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In Depth: Many Artists in China Persecuted for Practicing Falun Gong (Photos)

September 20, 2011 |   By a Clearwisdom correspondent in China

(Clearwisdom.net) Some fourteen years ago, from May 10 to May 14,1997, an art exhibit featuring 655 paintings was held at Nanling Stadium in Changchun City, Jilin Province, China. The exhibit attracted more than 6,000 visitors. According to an authority from the Painting and Calligraphy Institute of Jilin Province, the artistic level of the works in the exhibit surpassed those of all past professional art exhibits in Jilin Province. In addition, something quite remarkable happened during the exhibit. A woman that had been paralyzed for six years was carried into the exhibit on a board, but ended up standing up and walking on her own several minutes later. Those who witnessed it applauded in amazement.

Selected artworks from the exhibit held at Nanling Stadium, Jilin Province, in 1997

What type of art exhibit could have had such a miraculous healing effect?

This exhibit was held by Falun Gong practitioners in Jilin Province to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the introduction of Falun Gong by Mr. Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Gong, in 1992. It took place before the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began its suppression of Falun Gong in 1999. The exhibit was endorsed by the Qigong Association in Jilin Province and in Changchun City, as well as different government agencies. All the art works were created in honor of Mr. Li Hongzhi and Falun Gong. The majority of the participating artists were Falun Gong practitioners. They were professional painters, calligraphers, local celebrities, and amateur artists.

Before the persecution of Falun Gong began in July 1999, Falun Gong was embraced all over China, mainly through word of mouth, because of its principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance and because so many people experienced dramatic improvements in health after practicing it. The number of people practicing Falun Gong grew rapidly. Experts and scholars from many different disciplines and artists were among its practitioners.

After the CCP began the official campaign of suppression of Falun Gong on July 20, 1999, Falun Gong practitioners outside of China began to host exhibits of art by Falun Gong practitioners. The Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance Art Exhibit, for example has received widespread international acclaim. Nevertheless, Falun Gong artists been facing an unprecedented level of persecution in China because they refuse to renounce their belief. Some have died as a result of the persecution, and some have been sentenced to many years in prison. Other artists have become handicapped as a result of torture, and some have been forced to leave their homes and go into hiding outside of China.

The following paragraphs discuss only a small number of the artists that have been subjected to persecution in China.

Ms. Qi Bingshu, granddaughter of Qi Baishi, one of the most celebrated Chinese painters in the 20th century, confined to a psychiatric institution for practicing Falun Gong

Ms. Qi Bingshu, a Falun Gong practitioner in her 60s, is a granddaughter of Mr. Qi Baishi (January 1, 1864 - September 16, 1957), one of the most celebrated Chinese painters in the 20th century (as noted on Wikipedia). Like her grandfather, Ms. Qi Bingshu, too, is a famous painter. In fact, her grandfather once commented that her paintings could pass as his own.

Unfortunately she once suffered from a myriad of illnesses. She used to lose a lot of blood, had an ashen complexion as a result, and was bedridden. When she started practicing Falun Gong, all of her illnesses disappeared without any medical treatment.

On April 25, 1999, Ms. Qi Bingshu and several fellow practitioners traveled to Beijing and exercised their constitutional right to appeal for Falun Gong. They stood outside of the State Appeals Office in Beijing in a queue for long hours that day. Ms. Qi Bingshu has been repeatedly arrested because she refuses to renounce Falun Gong. In fact, she was admitted to the Daliushu Psychiatric Hospital in Dabeiyao Town, Chaoyang District, Beijing, because she refused to give up her belief. The doctor declared that she was suffering from "Qigong Schizophrenia" when she refused to renounce it. Although she was perfectly sane, the doctor prescribed anti-psychotic drugs as a form of torture. The doctor even threatened to keep her in the hospital until Falun Gong became extinct. She was later sentenced to prison for the same reason. The prison guards, wardens, and police officers encouraged her to create paintings because they were highly sought after. They confiscated all of them and sold them for profit. She faced torture in prison while also being forced to create paintings.

