Day and night, without a break, this quiet protest has been going on since 2002 opposite the Chinese Embassy in London. Just off busy Oxford Street is Portland Place, and there are many embassies there. One in particular, the Chinese Embassy, has been the focus of meditators for the past 17 years.
“Candlelight Across the Street” is a documentary on the story of a group of peaceful protesters who sit on the cold sidewalk opposite the Chinese Embassy, they are there in a nonstop relay, and will continue until their pleas are heard.
Gao Yudong coordinates the shifts, ensuring there is always someone there in Portland Place.
“The regime persecutes Falun Gong day and night. So shouldn’t we also keep up our 24-hour vigil?” she said. Work and school for most practitioners cut into their time to participate, but Yudong is always ready to cover a shift if she is needed. And the display board is always a friendly companion on those cold nights.
Her young son Yangyang spent many nights in a tent on the sidewalk with his mom; he had been attending the site since he was 11 years old.
Yangyang, (or Ben Chen, as he is now known,) nine years ago, joined Shen Yun Performing Arts, the world’s number one classical Chinese dance company, based in New York, and he tours the world with the company each year. Every May, however, he comes back to London to visit his parents, and although he samples food from many countries, he tells Yudong,“Mom, your beef stew is still the best,” Yudong happily confides.
Ben goes back to the vigil site at least once every year, and he has noticed the evolving display board. “Every year, I come back home, and every year I go back to the Chinese Embassy at least once,” said Chen.
The display board was originally much wider, stretching along the sidewalk, they came up with a more compact design, triangular, and able to resist the strong winds that would often disturb it.
They were also able to simulate a view of the display board from the embassy offices, without even being there, through technology on the computer. “Using this software, we have knowledge of what can be seen from up there,” said one practitioner.
Solar panels and waterproof flyers are upgrades on the display board, remarked Chen. “Same storage room,” he laughingly commented. All kinds of warm materials and information brochures are safely stored there. Solar lights allow passersby to read the signs displayed at night.
Chen has fond memories of growing up alongside his mom on the sidewalk at the vigil site. “Every meal was a picnic, and every night was a camping trip,” he said.
“On many days, I would wake up at seven in the tent, and then I would put on my school uniform, like a very proper looking suit, like the whole thing with a tie, and I would just get out of the tent, and then brush my teeth at McDonald’s, and take the London underground for about half an hour, and then take a bus for another 20 minutes—and then go to school,” said Chen.
Many practitioners of Falun Gong have sat through the pelting rain, and snowstorms taking turns at doing a shift at the site, raising awareness about the persecution of Falun Gong by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP.)
Always by their side is the display board. Much hard work has gone into the board, and over the years it has evolved from a simple beginning into a work of art.
With the traffic lights right there, it is the perfect spot for the display board to be effective.
People read the message; hardly any words need to be exchanged, most sign the petition to help stop the persecution of Falun Gong and the killing of practitioners for their organs.
Millions of passersby have been able to read the signs it displays, sitting in the comfort of their cars or on public transport, with many more taking information from its friendly display, learning about the horrors inflicted on followers of the peaceful practice in China.
The Falun Gong practitioners remain steadfast and focused in their determination to tell the world of the horrors inflicted on the practitioners in China, and will continue to do so until the persecution ends.
The display board will remain by their side for as long as it, too, is needed to tell the world.