(Clearwisdom.net) Near the end of 2000, I was detained in the Shijiazhuang First Detention Center because I refused to give up my belief in the Falun Dafa principle of "Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance." In the detention center, Falun Dafa practitioners and other prisoners were forced to work as slaves. Our job was to process the naturally dried herbal medicine Ma Huang (Ephedra sinicia) (1), also known as Chinese Ephedra. The processing method was to pinch off the twigs and side stems, then divide them into two categories: the joints, and the thin stems. It is said that the herb can then be used as an herbal medicine. The compound, ephedrine can also be extracted from the stems. Ephedrine is used in weight loss and body-building pills, and also to make stimulants. In some countries, ephedrine-based products have been banned and are illegal due to health concerns.

The job seems simple, but the detention center allocates a huge workload for everyone, resulting in an exceedingly long workday. For those who work quickly, the quota can be finished in one day. In order to meet the quota, detainees have to work hard from 6 or 7:00 a.m. in the morning to 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. at night. The only breaks are for meals and for going to the bathroom. Those who work more slowly even have to work until midnight, but still can't finish their quota. These people are jeered at and verbally abused by the prison heads and the guards.

The dried herb is processed by pinching off the twigs with the thumb and forefinger. In a few days, the skin of one's forefinger becomes abraded, then the second finger has to be used instead, until eventually all one's fingers become raw and injured. Then we have to choose the finger that feels the least pain to do the job. Repeatedly using raw and injured fingers for long hours at a time causes us a lot of suffering.

A prisoner who was detained at the Shijiazhuang First Detention Center for over one year told me that once when the authorities came to inspect the detention center, the staff took away all the Ma Huang herb, and allowed the prisoners one day off. All of the prisoners were so happy that they sang and danced, and thought that they would not have to suffer any more. However, the next day, after the authorities left, the detention center forced them to resume the processing work. In fact, the detention center knew that it was illegal to force the prisoners to work, but because they wanted to obtain some profit they completely ignored human rights and the law. The detention center knew full well that they were in violation of the law.

The working conditions in the detention center were very miserable. First at all, the detention center did not provide any tools. The prisoners work in their sleeping areas and have to use their own basins to carry the materials, and they must use their own meal bowls to put the finished products in. The Ma Huang herb is always covered in mud and makes the workers' hands and bowls dirty. It is hard to clean the bowls, because there are no good washing facilities. Detainees usually scrub the bowls with paper and rinse them out with a little water, and therefore every meal contains a little mud. Moreover, the breaking off of the Ephedra twigs has to be carefully gauged by eye. But the light levels inside the cells are not sufficient, and especially for those older people whose eyesight is not as good, they have to take the work outside in the yards. The winter is very chilly and cold, but they sit outside on a small piece of cardboard, working until their hands are frozen and red. They work until they cannot bear the cold, then they come inside for a while, and then go out again after warming up a little. The detainees do not obtain any income from the work and the guards do not treat them as human beings at all.

Once I was given the job of cleaning the corridor in the detention center, which consisted mainly of washing the windows. The guards didn't give out spare newspaper that could be used to clean the glass, let alone offer any other tools. They told the prisoners to use their own tissues to clean the glass. Actually, the prisoners are swindled by the detention center staff when they buy the tissues; tissues are sold at one and a half times their actual cost. Everything in the detention center is sold at high prices. The center staff comes up with many ways to extort money from the prisoners. For example, they charge a clothing fee, but don't provide the clothes; they charge a book fee but don't give out books; they also charge a haircut fee each month, but detainees can only have one haircut every few months, and so on. Even the basins and baskets in the cells all have to be purchased by the prisoners from the detention center personnel.

I was also told by other prisoners at the detention center that before the Ephedra project, the prisoners had the job of breaking open watermelon seeds. There were sacks and sacks of watermelon seeds, and prisoner's had to open each seed one by one, using their teeth. Many of the prisoners injured their mouths performing this repetitive and unsanitary work.

This is effect of the so-called "best human rights period" flaunted by Jiang's political group.

Relevant contact information:

Shijiazhuang First Detention Center
Address: 31 Beijiao Street
Telephone: 86-311-7792564
Director: 86-311-77783741
Deputy Director: 86-311-7783740, 86-311-7784974
General office: 86-311-7772894
Zhang Guojun, the Director of the Hebei "610 office" (2)
Home address: Weiming South Street, Shijiazhuang City, postal code: 050052
Telephone: 86-311-7906310 (office), 86-311-7906898 (home)

  1. See http://www.erowid.org/plants/show_image.php?i=ephedra/ephedra_sinica1.jpg for a picture of this herb.
  2. The "610 Office" is an agency specifically created to persecute Falun Gong, with absolute power over each level of administration in the Party and all other political and judiciary systems.

Written on April 1, 2004