According to those who had known Ms. Qi before she practiced Falun Gong, she looked like a woman in her 60s because of Falun Gong. However, her hair turned grey after she was incarcerated. Her hands would tremble involuntarily, and it appeared that she would no longer be able to paint.

Mr. Fan Yiming, Mr. Wang Mingyue, and Ms. Xu Na Arrested during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

According to statistics on the Minghui/Clearwisdom website, 586 Falun Gong practitioners were arrested in Beijing in preparation for the Olympic Games between January and July 2008. Famous painters including Mr. Wang Yueming, Mr. Fan Yiming, and Ms. Xu Na and her husband, as well as a musician Mr. Yu Zhou, were among the practitioners arrested.

Oil Painter Mr. Fan Yiming

Mr. Fan Yiming, born in Fujian Province, China, in 1967, is known as a kind and honest man. He has loved to paint since he was little. Mr. Fan graduated with a major in oil painting from China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1991 and became a professional artist. The majority of his artworks were purchased by American and European collectors. In 2001, he was invited to the U.K. to do a portrait of former British Prime Minister Edward Heath. Between 2001 and 2003, he had three one-man exhibits in Hong Kong. In 2004 another exhibit of his works was held in the U.K. In September 2004, his book Journeying on the Same Path—Selected Oil Paintings by Fan Yiming was published. In October 2004, he showcased his artworks at an exhibit entitled "Journeying on the Same Path" at the Beijing International Art Gallery. In November 2005, he again showed his works from "Journeying on the Same Path."

On July 8, 2008, Mr. Fang was on his way home with his eight-year-old son from school when officers from the Andingmen Police Station in Dongcheng Precinct followed them home and arrested him. The police ransacked his home and sentenced him to two years in prison.

A partial view of "Fleeting Snow Flakes" by Fan Yiming, which won a Silver Medal at the Chinese International Figure Painting Competition held by New Tang Dynasty Television

An oil painting by Fan Yiming

An oil painting by Fan Yiming

Mr. Wang Mingyue, born in 1962 in Beijing, graduated as an oil painting major from China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1991. He is a professional oil painter. “Beijing Trends,” an exhibit held by the China Gallery of Arts in 1995, featured three of his paintings, "March," "Red Coral," and "Tibetan Child." Some of his artworks were featured in Fine Arts of China, October, New Artists and many other newspapers and magazines. He has received many invitations to showcase his artwork in many domestic and international exhibits. He has also been invited to have his artwork auctioned. Many of his artworks were purchased by art museums and personal collectors. In 2000, he was invited to do personal portraits for former British Prime Minister Edward Heath. In 2004, he held a one-person exhibit in the U.K. All the artwork in his "Spirt of Flower Dream" were sold the day the show opened. In 2004, his artwork "Seeking Spring" was featured in "Journeying on the Same Path" exhibit on October 15, 2004, and received a lot of attention.

Mr. Wang Mingyue, a famous oil painter in Beijing

Mr. Wang Mingyue started practicing Falun Gong in 1996 and benefitted considerably, becoming healthier both physically and spiritually. Mr. Wang continued to practice even after China the persecution began.

On July 9, 2008, Mr. Wang was arrested by officers from the Andingmen Police Station in Dongcheng Precinct, Beijing. The police ransacked his home and sentenced him to Tuanhe Forced Labor Camp in Beijing. Mr. Wang used to be a robust man, but appeared to have lost a lot of weight because of the incarceration.

"Red Rose" by Mr. Wang Mingyue

"Anonymous" by Mr. Wang Mingyue

Ms. Xu Na is a famous young painter born and raised in Changchun, Jilin Province. Her father was a painter. Her mother was known as a kind and honest woman that valued the inner cultivation of moral values. Her mother was also a schoolteacher at the Jilin Academy of Fine Arts.

