Why would the successful entrepreneur Feng Zhenguo, who established and ran a successful furniture factory in China, escape with his wife to Canada? What drove them to abscond from China?
Feng Zhenguo created and ran a profitable furniture factory in China’s Hebei Province. He became well known and was sought after for his excellent craftsmanship. Under his expert managerial skills, the factory expanded. However, Feng’s sense of self-satisfaction was very short-lived. This prosperous business soon became the local official’s “cash cow.”
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The official’s extortion attempts all began, Feng believes, because of his mother’s involvement with the Falun Gong practice in her hometown in Heilongjiang. As a result, she was arrested for distributing informational leaflets and spent 15 days in a detention center. Although Feng Zhenguo and his wife were not practitioners of Falun Gong, their local police station called them and informed them to “take care” of this family situation.
As Feng Zhenguo’s furniture factory flourished, visits by local officials became more frequent, explicitly hinting at his mother’s record and blackmailing him to pay them more and more money if he wanted to avoid trouble. One official specifically asked for some reupholstery work for his furniture. The value of the work was over US$8,000. The official decided to pay only US$700 and threatened to make reports that Feng had failed his fire safety inspection or that illegal transient workers were being used in his factory.
Feng said: “Basically, the official will make up reasons you can’t understand or even imagine just to blackmail you; he doesn’t want to kill your business; he just wants to cut you slowly because he knows you have to keep making more money for him to keep extorting more from you.”
Business at the factory was slow during the lockdown period following the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak. Then, in April of that year, Feng Zhenguo’s wife, Han Yanjing, attended a Christian family gathering at the request of a friend to pray for everyone’s well-being and safety. Little did she know that the police would soon knock at her door.
Han Yanjing said a local police officer started coming to see her at home. He told her she had been reported for participating in an “illegal rally” but assured her he wouldn’t let the higher authorities find out if she paid him. He left after she gave him US$700. She didn’t expect the blackmail to continue after that initial encounter, but the officer kept making up lies and said he would report that their factory failed to meet safety standards. On one occasion, he even dragged in a pile of very severely worn furniture and demanded that it was to be fixed.
“He told me because of the illegal Christian assembly, the police hierarchy also knew about it and said it would lead to many troublesome things, including for the leader of the original prayer group,” Han stated. “On another occasion, he saw a handmade wooden gazebo displayed at our factory and asked me how much it cost, stating that it would suit his large yard. He further stated that he could arrest me if I charged money for this pavilion. I instantly stated: ‘Just take the gazebo,’ and within a few days, he came and confiscated it.
Feng Zhenguo and his wife tried to sell their factory
These incidents occurred on many occasions, leaving Feng Zhenguo and his wife exhausted. Feng Zhengguo said he had invested at least US$420,000 into their factory, and despite the COVID-19 epidemic, they didn’t experience any setbacks as the number of orders they received remained remarkably stable. Despite all of this, the couple decided to sell the factory.
The first offer made was US$280,000. After half a day of negotiations, the buyer suddenly withdrew his request. After that, a few more offers to buy the factory came, but each was invariably hindered. Eventually, Feng learned that a leader of the Public Security Bureau had found someone to make an offer of US$5,640 and planned on forcing a deal. Otherwise, they would not be able to get a single penny.
This whole ordeal left Feng Zhenguo at his wits’ end. The beautiful home and dreams he had worked so hard to realize were eventually trampled on by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and shattered. At one point, he choked back tears and couldn’t go on as he recalled the episode. Finally, he stated emotionally: “Suddenly, one day, I realized that you are not an entrepreneur at all, you are just a piece of meat on the chopping block, and in that environment, you have no way of controlling your destiny, and whatever you want to do is just wishful thinking, it doesn’t matter. In the greater scheme of things, you are nothing in the CCP’s Chinese Dream!”
The nightmare didn’t stop there. Once the officials could no longer use him as a “cash cow,” they returned, saying that his wife Han Yanjing’s former participation in the “illegal assembly” could no longer be covered up and needed to be dealt with. This news forced them to leave China and find another life in Canada.
After settling in Canada this year, they both received Canadian working visas. Feng Zhengguo started working for a renovation company, and Han Yanjing worked as a domestic helper.
Feng Zhenguo said: “Canada has shown us tolerance, love, real freedom, and dignity, qualities that we have never experienced while in China. I work as a carpenter, and I am muchly respected in Canada. My boss and clients say I do an excellent job, something I have never experienced in decades. I was able to do a great job with my business in China in that harsh environment, so how could I not do a good job in Canada? The root of this problem lies with the Chinese Communist Party. I am not against the Chinese people; I am against the Chinese Communist Party.”
The couple not only fought for their livelihoods and careers, but they became actively involved in campaigns against the Communist Party. Feng Zhenguo said they are not afraid to stand up and speak out because the Communist Party wants people to be scared and automatically silences their voices, and people must not let them get away with their evil deeds.
Translated by Eva