Survivors Share Stories of Torture in Chinese Prisons on 23-Year Mark of Persecution of Falun Gong

GOSHEN, N.Y.—Under the blazing, late-morning sun, a petite figure of a woman climbed up a small stage. She picked up the microphone and started to talk. Her voice was clear, sometimes agitated almost to a cry, then calming down again. Images evoked by her words were so ghastly they jerked the listener out of the bright, small-town park and into a dark world some 6,000 miles away.“My name is Yuhua Zhang. I am a Falun Gong practitioner,” she started. “I used to be a professor and chair of the Russian Languages Department at Nanjing Normal University in China. Because of my faith in Falun Gong, I was fired by my university. From October 2000 to November 2012, I was incarcerated in several locations, including [the] Women’s Labor Camp of Jiangsu Province, Nanjing Detention center, and Nanjing Women’s Prison. I suffered many kinds of torture for several years. Here I would like to tell you some of what I experienced.” Campaign of Misery On July 20, 1999, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched a whole-of-government campaign to eradicate Falun Gong. The plan was to eradicate the popular meditation practice in three months—in time for the party chair at the time, Jiang Zemin, to claim a victory before the party congress in fall. A tried and proven machinery of the repressive state was set into motion: All the media in the country were commanded to print and broadcast a non-stop barrage of propaganda blaming adherents of Falun Gong for every possible societal ill. Overnight, the practice was declared illegal. Teaching the practice, sharing its literature, or even speaking positively about it became punishable by prison or worse. Two decades later, reports of people tortured to death in Chinese prisons for the “crime” of practicing Falun Gong keep coming. Zhang spoke of her last arrest, in November 2011. “The police … took me to a hospital, where they injected me two times by force with an unknown drug. They also tied my hands and legs to a bed, firmly pinched my cheek to force my mouth open and force-fed me some drugs. These drugs caused me to have a numb tongue, stiff limbs, convulsions, and extreme pain. I lost consciousness,” she said, speaking at a rally to commemorate the 23 years of the persecution. “The next morning, they forced a tube up my nose and into my stomach, and poured a few vials of unknown drugs into my stomach. I started to feel dizzy, had heart palpitations, nausea, twitching, and muscle pain. The twitching was accompanied by bouts of throat spasms and my facial muscles tightened. I couldn’t open my mouth and had difficulty breathing. My heartbeat was racing as though I was about to die. My fingers were stretching uncontrollably. I experienced excruciating pain and lost consciousness.” Methods of Torture There are thousands of stories like Zhang’s. Xia Haizhen, 46, originally from Shanghai, spent a total of seven years in the Shanghai Women’s Prison. Her first arrest was in 2003, simply for visiting somebody who practiced Falun Gong, she said during the rally, held in Goshen, New York, on July 17. Xia Haizhen speaks about her experience being tortured in a Chinese prison because of her faith in Falun Gong, at a rally in Goshen, N.Y., on July 17, 2022. Falun Gong adherents have been persecuted in China for nearly 23 years. (Larry Dye) “More than 20 police officers took turns interrogating me day and night. They handcuffed my hands, forcibly locked me to an iron chair for six days and six nights, and lit a very bright light bulb in [front of] my eyes, preventing me from sleeping,” she said. “I went on a hunger strike to protest. A policeman forced me to walk around the concrete floor barefoot, pulling me by the handcuffs on my wrists. When I didn’t cooperate, he kicked my head with his leather shoes.” After six days, she was taken to the prison hospital. “I was forcibly held down by four policemen and handcuffed to an iron chair. One policeman grabbed my hair and prevented me from moving. Another policeman roughly inserted a thick hard plastic tube up my nose and into my stomach. My nose started bleeding immediately,” she said. “Then they put me on the ‘death bed,’ stretched out my arms and legs, and tied me down with a few ropes so that my body could not move. The ropes were so tight that they dug into my flesh. The pain was unbearable. In order to increase my pain, one police officer pulled the plastic tube back and forth every few minutes, causing a lot of blood to flow from my nasal cavity. I stayed on the hunger strike for thirteen days, and all I vomited was black liquid.” She was eventually released after three years, but then arrested again in 2012. She was kept in a small cell, less than 10-by-10 feet with six other inmates to “watch over” her. “The prison guards electrocuted me with electric batons, forced me to wear a straitjacket, and handcuffed my hands behind my back for 15 days. Prison guards used loudspeakers to force me to listen to songs praising the CCP rep

Survivors Share Stories of Torture in Chinese Prisons on 23-Year Mark of Persecution of Falun Gong

GOSHEN, N.Y.—Under the blazing, late-morning sun, a petite figure of a woman climbed up a small stage. She picked up the microphone and started to talk. Her voice was clear, sometimes agitated almost to a cry, then calming down again. Images evoked by her words were so ghastly they jerked the listener out of the bright, small-town park and into a dark world some 6,000 miles away.