Ms. Xu won a medal for excellence in the Chinese Young Painter Exhibit in 1998. Her paintings are well known in China and Hong Kong. Her husband, Yu Zhou, also from northeastern China, is very versatile. He is well versed in arts, music, and creative writing. He is a drummer in a folk music band. They follow Falun Gong's cultivation principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance and try to be kind and patient to everyone around them. They had a happy married life.

Their life changed after China began to suppress Falun Gong. Ms. Xu Na was sentenced to five years in prison in 2001 because she is a Falun Gong practitioner. She was not released until 2006. On January 26, 2008, Ms. Xu and her husband were stopped on their way home at a checkpoint in Beijing set up in preparation for the Olympic Games. The police arrested them both when they discovered that Ms. Xu and her husband were both Falun Gong practitioners. In less than 11 days, Mr. Yu Zhou was tortured to death in police custody at the age of 42. Ms. Xu Na was sentenced to three years in prison in Beijing Women's Prison. In prison, she persevered in her belief in Falun Gong and refused to renounce it despite the myriad of tortures she was subjected to which caused her to lose two front teeth.

Mr. Yu Zonghai, the resident painter at Mudanjiang City Library, sentenced to 13 years in prison and becomes handicapped

Mr. Yu Zonghai was the resident painter at the Mudanjiang City Library. He specialized in artistic designs for the library and was a model employee. Before he started practicing Falun Gong, Mr. Yu developed hip osteonecrosis because of the overwhelming workload. He was so frail that he could not pick up a bucket of coal. He went to several different major hospitals for treatment, but the answer was the same—amputation. In 1994 Mr. Yu attended Mr. Li Hongzhi's Falun Gong classes in Dalian, Shandong Province. Shortly after he returned from Dalian, Mr. Yu was able to carry a 200-pound bag of rice to the fifth floor. Mr. Yu became perfectly healthy and a changed man. All of his colleagues sang his praises.

In 2001, Mr. Yu was sentenced to 13 years in prison because he refused to renounce Falun Gong. To this day Mr. Yu remains incarcerated in Mudanjiang Prison in Heilongjiang Province. The prison time has taken a severe toll on his health. At first he was interrogated with violence and torture. The guards beat him and poured mustard oil in his mouth and nose. At the end August 2006, Mr. Yu was forced to do hard labor, during which his left eye was injured. Due to the tear duct injury, he could possibly have uncontrollable tears from his left eye for life, yet the prison guards continued to force him to paint. They made him paint many tigers because they are highly sought after.

Northeastern China during the winter can be very cold. Yet the guards would repeatedly strip him naked, pour cold water over him, and leave him outdoors to freeze. Before the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, Area Six of Mudanjiang Prison repeatedly conducted body and prison cell searches of Falun Gong practitioners. During one such search, Mr. Yu was beaten by a prison inmate, Xie Shide, under orders given by guards Gehua and Wang Hui.

At the end of 2010, Mr. Yu was once again subjected to brutal beatings. This time his femur was broken and his ribs protruded. To this day he continues to feel dizzy. His vision becomes blurry, and, as a result, he has difficulty walking on his own. The prison has been denying his family visits, so they have not been able check on him. It was just recently that they finally learned about his unfortunate circumstances.

Mr. Zhang Zhiquan, a college lecturer and comic book artist, died as a result of torture

Mr. Zhang Zhiquan was a lecturer at the Hengshui Normal Academy in Hengshui, Hebei Province, and a comic book artist. He graduated from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts. He was imprisoned during China's Cultural Revolution. After he retired, he began to practice Falun Gong and benefitted immensely.

On the evening of March 19, 2001, Mr. Zhang was arrested in his hometownn in Xiyangtai Village, Shenzhou City, by Jia Shuangwan and Shang Yunhang from Shenzhou City, Hengshui. He was then sentenced to seven years in the No 4 Prison in Hebei Province. During the first four years, Mr. Zhang was very healthy. Even the prison doctor was amazed that this man in his 70s had a heart comparable to that of a man in his 40s.

