A Female Practitioner Who Escaped From China: I Was Persecuted in Shanghai Women's Prison
(Clearwisdom.net) I am a Falun Gong practitioner who just escaped from the clutches of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). I am one of those fortunate enough to reside overseas. Realizing that Falun Gong has been rather well-accepted and highly praised by people in many overseas countries throughout the world, I hold deep concern for the Mainland Chinese people. They have to live under the CCP's control, are constantly bombarded with lies, and are unable to hear and understand the truth about Falun Gong.
I am not what you can call a most diligent practitioner, for I have made many mistakes while walking on my cultivation path. It is our great and merciful Teacher who keeps saving me and giving me opportunities to return to cultivation again and again.
Actually, I wanted to write down my experiences in a prison in China because I know deep in my heart that I'm on foreign soil not for personal safety reasons, but to expose the evil. However, every time I tried to write it, I felt it was very difficult to expose the CCP's persecution. Without a good comprehension of China's environment and culture, a person can't imagine how such a persecution could start and be maintained. It is also difficult to imagine the disaster this persecution has brought to the Chinese people.
A. Before the Beginning of the Persecution on July 20, 1999
I began cultivating Falun Gong in 1997, while in college. After I had looked it over, I knew without a doubt that this was the most precious truth that I had been looking for. I must admit that many friends and relatives asked me not to practice Falun Gong. They suggested that the CCP would within time ban the practice. They thought that the CCP would hold great fear because of Falun Gong's popularity and the great number of practitioners. Falun Gong appealed to many people because of its goodness, and more and more people began to practice it. I knew that the CCP could ban it. Why? Many political movements initiated by the CCP had caused deep wounds and great fear in people's minds. People no longer dared to hold a personal opinion. My grandfather and uncle were tortured during the Cultural Revolution. They are still recovering from the mental anguish they had suffered. The CCP's frequent political studies and brainwashing activities showed the public that the centrally controlled CCP would attack anything it saw as a threat. I said to myself that if the CCP indeed banned Falun Gong, I would not renounce it. I intuitively understood that it was impossible for ordinary people to fully understand the supernormal things that were the mainstay of Falun Dafa and that there would always be some interference.
B. After the Persecution Began on July 20, 1999
I must be honest, I did not anticipate that the persecution of Falun Gong would come as quickly and as suddenly as it did. I found a job in Shanghai after graduating from college. My company was far away from the exercise center I had attended, so I often did the exercises and studied the Fa by myself. As I rarely watched TV, I did not know about many of the things that were happening in 1999, including the "April 25" event. At the end of July 1999, I began to hear television broadcasts and videos slandering Falun Gong on the bus and at shopping centers and noticed posters "criticizing" Falun Gong on street walls and in residential communities. The CCP's propaganda of demonizing Falun Gong was displayed everywhere.
A practitioner told me that the police were looking for me, because they had records of all Falun Gong practitioners in every company and every residential community. As I was not a Shanghai native, the police only knew me as a non-local young female practitioner. Since I did not go to the exercise center too often, and because other practitioners protected me, the police did not have my name. Practitioners whose names appeared on police records were illegally arrested and taken to re-education (brainwashing) centers, and forced to turn in their Dafa books and make "guarantee statements" to stop practicing Falun Gong. I knew an elderly lady who was not the assistant, but was in charge of the tape recorder and the exercise music for our exercise center. She was a newer practitioner, so she stopped practicing out of fear. However, just because she used to be in charge of the tape recorder, she still has to write a report and go to the police station weekly, even though seven years have passed since the beginning of the persecution. She continues to face tremendous pressure from society and her family.
During that time, a professor (a former assistant) at my university published a statement renouncing the practice of Falun Gong in the newspaper. My mother used it when she asked me to renounce the practice. At the beginning of the persecution, my family knew that Falun Gong taught people to be good and that there was nothing wrong with it. To reduce the pressure on them, I stopped doing the exercises in front of them. I only did them after everyone went to sleep. But they still could not accept this. They asked me to make a statement that I had stopped the practice. My mother called me a "lucky fish that escaped from the police net." Even though I was not on the police list, the constant lies and the CCP's frequent method of stirring up hatred from one group of people against another had extended the government's persecution of Falun Gong to a societal persecution. People's minds were poisoned. Just as it says in the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, "A great many people have become conditioned to react to the CCP's threats by entirely surrendering their reason and their principles. In a sense, these people's souls have died--something more frightening than physical death."
