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Qian Ming, 40

Refugee from southern China, now living in Thailand

I believe in Falun Gong, but my belief was banned as an illegal organisation by the Chinese government on July 20th, 1999. Falun Gong is a traditional exercise, like meditation and yoga, we believe in Bhuddha and other gods, it's not easy to explain. After the ban The CCP [Chinese Communist Party] used the media to slander and defame Falun Gong. I saw it as my duty to tell the truth to the Chinese people about Falun Gong and my actions led to my arrest.

I was jailed for six years. I served two terms. First I served three years in a re-education camp where they tried to brain wash me. We had to work thirteen and a half hours a day, seven days a week, and sometimes through the night. You were powerless – they had electric batons.

For the second term I was arrested and sent to prison. Here, the brain washing was even worse. We were 16 people in a small cell. They ordered me to sit up straight on a small stool from 6am until 11pm. If I moved, they would beat me. Some of the prisoners lost their minds, they couldn’t stand it, it was too cruel. I had some peaceful times there because I decided to give up – but only on the outside. On the inside I remained strong.

I was released in September 2010 but wasn’t allowed to practice my religion so I fled to Bangkok. I went by train and bus to the Burmese border. This was my first time abroad – I never thought I’d go abroad. I had to remain calm. I walked with a guide along secret routes – I didn’t even have a passport, just some money.

I never thought I’d be a refugee. In China, things can be very difficult. I feel relaxed here, most Thais won’t report you unless you are very unfriendly towards them. The cost of living is low here but I’m not allowed to work. I get by with some support from people. I can go on the internet freely and watch what I like on TV. It’s relatively safe for Chinese people here because we look similar to Thais.