After that, the guards, tempted by the bonus associated with making practitioners renounce Falun Gong, ordered two prison inmates that were thugs to torture him. They beat him, shouted insults at him, spit on him, knocked on his metal bed to interrupt his sleep, pulled the blanket off him at night to disrupt his sleep, deprived him of sleep, interrogated him, and did things to frighten him. A guard once declared, "If I decide to have someone die in prison, he will never get out of here alive."


Mr. Zhang Zhiquan

The cruel tortures ruined his health completely. Mr. Zhang used to weigh about 140 to 150 lbs., but his weight dropped to 70 lbs., and he could hardly be recognized. It was only because of his family's persistence that Mr. Zhang was finally released on bail for medical treatment in March 2007. When his family picked him up, he was only half conscious, and he had to be carried out on a strecher. Even his own son hardly recognized him.

After he was released, Mr. Zhang Zhiquan continued to face frequent harassment from the local 610 Office and the Domestic Security Team. Moreover, his retirement pension was suspended because he was a Falun Gong practitioner. As a result of the high level of stress, Mr. Zhang never recovered. He passed away at the age of 76 on May 1, 2010.

Ms. Yue Changzhi, an electrical engineer and painter, arrested eight times for practicing Falun Gong

Ms. Yue Changzhi, 72, was an electrical engineer at China's Air and Space Department and a painter. Her Chinese ink paintings were included in China's catalog of 500 painters. She had an excellent performance record at work. In 1998, she once donated 3,000 yuan to a flood relief.

Ms. Yue Changzhi (left) and Mr. Chen Jinxiao (right) filing a complaint against Zhou Yongkang, a member of China's Central Political and Legal Committee

Ms. Yue Changzhi had a difficult life. She was born with poor health, and her difficult life made her extremely unhappy. In 1996 she started practicing Falun Gong and became perfectly healthy. In other words, Falun Gong, a completely free practice, has saved China from paying Ms. Yue's medical expenses.

After China started to supress Falun Gong in 1999, Ms. Yue was arrested eight times and sent to a forced brainwashing center twice. During work meetings, she was often the target of attack because she practiced Falun Gong. Moreover, her pension was reduced from 1,300 to 200 yuan. In July 2003, Ms. Yue was sentenced to four years in Beijing Women's Prison, where she faced a myriad of tortures, and she was repeatedly at death's door. Her body was covered with injuries and bruises. She was deprived of sleep and use of the bathroom. She would sometimes be subjected to a sudden beating where she would nearly collapse. One day, nine people held her to the ground and beat her, loosening her teeth. They forced her legs 180 degrees apart and pushed her neck forward. She heard lower back crack before she passed out. When she came to, the nine people demanded, "Will you continue to practice Falun Gong?" When she said she would, they continued the same torture. Her spine snapped in three places. Large bruises all over her body were still visible a month later. Because she was not given any medical treatment or allowed to rest, her vertebrae did not re-align properly, and she could not stand up straight. She has fled China and currently resides in Australia.

Mr. Li Guangwei, a famous artist, gone "missing"

Mr. Li Guangwei, born in August 1935, was a retired schoolteacher from Songboxiang Elementary School, Jiangxi Province. The International Artists Coalition, World Calligraphy and Painting Association, Belgium World Cultural Center, and Chinese Calligraphy and Artist Research Academy bestowed on him the honorable title of "World Famous Artist in Calligraphy and Painting." His works were included in the second half of Volume 5 of China's Contemporary Famous Artists, World's Contemporary Calligraphy and Seal Carving Artist Dictionary, and the World's Contemporary Artist Dictionary.