One of my college classmates worked in Guangzhou. The police arrested her during a picnic with practitioners in a local park. The practitioners were arrested just for being practitioners and were forced to do intense labor work at a detention center. They were fed only two meals a day and each meal was just some rice soup and boiled vegetables without salt; the guards did not want them to gain strength from the salt. Whoever continued with the exercises had their hands cuffed behind their backs and were force-fed with a high concentration of salt water. Because my classmate was an exceptional employee, the managers of her company did not want to lose her, so they went to the see the director of the Guangdong Province Police Department. However, the director told them, "If she were a murderer, I would have ways to release her, but because she practices Falun Gong, I cannot release her."
Later, after her release from the detention center, it was quite obvious that she had been tortured. Ordinary people generally understood that torture was no more than being beaten. In fact, the atmosphere of horror, the torture methods and the insults of the person's character were unthinkable for ordinary people.
A young man worked at our company as a security guard in 2000. He had just retired from the armed forces. After he found out that I was a practitioner and once he got to know me, he was really surprised. He told me that when the CCP started persecuting Falun Gong in 1999, their troop was often ordered to ransack people's homes and confiscate Dafa books and materials. They were ordered not to read anything but just burn everything. Therefore, he had no idea that Falun Gong was indeed wonderful. He thought it was just a "cult" that was banned by the government.
During October 2000, a local practitioner was arrested. I thought of clarifying the truth to the police, so I went to the police station to bring her some clothes. I was arrested there. Distributing truth-clarification materials and clarifying the truth to people is also meant to save police officers. I hoped they would read the fliers to see if there was anything anti-government or anti-society. Was there anything such as the media had fabricated? However, because I did not have a clear understanding on the Fa, I complied with their requests. I thought my actions were open, so I answered all their questions and also implicated other practitioners. The CCP sentenced me to five years in the Shanghai City Women's Prison. The trial was secretly held; my parents were not allowed to attend, and they sentenced me immediately. The police also ransacked my home, taking away an entire computer system and printer.
When I was at the detention center, a policeman threatened my parents, suggesting that my case was a highly important case in Shanghai and that I would be executed. He said he could help transfer my case to my hometown and get me released if my parents gave him money to buy off powerful people. As my parents were very worried, he was able to extort a lot of money from them. They were grateful for his "help." I heard that the person in our residential community in charge of the streets where I distributed truth-clarification fliers lost his position. That's the CCP's normal way of implication that stirs up public hatred of Falun Gong.
The Shanghai City Women's Prison relied heavily on the implication policy. They use a method called "Three-Connected." For example, if one practitioner does the exercises, the criminal inmates assigned to monitor the practitioner, and sometimes all inmates in the cell, are punished. They use this approach to create hatred among inmates and practitioners and to restrict practitioners' every move.
When my family realized that I refused to be "transformed," they began to hate Falun Gong. The prison held many political events so they could torture people and asked practitioners' family members to "denounce" Falun Gong. Many relatives badmouthed and lied about Dafa in the hope of getting the practitioners out quickly. In order to see me, my parents also said a lot of things to police that slandered Dafa. Many years later, when I went home, my mother told me in tears, "We had no choice but to say those things against our will. Otherwise we wouldn't have been able to see you."
1. Imprisoned in the Production Division
Because the guards viewed me as a "stubborn person," I was kept confined and away from practitioners for a long time. Other practitioners were imprisoned in the Falun Gong Management Division, but I was kept separately. There were five divisions in the Shanghai City Women's Prison and I was imprisoned in four divisions during the five years of my confinement.
Inmates in the Production Division were forced to do intensive labor. In China, there is a quota for everything. Even the police were given a quota of how many people to arrest. Staff in the prison also set quotas. The quota for each division was set in yuan and required that the division produce several million yuan worth of exporting goods. The guards' bonuses were tied to that goal. Therefore, inmates are their money-making machines. This also partially explains why the police have a quota for the number of people they have to arrest. The public is told that inmates are treated nicely and work no more than eight hours a day, but in fact, inmates normally work around sixteen hours and sometimes even the entire day and night. Inmates say they are forced to work "from when the rooster caws to when the ghost shouts."
