Practitioners Forced to Make Silk Flowers at the Zunhua Detention Center
On May 9, 2008, Qi Zhanyou, director of the Zunhua Detention Center in Hebei Province, made an announcement to everyone in the detention center over the loudspeaker. He instructed all criminals, detainees, and suspects to make silk flowers, and he declared that anyone who refused to work would be punished according to the "rejecting reform through forced labor" regulation. He also declared that this kind of work conformed to the law and the inmates would be given several days to learn how to make them. Starting on May 14, each inmate would be assigned a quota of work every day and that each woman had to finish her assignment.
Practitioners Ms. Wang Ning, Ms. Li Liping, Ms. Xu Shuqin, and Ms. Zhang Mengxia refused to perform forced labor. In the morning of May 12, when guard Chen (Last name) threatened them, the practitioners tried to reason with her. Chen not only refused to listen but also said: "You eat in the detention center; you have to work for the detention center." She reported the practitioners to Qi Zhanyou. An hour later, director Cao, guard Chen, and another guard confiscated all of the food the four practitioners had bought with their own money. Practitioner Ms. Zhao Fengxia was 70 years old. She explained to the detention center guards that she was too old to do the work that was required. Her food was also taken away. They threatened to prohibit them from buying food while they were in detention. Most of the confiscated food was instant noodles sold by the detention center at inflated prices. When Ms. Zhao asked why they took the food that she had purchased, the officials told her it was because she had refused to make the flowers.
Each inmate is given one bowl of corn soup for breakfast or supper and two steamed buns for lunch. The buns are made of corn flour and very small. The detention center provides very little food to the inmates, so people are starving. On May 12, the four practitioners were given only one steamed bun for lunch. At dinner time, the person in charge of serving food told the four practitioners that the director had ordered her to only give a half bowl of soup to each of them; the guard on duty prevented her from reducing the rations.
At noon, on May 13, an official announced that some people would be coming to inspect the detention center, therefore, everyone must remove all flower making materials from their cells. It was obvious that the detention center staff knew that forcing the inmates to make flowers was against the law.
On the morning of May 20, 2008, Qi Zhanyou saw that the five practitioners were firmly refusing to work, so he asked the deputy director Guo (last name) to have the guards put shackles on Ms. Wang Ningxia, Ms. Xu Shuqin, Ms. Li Liping and Ms. Zhang Maoxia. On May 30, Qi Zhanyou ordered the guards to put handcuffs on the four practitioners and also on Ms. Zhao Fengxia. The guards locked Ms. Li and Ms. Yu's shackles together. The handcuffs and shackles made it impossible for the practitioners to take care of themselves. Two days later, Ms. Wang Ning's legs and feet were very swollen from lack of circulation.
Forcing the practitioners to work completely violates the law. According to the regulations, detainees who have not been sentenced don't have to work. The detention center also violated the regulations by making the inmates work in their cells. Having metal wires and candles in the cells is considered to be having contraband.
After several days of working on the plastic flowers, more than half of the people suffered allergic reactions to the materials. It was unclear what was used in the flowers and their plastic stems. Some people's faces were swollen and they felt itchy all over their bodies.
Because the detention center doesn't provide enough food for the inmates, most can endure for the first two or three months. However, over time, the inmates become weaker and weaker.