Zuo Xiaoyan, Head of No. 8 Ward of Liaoning Province Women's Prison, Subjects Practitioners to Forced Labor and Abuse
(Clearwisdom.net) Zuo Xiaoyan, head of the No. 8 Ward in Liaoning Province Women's Prison, is known for being ruthless when persecuting Falun Gong practitioners and seeking monetary gain. She would set arbitrarily high work loads for the forced labor, and then physically punish or exact fines from laborers who could not finish their daily quotas. All of the practitioners held at the No. 8 Ward were forced to work from early in the morning to late at night. They were subjected to extensive abuse from prison guards and inmates at the instigation of Zuo.
When the prison was relocated to a new site in 2003, the prison authorities formed action groups made up of inmates. Each inmate in the action group carried a cloth towel. They were instructed to stuff the towel in a practitioner's mouth if she shouted "Falun Dafa is great!" One inmate in the action group who forgot to carry a towel in the haste of packing and loading was fined 100 yuan.
Practitioners who were held in the No. 8 Ward recalled that the workshop was a two-story building. On one floor was a sweater factory. On the other floor was a factory for making uniforms and clothes manufactured for export. Practitioners in the No. 8 Ward worked mostly on the floor which produced uniforms and clothes. This clothes factory was established after relocation. Originally, the building housed elderly, weak, sick, or disabled inmates assigned to make handcrafts. This work was less demanding, as it did not require the heavy stitching machines for making sweaters. Given the conditions of these inmates, they could not generate enough revenue for Zuo Xiaoyan. Consequently, Zuo often punished them by not feeding them. She even confiscated instant noodle bags from practitioners' families who had bought them from the prison store during their visits. When meals were stopped, each practitioner or inmate was given only one serving of tiny buns made from corn grits. Sometimes even this one meal was withheld and no food was served for the whole day. When meals were stopped, Zuo would also ban the purchase of food from the prison store. She also confiscated the practitioners' cash.
Zuo applied pressure to the inmates in action groups who were assigned to "transform" practitioners. If a practitioner refused to renounce Falun Gong, the inmates would face punishment. They would be kept from acquiring points, which would negatively impact their chances of getting a reduction in their forced labor terms. Zuo even deprived inmates of sleep and would take away the better meals if they failed to coerce practitioners to "transform." As a result, the inmates blamed the practitioners for the mistreatment from the prison authorities. The inmates resorted to beating practitioners in attempts to force them to give up their belief. Some of the inmates already knew about the righteousness of Falun Gong when they met practitioners in the detention centers, yet they were still forced to abuse practitioners under Zuo's pressure. Some of the inmates told practitioners they would rather give up the opportunity of a reduced forced labor term, than persecute practitioners. Some even offered assistance to practitioners privately.
Zuo operated the uniform and clothes factory jointly with a clothes factory in the suburbs of Shenyang City. She provided the work force and a location to run the business, while the factory provided the machines and training. Besides low labor cost, the factory also enjoyed a full tax waiver. However, Zuo also had her own financial goals. After the factory provided training, she contacted a pajama factory. As soon as the technicians from the clothes factory left at 4:00 p.m., she would stop making clothes and switch to making pajamas. In less than two years, the clothes factory pulled out of the joint venture. With revenues from making pajamas, Zuo was able to purchase machines and started operating a clothes factory in the No. 8 Ward.
The workload at the clothes factory was heavy. Anyone who failed to meet the quota would have to pay a fine and endure physical punishment. It was particularly time consuming to cut the loose ends from the finished clothing. Zuo ordered that clothes be taken to the dorm to complete the extra work. After a full day of working, inmates returned to the dorm at 9:00 p.m. and then they were expected to work for one or two more hours. One inmate was under a lot of stress. The guards punished her for not obeying an order from the head inmate in charge of the cell. She tried to commit suicide by stabbing her lower abdomen while cutting the loose ends. She was saved from committing suicide, but she was viciously beaten. Her family bribed the prison authorities and she was transferred elsewhere. Peacocks and deer were raised in the courtyard of the prison. When the deer first arrived, inmates whom the guards trusted took turns watching them at night. However, this was a facade of civility and nothing more than a show.