Prison guards are notified of an imminent inspection. Therefore, work comes to a halt; whoever works will be punished. Everyone knows that the inspection is just a fraud. Sometimes international organizations come to visit, and then the prison staff will hide all the tools and products and everyone will watch television. No one is allowed to come in contact with the visitors. If the visitors want to talk to someone, the prison will preassign some inmates and prepare them with answers for possible questions. The inmates chosen for this are those that understand well what the prison wants them to say. They will just praise the evil CCP and lie about how civilized the prison is. When the inspectors or visitors leave, the guards force the inmates to work overtime to make up for lost time.
Each inmate is assigned a quota too and will be punished if it is not achieved. Punishment could mean sleep deprivation, being deprived of vegetables, being forbidden to buy daily necessities or take a shower, or not being allowed family visits. The basic living rights are taken away. I was often extremely tired and numb. After working for long hours in the factory, I was still forced to work after we returned to the cell while everyone else rested. I rarely slept on my bed. My bed just became a storage area for working tools and products. I was so tired that I could sleep while standing. The guards did not want it to be known that they forced people to work for so many hours. Therefore, they dimmed the lights, suggesting that everyone was asleep. Sewing work under such dim light made my eyes very sensitive to light. I could not open them and they held tears in bright light. Dafa helped me to endure that hardship. When I was at work, I kept reciting Teacher's articles to strengthen my righteous thoughts and power.
When I first arrived at the prison, I did not comply with the old forces' arrangements. I told myself that I was not an inmate and I was not there to do hard labor. To better clarify the truth to inmates, I would help them with their work. The guards wrote my name on the list of unproductive inmates on the wall, saying that my work output was the lowest of the entire team. They used that to slander Dafa. After staying long at the prison, my righteous thoughts became weaker and I started to comply with the guards' requests and did the never-ending labor. All the products at the prison were for export. Inmates made clothes, pants, cushion seats, national flags (I made over ten thousand British flags), toys, wool sweaters, shirts with shiny beads, bedding, chopsticks, napkins, envelops, lunch boxes, plastic bags, paper bags, and so on. The sanitary conditions were so terrible that if anyone learned about it, they would not dare to buy the products. The prison takes any business as long as it can make money. The buyer sets a short delivery date because the prison has enough free labor to abuse.
The guards ordered two inmates to monitor me. Actually, everyone in my cell was assigned to monitor me. The term of those who were assigned to me was reduced if they were successful. They wrote a daily report about my activities. They took turns to monitor me at night to prevent me from doing the exercises, and they followed me everywhere. I thought that they were also people to be saved and since I was there, I should let them know the wonderfulness of Dafa. Therefore, I never treated them as enemies. Instead, I treated them as sentient beings that had predestined relationships with me. They felt my benevolence and did not report bad things about me. Sometimes they even helped me and watched out for me. Other inmates asked me about Falun Gong and told me that they knew Falun Gong practitioners were good people. Once, an inmate told me that she was in a cell with a murderer in a detention center. Police asked the murderer to say that she killed people because she practiced Falun Gong. The police said that she would not be sentenced to death if she said so. That murderer then told her about it. She did not know what finally happened to that murderer.
Even though the prison is a living hell in the human world, it reflects today's Chinese society. The guards' actions greatly influence the inmates' thoughts and behavior. The inmates are separated from society, while the guards only work there and leave in the evenings to return to ordinary people's society. As the prison was in a large city, there were mainly female guards. Most of the guards had advanced education. Many had taken the job right out of school and some were younger than I was. I watched innocent fresh graduates become vicious and deceitful guards within a few years.
It is common for the guards to handcuff Falun Gong practitioners behind the back or lock them in solitary confinement. For some unknown reason, I was never beaten. Many times, I was threatened with solitary confinement, having my prison sentence increased or being sent to a forced labor camp in Qinghai Province. Yet, it never happened. I saw that a practitioner who had arrived at the prison with me had a swollen face from being beaten. She told me that the inmates named the guard who beat her "Man." This is a prison for females only and lesbian activities are very common. That guard viewed herself as a man and spoke and acted just like a male. She would strip the inmate's clothes off before beating her.
