We saw on media that there were two young men from London’s best French school who had invited Amy to their school to share her personal story. This piqued our interest and we wanted to learn more.
Felix and Martin had been high school seniors at Lycée français Charles de Gaulle de Londres in South Kensington. South Kensington is the most expensive district in London, and Lycée français Charles de Gaulle de Londres is the best French school outside of France.
Our interview took place at Martin’s home. The building was perched on a quiet, gray-brick lane, with ivy crawling up the outer wall. This added a lively touch to an otherwise dreary winter day. We were greeted at the door by a beautiful French lady. Presently she left the house with her younger child, leaving us alone with the young men in a neat and tranquil home.
Martin’s home was a townhouse. On the first floor was the dining room. The living room and Martin’s bedroom were found on the well-lit upper floor. The house was organized, bright, and tastefully decorated. Surrounded by white-painted walls, other than a television and a light-colored sofa, the rest of the paraphernalia in the house consisted of photos of family members and rows after rows and shelves after shelves of books. Books occupied almost all visible surfaces.
Felix was tall. Part American, part French, and part Pakistani, he had handsome features and beautiful, glossy hair. Martin, on the other hand, looked more like a typical British man. I noticed that the two of them were athletic and asked about their favorite sports. Felix said he loved playing basketball. Martin’s sport of choice was rugby.
If you have seen Friends, you might recall the episode where Ross tries to impress his British girlfriend Emily by playing in a rugby game. He is completely destroyed by the game and has to be helped back to Central Perk–Yup, Martin plays that rugby.
In Martin’s room, there’s a photo of him covered in dirt with a bleeding nose. “Even back then, I defeated someone who was a lot taller than me.” Martin told us as he pointed to the photo, not without a hint of pride. On the wall there hanged a giant letter “M”, and along which were festooned all the medals Martin had ever won in rugby games.
I asked Martin if he has ever been injured. He said he’s had his arm (or maybe wrist) broken. I asked why he didn’t choose soccer? (What I meant to say was maybe playing soccer wouldn’t result in such serious injuries)
He said he picked rugby because the game relies more on team spirit, whereas soccer gives more attention to the concept of one man’s heroism. Martin is not a big fan of the notion of having too much ego, but instead prefers the idea of being part of a team that works and fights together.
I was deeply impressed by his response as it kindled in me greater respect for him.
Though only a fraction of our interview appears in the film, we talked for a full hour. They spoke in detail about how they had come to know the subject of Falun Gong, and how they had tried very hard to introduce this topic to their classroom.
The first time Martin learned about Falun Gong, as shown in the film, was when he passed by the vigil station with his father in front of the Chinese embassy. His father explained to him the persecution of Falun Gong in China. Later when Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Britain, Martin and Felix saw Falun Gong practitioners’ peaceful protest outside of the Parliament. They chatted with some of the protesters and were shocked to learn the ordeals they had endured. Subsequently, they began their own research online and read, among others, the 80-page United Nations’ report on the matter, as well as the investigations of David Kilgour and David Matas.
They compared side by side reports by foreign media and those by China’s state media, including by CCTV, or China Central Television (Martin added that: “CCTV news, which is quite perfectly named”, to which Felix responded with laughter. The acronym “CCTV” is often being teased to mean “Central Censorship Television”). Martin said that: CCTV “gives you a few numbers, but then in the reports we read from the United Nations, you had witnesses from hospitals…and yet different numbers like, the year of the persecution started, all of a sudden, I think the number of the organs be harvested or been sold at the black market arose incredibly, and much higher than the previous year.” Felix added that: in Canada, it will take long time to get an organ. In UK in the US same thing, over a thousand days. In China 15 days… and also the fact that you can even book the date you get the organs, which is unthinkable around here (which means the “donor” will and must die on the date of the operation)! All these vindicate the allegation that Falun Gong practitioners are being slaughtered alive for their organs in order to reap huge profit.
And then, the two men tried to share the result of their investigation with their class, and this wasn’t easy. They first had to secure their teachers’ support, plan everything for their presentation, find actual Falun Gong practitioners to support their research, and ask audience members to participate (they didn’t just invite their classmates, but over two thousand students from their entire school). And they had to secure a classroom as the venue of their presentation, and find a time when everyone was free to attend…
This was a lengthy process that required a lot of planning and getting through administrative red-tape. Their teachers were not obligated to offer help since this presentation was entirely their idea. Not just that, their teachers were also part of the same audience that needed to hear the presentation. The two young men planned out everything from beginning to finish. They had prepared a few months for this presentation.
On the day of their presentation, more than 100 students, 10 teachers, and 2 administrative staff attended. The presentation was divided into two parts. For the first part, they showed the film “Free China: the Courage to Believe”. In the second part, a few Falun Gong practitioners, including Amy, went on stage and shared with the audience what they had personally experienced. There was a Q&A session at the end.
The fact that Amy (and the other Falun Gong practitioners) were there added a layer of personal touch to the presentation. Just like what Martin said: “We have read all the reports and things 10 thousand this, 1000 that, and then, it’s really a serious numbers, but once you actually meet one of those thousands of people, and you hear their experience, and you see what their family member had been through, and you know, she might have gone through on her own, then you noticed that, it become a lot more… than simply knowledge base, …, and then you realised, it is not one person on her own, there is a same experiences for thousands and thousands and thousands of people, and that really kinds of, it strikes you.”
The young men hope to host more similar workshops and invite more classmates and teachers to attend, and topics would expand to include not just Falun Gong, but Tibet and Xinjiang as well, among other potential choices.
After our interview, our crew filmed Martin’s room, and what struck me the most was still the piles after piles of books that were everywhere. Next to a bookshelf, there was a shelf made from books (a DIY bookshelf trendy in recent years), and on that shelf were yet another pile of over twenty books.
The two men were impressive young thinkers. Felix was interested in politics and planned to pursue it in the future. Aside from being trained in both English and French languages at their current school, they also studied the cultures and literature of the two countries. In Martin’s room, we saw books with intricate mathematical formulas explaining economics as well as philosophical discourses by Aristotle. Felix said that philosophy and politics were connected. It seemed that philosophy had been playing a role in helping them to understand the world they live in.
After the interview, we invited them to a nearby Turkish restaurant for kebabs. Felix was delighted as Middle-eastern style cuisine suited him. Martin didn’t say anything. After we settled down in the restaurant, he stepped out and returned shortly with a loaf of bread–it seemed that Martin was allergic to some food items. We felt very sorry that we hadn’t chosen a more suitable place to eat, but Martin apologized instead and said it was his picky eating habit that was to blame.
This blog post is about the film Candlelight Across the Street. Click to watch the full film!