BEIJING - Ten years after the tragic moment that changed her life, Hao Huijun, a former Falun Gong believer who survived setting herself on fire, is still struggling with remorse and pain.
"Please tell those who are still practicing Falun Gong to keep away from it and be sober-minded," Hao, 58, told reporters who visited her ahead of the Chinese lunar new year.
On Jan 23, 2001, Hao and six other Falun Gong followers, including her then 19-year-old daughter, set themselves on fire at Tian'anmen Square in Beijing to attain the "all-around fulfillment" claimed by Li Hongzhi, Falun Gong's leader.
Hao and her daughter Chen Guo were burned beyond recognition, while two were burned to death on the spot and another severely injured. Two others were prevented from causing harm to themselves.
After long medical treatment and rehabilitation paid for by the government, Hao and her daughter tried to start a new life.
They now live in a courtyard in the city of Kaifeng in Central China's Henan province. Their 30-square-meter sitting room is furnished with a sofa, table, television, air conditioner and other appliances.
Hao, whose face was heavily disfigured and whose hands have been amputated, said the government hired helpers for her and her daughter and they receive a monthly living allowance from the government.
"The government also hires psychologists to provide us therapy from time to time and bought my daughter a computer for her to study new things," she said.
Hao was once a music teacher in a middle school in Henan, and her daughter was a student at the Central Conservatory of Music, the most prestigious music academy in China. Now, with several fingers amputated, Chen no longer plays music.
Hao expressed remorse and worry about her daughter's condition. "Guo Guo's condition is not quite stable. Sometimes she smashes stuff on the ground, sometimes refuses to eat, or stays up all night," she said, while wiping away tears.
Hao's sister said Chen Guo occasionally expresses a grudge against her mother, plunging Hao deeper into her sense of guilt because she led her daughter into practicing Falun Gong.
"Falun Gong destroyed us and brought our families endless pain," said Hao.
The Chinese government banned Falun Gong in July 1999.