Even though I was not able to contact other Falun Gong practitioners to hear more torture facts, quite often some inmates would tell me that so-and-so was put in solitary confinement, so-and-so was handcuffed behind the back, so-and-so was shocked with electric batons, so-and-so was forced to stand barefoot on the ground in the cold winter and deprived of sleep for several days, so-and-so was force-fed, and so on. There were other crimes at the prison that had not been exposed.
The administrative section of the prison is responsible for accounting and file management. It is a place that is checked by every inspector. Before each inspection, the guards and inmates create fake files, receipts and signatures. The inmates who help cheat the inspector are seen as wanting to be rewarded and be a good government helper. They get positive points and have their prison terms reduced.
Water for inmates is limited. Each cell had a water gage. There were sixteen people in a cell. One person is allowed to use up to one cubic meter of water each month, so each cell is restricted to sixteen cubic meters. At the end of each month, each cell is checked and divisions are compared against others. If a cell goes over its limit, its water will be shut off and inmates are not allowed to take showers. Normally an inmate is allowed to take one shower each week for five minutes in summer or ten minutes in winter. That time includes taking off and putting on clothes. Sometimes inmates have to share showers and some have the soap still on their bodies when the time is up. The prison staff also sets many rules and violators are not allowed to take showers. These rules are not based on the law, just something cooked up by the guards. The guards' vanity and competitiveness have created a lot of trouble for inmates.
The guards often cheat or hide information from management and inmates. Their actions make criminal inmates even worse. As the women's prison is in an international metropolitan city, the prison building and various equipment give people a civilized feeling, but the internal culture and guards' human qualities are extremely bad. Just as it says in the Nine Commentaries, "The CCP promoted 'struggle face-to-face and report back-to-back.' Squealing on one's associates, creating written materials to frame them, fabricating facts and exaggerating their mistakes--these devious behaviors have been used to measure closeness to the party and the desire to advance." Accepting and backing guards' lies and bad actions are tools towards prison term reduction. Being honest and doing the right thing becomes "acting against the government."
2. Imprisoned Where Falun Gong Practitioners are Tortured
During the third year of my imprisonment, the prison staff moved me to the division specifically for the torture of Falun Gong practitioners. That division had two squadrons, the East and South Squadrons. The East Squadron detained practitioners who were not "transformed" and the South Squadron imprisoned "transformed" practitioners. Each cell was supplied with monitoring equipment that did not exist in cells of other divisions.
All practitioners in this division were given blood tests, claimed to represent the special care taken of practitioners. In 2003, they took blood samples from every practitioner in the Falun Gong Management Division. The order was that every Falun Gong practitioner, including those in solitary confinement, had to give a blood sample.
The prison has its own health clinic and health checkups are generally done there. However, this blood test was done in the division's main lobby. Tables were set up and imprisoned practitioners formed lines to give blood. They used a needle to prick our fingers and took the blood sample and sealed it in a glass tube. Each tube had an assigned number and the practitioner's personal information. The atmosphere was very secretive. Several doctors including some male doctors were there. The prison did not have male doctors, so it was clear that this blood test was not a simple test at the prison. Also, this was the first checkup during my three years of imprisonment since the entrance checkup.
Another time, a large medical van came and parked next to the door to our cells. The van held medical equipment, including x-ray machines. After the exam, the division had a meeting and the head guard of the division said that the government cared about Falun Gong practitioners' health. The x-ray machine was purchased overseas, was very expensive and only cadres could use it. Even the guards were not allowed to use it, but Falun Gong practitioners were able to use it for free. When the person stood in front of the machine, it could check all the organs of that person. The head guard said that practitioners all had illnesses, so they started practicing Falun Gong. They were ill both physically and mentally. Therefore, the government paid special attention to practitioners' health and practitioners received special treatments. A "transformed" practitioner wrote an article praising the evil CCP's taking care of Falun Gong practitioners' health and telling how the prison was civilized. Her article was broadcast for a long time from the prison's radio station.