Mr. Li Guangwei

At the end of 1998, Mr. Li was so ill that he could not walk. He sought medical treatment in many different places. His wife finally introduced him to Falun Gong. He became healthy once he started to practice it. He was able to walk to meeting locations for group practice and group study. When China began its suppression of Falun Gong, the police ransacked his home. Mr. Li, who had been severely traumatized during the Cultural Revolution, was frightened, and his old illnesses surfaced. Because he wrote down his own experiences of practicing Falun Gong and distributed it, he was subjected to police surveillance and was followed when he went out. On July 25, 2005, he told his family that he was going out for a walk, but he never returned.

To this day Mr. Li Guangwei's whereabouts are unknown. His wife and daughter have been looking everywhere for him. They even filed a report with the police and went to many police departments and even to the mayor, but everyone told them to give up, because he practices Falun Gong. Some even threatened, "Do not look for trouble."

Ms. Wang Huimin, art editor of Huacheng Publishing Company, forced to flee from China

Ms. Wang Huimin graduated from Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. She was once the art editor and assistant chairman of the Huacheng Publishing Company. Her artworks have been exhibited in Italy, Singapore, Korea, and Hong Kong. American contemporary art websites have made feature reports on her. In her pursuit of modern art, she realized that the Western world has a high regard for Chinese traditional culture and started to study it. That was when she discovered Falun Gong books and began to practice it.

Ms. Wang Huimin and her artwork "Coming for You"

Because she refused to renounce Falun Gong, Ms. Wang was incarcerated in Tsuotou Forced Labor Camp in Guangzhou and a forced brainwashing center in the Dongshan District between November 2001 and April 2003. She went on a hunger strike for four months as a non-violent means to protest the unlawful incarceration in direct violation of China's Constitution. She was subjected to force feeding, but not as a means of nourishment but to torture her. She was injected with unknown drugs and was not released until she was dying. In 2005, Ms. Wang was arrested again. After a month on a hunger strike and the rescue efforts of practitioners outside of China, Ms. Wang left China for the U.S.

Mr. Lu Ming, a painter who fled from home to avoid persecution

Mr. Lu Ming graduated as an art education major from Anhui Normal University in Anhui Province, China, and then received a master's degree from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts. He was a member of the Artists Association and Calligraphy Association in Anhui Province. In 1989 Mr. Lu was recognized as an intermediary-level artist by the Cultural Department of Anhui Province. His artwork "Plum Blossom in the Snow Announcing Spring" won the gold medal in an art exhibit sponsored by a large corporation in Anhui Province. His artwork "Bamboo in Ink" won the second place in a calligraphy and painting exhibit in eastern China. Mr. Liu Zishan, a renowned artist in China, praised him as the best bamboo painting artist in Anhui Province.

Mr. Lu Ming started practicing Falun Gong in 1996. On July 20, 1999, Mr. Lu went to Beijing to appeal for Falun Gong, but he ended up being sentenced to forced labor for two years. Afterwards, he was sent to a forced brainwashing center where he continued to face torture. He finally decided to leave home and go into hiding to avoid further persecution. These are selective artworks by Mr. Lu Ming that he sent to Minghui website for the 2008 Chinese New Year.


"Plum Blossom in the Snow"

"Fresh Bamboo Leaves"


"Plum Blossom in the Snow Announcing Spring"

Many Falun Gong practitioners who are painters have faced varying degrees of persecution. Here are some more examples.

Mr. Gao Zongzhen, a calligraphy artist and painter

The Chinese Communist Party is notorious for targeting elite groups in Chinese society in its many political movements. Professor Zhang Kunlun from McGill University was arrested, sentenced to forced labor camp, beaten, and subjected to electric shock when he went back to China to appeal for Falun Gong because he is a practitioner. Ms. Zhang Cuiying is another example. After China began its suppression of Falun Gong, the Austrailian citizen went back to China to appeal for Falun Gong and was incarcerated in prison for eight months.

Falun Gong is a form of cultivation practice based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. Many followers have become healthy and become better people from practicing it. According to CCP studies in the late 1990s, between 70 and 100 million people had begun to practice Falun Gong before the persecution began.