“My name is Yuhua Zhang. I am a Falun Gong practitioner,” she started.

“I used to be a professor and chair of the Russian Languages Department at Nanjing Normal University in China. Because of my faith in Falun Gong, I was fired by my university. From October 2000 to November 2012, I was incarcerated in several locations, including [the] Women’s Labor Camp of Jiangsu Province, Nanjing Detention center, and Nanjing Women’s Prison. I suffered many kinds of torture for several years. Here I would like to tell you some of what I experienced.”

Campaign of Misery

On July 20, 1999, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched a whole-of-government campaign to eradicate Falun Gong. The plan was to eradicate the popular meditation practice in three months—in time for the party chair at the time, Jiang Zemin, to claim a victory before the party congress in fall. A tried and proven machinery of the repressive state was set into motion: All the media in the country were commanded to print and broadcast a non-stop barrage of propaganda blaming adherents of Falun Gong for every possible societal ill. Overnight, the practice was declared illegal. Teaching the practice, sharing its literature, or even speaking positively about it became punishable by prison or worse.

Two decades later, reports of people tortured to death in Chinese prisons for the “crime” of practicing Falun Gong keep coming.

Zhang spoke of her last arrest, in November 2011.

“The police … took me to a hospital, where they injected me two times by force with an unknown drug. They also tied my hands and legs to a bed, firmly pinched my cheek to force my mouth open and force-fed me some drugs. These drugs caused me to have a numb tongue, stiff limbs, convulsions, and extreme pain. I lost consciousness,” she said, speaking at a rally to commemorate the 23 years of the persecution.

“The next morning, they forced a tube up my nose and into my stomach, and poured a few vials of unknown drugs into my stomach. I started to feel dizzy, had heart palpitations, nausea, twitching, and muscle pain. The twitching was accompanied by bouts of throat spasms and my facial muscles tightened. I couldn’t open my mouth and had difficulty breathing. My heartbeat was racing as though I was about to die. My fingers were stretching uncontrollably. I experienced excruciating pain and lost consciousness.”

Methods of Torture

There are thousands of stories like Zhang’s. Xia Haizhen, 46, originally from Shanghai, spent a total of seven years in the Shanghai Women’s Prison. Her first arrest was in 2003, simply for visiting somebody who practiced Falun Gong, she said during the rally, held in Goshen, New York, on July 17.

Epoch Times Photo Xia Haizhen speaks about her experience being tortured in a Chinese prison because of her faith in Falun Gong, at a rally in Goshen, N.Y., on July 17, 2022. Falun Gong adherents have been persecuted in China for nearly 23 years. (Larry Dye)

“More than 20 police officers took turns interrogating me day and night. They handcuffed my hands, forcibly locked me to an iron chair for six days and six nights, and lit a very bright light bulb in [front of] my eyes, preventing me from sleeping,” she said.

“I went on a hunger strike to protest. A policeman forced me to walk around the concrete floor barefoot, pulling me by the handcuffs on my wrists. When I didn’t cooperate, he kicked my head with his leather shoes.”

After six days, she was taken to the prison hospital.

“I was forcibly held down by four policemen and handcuffed to an iron chair. One policeman grabbed my hair and prevented me from moving. Another policeman roughly inserted a thick hard plastic tube up my nose and into my stomach. My nose started bleeding immediately,” she said.

“Then they put me on the ‘death bed,’ stretched out my arms and legs, and tied me down with a few ropes so that my body could not move. The ropes were so tight that they dug into my flesh. The pain was unbearable. In order to increase my pain, one police officer pulled the plastic tube back and forth every few minutes, causing a lot of blood to flow from my nasal cavity. I stayed on the hunger strike for thirteen days, and all I vomited was black liquid.”