The practitioners never received the results from these checkups. Some practitioners were taken to hospitals to treat their illnesses and forced to take medicine. When they refused, the guards ordered the personal cangues to put the medicine in their food. Some practitioners took the medicine without knowing it. One inmate wrote an article for the prison's radio station, saying that practitioners refused to take medicine when they had illnesses and the guards tried all kinds of methods to have them take the medicine.
I did not know the reason for the checkup, but was surprised at the frequency. When the CCP's crime of harvesting organs from living Falun Gong practitioners was exposed earlier this year, I woke up. The CCP was evil to this extent! I do not know the fate of practitioners who were imprisoned there. I hope all the kind-hearted people in the world help stop the CCP's crime and save imprisoned Dafa disciples.
I was imprisoned in the darkest cell and monitored by five inmates. The guards used the most sinister method to torture me. I was not allowed to step out of the room if I did not confess. Washing and going to the bathroom was done in the cell. The guards ordered a senior inmate to bring me water, take my waste and wash my clothes. Other inmates were not allowed to sleep at night. They had to stay awake to watch me, but I was allowed to sleep. If I confessed, I could do everything by myself and they would be able to sleep. The guards told me viciously, "Don't you speak about benevolence? Yet, you are doing the exercises, and making all the inmates suffer in the cold winter for you." When I refused to take water to wash my face, the guards said, "You are so selfish. You are dirty and that is bad for others in this group environment. You need to be more considerate." Every action of mine would implicate inmates and caused them to be punished. The guards did not punish me. They tried to be nice to my face. This deceitful and sinister method was more vicious than beating people. The guards tried to create conflicts and incite hatred between inmates and me.
The guards also asked "transformed" practitioners to brainwash me, saying how well the CCP served the people (actually it was to get more money) and built China (but that was the result of people's hard work), and that the guards were actually trying to help us (but actually they were just illegally imprisoning people and taking their freedom of religion) and other lies. Because I did not study the Fa well and lacked righteous thoughts, I yielded to the evil forces and agreed to be "transformed." I stepped off my cultivation path, leaving a dirty mark that could not be erased.
Actually, Dafa was deeply rooted in my heart. Asking me to leave Dafa was worse than killing me. I said to myself that I would not really "transform" in my heart, taking the excuse from the traitors when they persuaded me to "transform." Actually this was my human attachment.
I was taken to the South Squadron after being "transformed." Each cell there imprisoned many "transformed" practitioners. I heard what had happened to them. Many of them were taken to mental hospitals before they came to this prison. At the mental hospitals, some of them were tied to the bed and injected with unknown drugs. Quite often, we heard that the guards said that some Dafa practitioners had some disease and were taken to a hospital for treatment. Some practitioners did not come back. Also, we heard the guards speak publicly that so-and-so had a mental disorder and needed to be "treated" this way or that way. Then we never saw that practitioner again. When I was released from the prison, I learned from the Clearwisdom website that a practitioner who was in my cell in the South Squadron was arrested by police after being released from the prison. She was injected an unknown drug and died a few days later. The prison often forced Falun Gong practitioners to attend "Psychological Education" (the educated word for brainwashing) classes. They also claimed that people practiced Falun Gong because they had mental problems and performed "psychological tests" on Falun Gong practitioners. I was singled out for that kind of test several times.
To mislead the public and hide their crimes, the workload at the Falun Gong Management Division is lighter than in other divisions. This division mainly focuses on brainwashing Falun Gong practitioners. Other criminal inmates call the Falun Gong Management Division "heaven" because all they need to do there is to watch the practitioners. If they keep reporting practitioners activities and stay close to the guards, their prison term is reduced quickly. Therefore, many inmates who are a relative of or have some kind of connection with the guards try to be assigned to that division. As for the Dafa practitioners, this place is a place that the righteous thoughts and righteous human natures are savagely tortured and people's characters are insulted.
