Ms. Zhang Benfang of Nanjing Dies After Repeated Arrests, Torture, and Relentless Harassment
Name: Zhang Benfang (张本芳)
Occupation: Nanjing Cancer Hospital Clinic employee
Date of Death: Around the 2013 New Year
Date of Most Recent Arrest: February 2005
Most Recent Place of Detention: Nanjing Brainwashing Center (南京市洗脑班)
Persecution Suffered: Electric shock, sleep deprivation, forced labor, brainwashing, illegal sentencing, beatings, hung up, imprisonment, solitary confinement, torture, extortion, home ransacked, detention, denial of restroom use
Key Persecutors: Po Zhenghui, chief of Nanjing 610 Office: +86-15905033300 (Cell), +86-25-83638274 (Office); Xiang Yang, former director of Nanjing Brainwashing Center, later head of Nanjing 610 Office: +86-13327822771 (Cell); Huang Yaling, former head of Nanjing 610 Office, deputy director of Nanjing Police Department: +86-15105186226 (Cell), +86-25-84420178 (Office), +86-25-84489922 (Home).
(Minghui.org) Ms. Zhang Benfang worked in the Nanjing Cancer Hospital Clinic. She began practicing Falun Dafa in 1995 and enjoyed great mental and physical improvement. After the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched the persecution of Falun Gong, she was repeatedly incarcerated and tormented for not giving up the practice. She died at the age of 55 around the 2013 New Year. She left a statement about the persecution that she had suffered in the Judong Women's Forced Labor Camp and Nanjing Brainwashing Center.
When she was released from the brainwashing center in 2005, she was like a skeleton. She had edema in both legs as well as ascites. All of her teeth were gone except one. Her head kept shaking and trembling, and it was too heavy for her to lift. She became stooped over and had constant pain in her left chest. She was in her 40s but looked like she was in her 70s.
To prevent her from revealing how she had been persecuted, Po Zhenghui and others from the Nanjing 610 Office and the brainwashing center monitored her and tormented her mentally, financially, and physically. They installed a monitor facing her door.
To distinguish friends from harassers, Ms. Zhang hung a small bamboo stick from her exhaust window for her friends to knock on the door. People from her neighborhood community threw it away from time to time.
Agents from the Nanjing Brainwashing Center clamored, “We represent the CCP, and this level of government. We are not afraid of you suing us—it would be useless.” Po Zhenghui is a supervisor in the 610 Office. He beats practitioners and shamelessly demands money from their families, claiming that the family has to compensate the 610 Office agents for the practitioner not being “transformed.” He and others in the brainwashing center frequently made sexual innuendos in the presence of women practitioners or practitioners' young family members when they came to visit.
Torture and Harassment in the Forced Labor Camp
In 2002, Ms. Zhang was arrested for posting a flyer on the gate of the Nanjing Cancer Hospital that described the persecution. She was incarcerated in Nanjing Detention Center for two weeks, and then in the Nanjing Brainwashing Center. To protest her arrest, she went on a two-day hunger strike and was sentenced to one year of forced labor. She was taken to Judong Women's Forced Labor Camp in Jiangsu Province.
In the labor camp she was forced to stand, was grabbed by her hair, had cold water poured over her, was beaten with a shoe, was deprived of sleep, etc. The following is cited from her own words.
“Guards and inmates that monitor practitioners in the Judong Women's Forced Labor Camp exercise no restraint. It's like hell on earth. To make practitioners give up Dafa, they use any means imaginable, such as faked friendships or torture, sugarcoated words or threats, and deceit.
“All of the practitioners were once forced to stand outside in the wind and snow for more than two hours. We were completely soaked when we returned to our cells. Some of us were hung by our hands behind our backs, with only our toes touching the ground for more than three weeks. We were fed only several mouthfuls of food over several days. One practitioner was incarcerated in a mental hospital for more than seven months. She said she was tortured countless times with electric needles, electric chairs, and electric beds. She was forced to take many unknown drugs. Some of them made her so ill, that once she stopped taking them, she had to run daily for many days. Another practitioner was raped by officers before she was taken to the camp.
“A male guard hurt a practitioner's leg because she refused to be 'transformed.' She could not walk but was still forced to work in the shop, and others had to hold her up all the way. It took her more than four months to recover. Another practitioner was fastened on a board for almost three weeks being taken to the labor camp. She had to soil her pants. I witnessed a practitioner being pushed down the stairs by guards and losing consciousness because she refused to watch videos that defamed Falun Dafa. When an unmarried practitioner did not 'transform,' an inmate assistant inserted a toothbrush and other dirt into her vagina and caused her to suffer a severe pelvic infection. The camp administration handled the case by only transferring the guard supervisor to another division. Some practitioners were shocked on their hands and heads. Two females guards shocked practitioners' nipples with electric batons.”
Ms. Zhang said, “In the labor camp, because I did not 'transform,' they swore at me and made me squat and stand for long periods. In the winter, they forced my face against the wall. I was very sleepy because I did not have normal sleep. They pinched my ears, grabbed my hair, and poured cold water on me. They were about to shock me using electric batons on many occasions. They said that using electric batons would make people wake up and be transformed, and listed some examples.”
