging. Some people were indifferent, and a few were even very rude to us. We treated it as a test of our patience and kindness. We calmed down and felt sorry for those who refused to learn about the plight of practitioners in China.”
A Long-distance Move from Houston to Manhattan
Manhattan in New York City is the financial center of the world. As one of the most flourishing places in America, it attracts people from all walks of life and different ethnic backgrounds.
Given the significance of Manhattan, Falun Gong practitioners staged anti-torture reenactments on the streets there for two years, from 2004 to 2006. One group would usually reenacting forms of torture used on practitioners in China and another group would demonstrate the Falun Gong exercises. That way, passersby saw clearly how peaceful the exercises were and how cruel the mistreatment of practitioners was. Such a sharp contrast touched many people’s hearts, and they signed petitions calling for an end to the persecution.
Torture Reenactment in Manhattan
Torture Reenactment in Manhattan
Leon and Julia in Manhattan
Julia collecting petition signatures in the rain
In July 2004 Julia and Leon sold their spacious house in Houston and moved to New York. They rented a small, dark, windowless basement room in Manhattan for $650 a month and began their two-year effort to raising awareness of the brutality against Falun Gong practitioners in China.
Every day they went out to participate in the anti-torture reenactments and talk to people about the unimaginable terror in China.
Compared to the heat of Houston’s summer, the freezing cold of Manhattan’s winter was not any easier to handle. Sometimes Julia and Leon just hid in the crawl space under the staircase of subway stations to have a quick bite of their packed lunch.
An Unusual Father’s Day
After the conclusion of the Anti-Torture Exhibit in Manhattan, Julia and Leon continued to live in New York to spread the word about the sufferings of practitioners in China.
On June 16, 2013, Father’s Day, the couple’s daughter called Leon, “Daddy, how do you plan to celebrate Father’s Day?”
As a matter of fact, that day was no different than any other day. Julia and Leon began their day by delivering copies of the Epoch Times newspaper to different places in town. The rest of the day was filled with other activities to promote Falun Dafa and appeal to the public to stop the persecution in China.
Leon hasn’t celebrated Father’s Day for many years. All his time is spent on Dafa-related activities. He grabs whatever is in the refrigerator to eat and saves whatever money he can to use on making literature about the sufferings of practitioners in China.