The Falun Gong Management Division quite often holds events to "denounce" Falun Gong. The atmosphere is just like it was during the Cultural Revolution. Because they are so silly and extreme, I immediately realized that my "transformation" was a big mistake when I arrived at the South Squadron. However, I still did not know what to do. I did not want them to attack me, so I just kept silent. I did not try to "transform" other practitioners. Realizing that I was of no use to them, the prison took me to the Production Division for heavy labor. I began to think about how to be released from the prison as soon as possible. I wanted very badly to know the development of Dafa over the past few years and read Teacher's new articles. It was so painful to leave the Fa. The Fa is the glowing light in the dark showing me the way. Having lost this light, I was like a boat with broken paddles struggling to cross the ocean in the dark.
3. Released From Prison
I met a kind guard after being transferred to a different division. She and I had deep conversations. She asked me about Falun Gong, why I practiced Falun Gong, and so on. She told me in confidence that she thought nothing was wrong with practicing Falun Gong and therefore practitioners of this practice should not be imprisoned. When people from the 610 Office came for a talk, she told me not to listen to them and to remain firm. Actually, many guards, including those who are involved with the "transformation" work, did not like the 610 Office employees. The guards struggled with their consciences for being forced to follow orders against their will, and did not believe themselves what they told practitioners. At that time, I realized how wrong I was when I agreed to be "transformed," but I was still not very clear on some issues. After all, I had not studied the Fa for several years because of being imprisoned. The number of years that I was in prison was even longer than the number of years I had studied the Fa before being arrested. In this division, no one tried to brainwash or what they called "ideological work" me. I just performed hard labor. I thought that I had a lot of karma and I would pay it back in this way (actually I was enduring the torture passively). Finally, I was released three months earlier than my full term.
The 610 Office staff had some residential community members meet me in the prison on the day of my release. They escorted me home. The police did not leave me alone. The policeman responsible for my residential area came to check on me on a weekly basis. He asked that I write a report about my thoughts and write a statement not to practice Falun Gong. Each time my parents dealt with him, because I was not in good health and had not recovered from the torture. My parents were afraid that I would be arrested again, so they did not let me meet with the policeman. They owned a company, and thus had me live among the employees. When the policeman couldn't find me, he asked my parents to write a statement on my behalf and threatened them that if I practiced Falun Gong again, they would be arrested. My parents were very worried about my safety. They watched me closely. They did not let me close my door when I slept, fearing that I might do the exercises. Even though I was not physically in the prison, I was still in an invisible prison. They also forbade me from talking to others. They feared that I might get into trouble. Occasionally I would go out and they would set up a time for me to return and were worried until I returned. The torture I suffered in prison had caused great stress and anguish to my parents. I could sympathize with their thoughts and behavior.
At that time, the practitioner who was ordered to "transform" me in prison heard that I was released. She immediately visited me. She had realized that she made a major mistake and had published a solemn statement of returning to Falun Dafa cultivation. To make up for her misstep, she brought me the electronic version of the Falun Dafa books. Thus I was able to read Teacher's new articles. With her help, I sent a solemn statement to the Clearwisdom website. I said that all my previous "transformation" statements were null and void. I came back to Dafa and tried to do well the three things. Teacher's benevolence and forgiveness gave me another chance. I must walk well the path in the future and do well what a Dafa practitioner is supposed to do, and be worthy of Teacher's merciful salvation.
The CCP's blockade on the Internet prevents people, including policemen, from reading the truth clarification materials on the Clearwisdom website. Perhaps this was the reason why the police did not know about my solemn statement. They did not anticipate that I was able to go overseas so quickly. I had applied and been granted a passport before I was arrested. With some friends' help and Teacher's protection and help, I was able to overcome all hurdles and emigrate from China. I met overseas practitioners who helped me decide to remain overseas. I wanted to practice Falun Dafa openly, and walk a free and bright path.
Not long ago, I heard that the policeman in charge of my residential area was reprimanded for my leaving China. To me, this meant that I escaped death again.
Even though the path I'm walking now may still be fraught with many challenges, I have returned to Dafa and I am the most fortunate person in the world.
Yet, my heart is heavy, because I left behind many practitioners who continue to be tortured and many people who are still being poisoned by the CCP's lies.
I know how heavy our responsibility is. Therefore, I wrote down my experience with the wish that all kind people extend their hand to those who cannot help themselves. My greatest wish is that they will help bring a stop to the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong in China.
November 24, 2006