The food at Liaoning Province Women's Prison was terrible. During winter, frozen vegetables rotted and bucket after bucket of frozen vegetables were dumped. Inmates with financial constraints were unable to pay for better food. Falun Gong practitioners were often prevented from buying better provisions even if they could afford them. When a practitioner was placed under intense supervision, the guards would confiscate whatever items the practitioner's family bought from the prison store during their visits. These items were given to inmates who were told to be grateful to the government for giving them free gifts.
If there was extra cloth left from making clothes, Zuo would keep it for herself. Sometimes she told the factory that there was not enough cloth when in fact she had kept quite a bit of cloth for herself.
Zuo was not only greedy but also ruthless in abusing inmates and especially Falun Gong practitioners. Prison guards in the No. 8 Division followed her example, and beatings and electric shocks became a daily routine. Due to excessive use, electric batons were worn out quickly. Almost every inmate and practitioner in the No. 8 Ward was beaten and shocked with an electric baton. Being yelled or cursed at was considered easy treatment compared to being slapped in the face or being forced to bend over for hours. It was not uncommon for Zuo to order a group of people to bend over outside the office for two or three hours. This would delay completing the daily workload, which would result in another round of bending over for several hours the following day. This cycle of physical punishment and not completing workloads would sometimes go on for a couple of weeks. When officials came to the prison for inspection, the security at the gate would alert the guards. All of the physical punishment would be immediately called off and everyone would return to work. There was no evidence that physical abuse ever took place. The guards usually exercised caution and carried electric batons wrapped in newspapers just in case they ran into inspectors or visitors. There was a period of time when the guards felt they needed to escalate the intimidation, and they carried electric batons without wrapping them in newspapers. It was under such pressure that one inmate committed suicide after working extra long hours on the night of the traditional Lantern Festival. At that time, the prison regulations prohibited working extra hours, yet Zuo gave the order to work extra hours. To avoid being held responsible, Zuo and the warden insisted that the inmate who died was mentally ill. They also made it clear that anyone who talked about the suicide incident would face severe punishment. Several inmates lost their chance to reduce their forced labor terms because they talked about Zuo in association with the death of the inmate.
One day a Falun Gong practitioner who could not step off the production line asked another practitioner to pass her a cup of water. Inmates reported this to the guard in charge of the team. The practitioner on the production line who asked for the water was fined and forced to buy the guards a box of instant noodles. The practitioner stated that she had said nothing other than ask for a cup of water. The head guard replied that if she said anything else, the punishment would have been much stiffer than paying for a box of noodles.
Zuo and the guards associated "transformation" of practitioners with performing forced labor and having other inmates abuse them. Inmates were encouraged to beat and torture practitioners. One practitioner from Dalian City was put through "transformation" upon arrival. She was tied up and placed into a small wooden box, which was about four feet long and less than two feet tall and wide. Her legs were tied to the front of her chest. She was not able to raise her head. Her mouth was taped shut with duct tape. Practitioners were often tied up with their mouths taped and thrown under an old workbench with draperies over it so that they could not be seen even during an inspection.
Years of performing abusive acts turned the prison guards into people with split personalities. They were abusive to Falun Gong practitioners and would flatter Zuo at the same time. Each year on Zuo's birthday, guards and inmates would buy her birthday gifts. One year she even received a set of expensive cosmetics. Zuo was not only ruthless to practitioners, she was also rude to guards and cursed them arbitrarily. Some guards pointed out that while inmates had a finite term of forced labor, they themselves, were at the prison for the rest of their lives.
The above are accounts from some of the practitioners who were detained in the No. 8 Ward of the Liaoning Province Women's Prison. There have been incidents of even more severe persecution.
October 29, 2010