She was eventually released after three years, but then arrested again in 2012.

She was kept in a small cell, less than 10-by-10 feet with six other inmates to “watch over” her.

“The prison guards electrocuted me with electric batons, forced me to wear a straitjacket, and handcuffed my hands behind my back for 15 days. Prison guards used loudspeakers to force me to listen to songs praising the CCP repeatedly. At the same time, the guards and the inmates who were watching me came every hour to pull the handcuffs and torture me,” she said.

Some of the torture methods were simple. In the winter, the guards would tie her to a chair by an opened window for two days straight until her hands and feet got numb from frostbite.

Once, she was forced to sit on a hard, tiny bench with an irregular surface. “After being forced to sit on the bench for a long time, my rear-end was bleeding and sticking to my pants … every moment was painful,” she said.

One time she was forced to hold a glass of scalding-hot water between her thighs. Other times, the guards would send other inmates to beat and abuse her. One prisoner pulled out her hair, “one handful after another,” she said. Another prisoner scratched her back with her fingernails until it was covered in blood.

Some of the most intense torture in her description was brainwashing.

“They forced me to watch videos made with lies that reverse black and white. I closed my eyes and refused to watch, and the prisoner pinched my eyelids and forbid me to close my eyes. She also put headphones on me, turned the volume to the maximum, and forced me to listen to the shameless slander of Falun Gong,” she said.

“I felt like my spirit was being stabbed with one stroke after another endlessly.”

It was the proper description of hell, she said.

“I couldn’t survive, I couldn’t die, and my spirit was almost collapsed. Only the three words of [Falun Gong tenets] of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance were in my mind and supported me through this very dark experience. When I came out of the prison, my entire body was blue and purple, scarred, and skinny.”

Upon her release in 2016, Xia managed to escape to America.

“Today, I can stand on the free land of the United States and have the freedom to believe in Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. I feel extremely lucky,” she said.

“However, in today’s China, thousands of Falun Dafa practitioners are still suffering the brutal persecution that I once suffered.”

Epoch Times Photo Falun Gong adherents meditate in a park in Goshen., N.Y., on July 17, 2020. A few hundred adherents of the spiritual practice gathered in the park to commemorate 23 years since the Chinese Communist Party launched a persecution of their fellows in faith in China. (Larry Dye)

She called on “kind-hearted people to lend a helping hand to jointly stop and end this inhumane persecution as soon as possible.”

World’s Response

The persecution of Falun Gong has been denounced by governments all over the world, including a number of U.S. Congress resolutions and reports by the United Nations. In 2020, an independent tribunal in the UK determined that the CCP has been killing imprisoned Falun Gong adherents and other dissidents for their organs, which are then used for transplants, often for high-paying foreign patients.

Epoch Times Photo Falun Gong adherents hold banners along a road in Goshen., N.Y., on July 17, 2020. A few hundred adherents of the spiritual practice gathered in the town to commemorate 23 years since the Chinese Communist Party launched a persecution of their fellows in faith in China. (Larry Dye)

Still, the topic draws relatively little attention in government and media, leaving it largely to adherents of Falun Gong themselves to spread the word, several attendants of the rally said.

“It’s important because somebody has to do it, nobody does,” said Julia Baniasadi, 44, who came to the rally with her family.

In China, the CCP keeps a tight grip on information about the persecution, especially about the torture and abuse in prisons.

“A lot of Chinese people in China, they don’t even know about the persecution,” she said.

Epoch Times Photo Julia Baniasadi (R) with her daughter Nikou (C) and other family members and relatives at a rally against the persecution of Falun Gong in China, in Goshen, N.Y., on July 17, 2022.

Even in the United States, the media has seldom touched the topic.

“The media covers a lot of it up,” said Baniasadi’s daughter Nikou, 18.

“Just mainstream media. They don’t report on it, they don’t present it, nothing. For some reason it’s always hushed up. So I guess we just have to take our own initiative to go out and tell people.”

Epoch Times Photo Falun Gong adherents practice meditative exercises in a park in Goshen., N.Y., on July 17, 2020. A few hundred adherents of the spiritual practice gathered in the park to commemorate 23 years since the Chinese Communist Party launched a persecution of their fellows in faith in China. (Larry Dye)

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Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.