Fang Xianzhi was a 60-year-old Falun Dafa practitioner, a retired employee of a design company who lived in the western region of the city of Chengdu in Sichuan Province. On January 18, 2001, during the nationwide campaign to arrest Falun Dafa practitioners, he was arrested and detained at the Ningxia Street Detention Center in Chengdu. He was in good health at the time of his arrest. At the detention center, the warden forced him to stand in a cold-water shower for over 40 minutes. (The January winter in Chengdu is extremely cold.) The miscreant warden also slapped his face.

In early February, Fang Xianzhi went on a hunger strike to protest his illegal detention. Just a few days into his hunger strike, the detention center began to force-feed him. After the force-feeding, he vomited and had difficulty breathing. Later, his health began to fail. When he appeared to be dying, they sent him to a hospital, but he died on the way. The detention center falsely reported that he died of kidney failure.