Inhuman Torture in the Brainwashing Center
Ms. Zhang was extremely weak when she was released after her full term in the forced labor camp. Officers from the Xuanwumen Police Station deceived her and took her to the Nanjing Brainwashing Center in February 2005. She was tortured for ten months in the center. She was deprived of sleep, made to stand, and not allowed to wash, bathe, or use the restroom. She was forced to stand on the cement wearing only thin clothes day and night in the winter. When she had a visitor from her family or the clinic, they covered her up by dressing her temporarily. Once the visitor was gone, they stripped off her clothes or poured cold water on her, blew cold air on her, and forced her to stand in cold water. As a result, her toes bled and her legs swelled.
Ms. Zhang said, “When I was finally released from the labor camp, I thought that I would live a normal life, caring for the elderly and children, and working regularly. However, I was taken to a brainwashing center as soon as I started getting better. It was in a hotel with air conditioning, sofas, and Siemens beds, except I was not allowed to step out of the room. I was held in an empty room several days later because I did not 'transform.' They made me stand for 24 hours. I fell many many times because I was so sleepy but had to get up and stand again. My head was bleeding and swollen because I hit my head on the ground when I fell down. Sometimes I broke my teeth or injured my hands or face when I fell. They poured cold water on me to keep me awake. My feet and legs were swollen from standing so long. The agents said that a person would die if the swelling of their legs reached a certain height, such as to the thigh. It did happen to a lady when she was released, and she died soon after. 'If you die here, we would tell your family that you died from a disease. What would your family dare to do?'”
“For a long time, they took away all of my clothes except a light suit. When someone visited me, they dressed me, then undressed me as soon as the visitor was gone. They poured cold water on me, then switched on the air conditioning. I was once forced to stand in cold water for over ten days. My toes were swollen, chapped, and bled.” Po Zhenghui said to her, “Even if you don't die, you will suffer severe pain in your bones in the future and wish to die. Standing for a long time in the cold will hurt the bones, and it will hurt so horribly that you cannot stand it. If you don't 'transform,' you will leave here as a dead person although you walked in here.”
Po locked Ms. Zhang in an empty room, and the door was locked all the time. Food was delivered through a window in the door. She was not allowed to leave, wash, or use the restroom. The room smelled horrid and made her feel as if she couldn't breathe. She asked, “You are forcing me not to eat by not letting me use the restroom, aren't you?” Po said, “Don't eat, then. No one is asking you to eat. You are welcome to starve to death. We will have one less person untransformed if you die.” She recalled, “To reduce the need to use the restroom, I tried to eat less and drink less. I often ate a mouthful of food per meal, barely enough to survive.”
Po once ordered her to step on a picture of the founder of Falun Gong, but she refused. Po kicked her, shouting, “I'll let you taste the power of man when he kicks you.” Her legs were covered with bruises. Such beatings happened many times daily. Sometimes Po ordered the guards to do it, and sometimes he did it himself. Po once used a one-meter-long, five-centimeter-diameter club to hit her legs until the club broke. He shouted, “I do use Fascist methods.” The wounds on her legs slowly faded in five months.
During the nine months when she was forced to stand, she fell down countless times. Ms. Zhang lost much of her weight. After being incarcerated for ten months, she weighed only about 55 pounds. Her legs swelled above her knees, she had ascites, and developed a cough. She had pain in her chest, difficulty breathing, and felt dizzy. She stated, “As a result of the long term sleep deprivation, standing, cold, etc., I had pain in my head all the time and felt like there was something humming inside my head. The chest pain and coughing was hard for me to bear. I didn't even have the strength to spit. To spit, I had to bend over, have my head down, and then cough. Although I am just middle-aged, I am like a skeleton and an old lady. They said, 'Even if we let you go home, you might only live as long as two weeks or a month.'”
A doctor suspected that she had a brain tumor, and her family was scared. A dozen of them went to the brainwashing center and asked for her release. The agents of the Nanjing 610 Office thought that she would not live longer than two weeks, so they released her after extorting a big sum of money from her family. They said to her and her family, “You won't have many days to live even though you are now released. You should get ready for her funeral.”
Long Term Monitoring and Harassment
Ms. Zhang stated, “When I was released from the brainwashing center, I was in really bad shape, like a skeleton, and only weighed about 55 lbs. No one recognized me. The evil agents of the brainwashing center thought that I was dying.” “No matter what happened, I believed in Falun Dafa. I kept doing the exercises and I started to recover in the months to come. My family was relieved.”
When the agents from the 610 Office found that she was alive, they got nervous. They phoned and came to her home to threaten her and her family, saying, “Do not repeat anything that happened in the brainwashing center, otherwise you will be incarcerated again.” Her family worried that she would be persecuted again, and they never told her how much money was extorted by the 610 Office agents. A relative mentioned, “You won't be able to repay it in your whole life.” Another relative said “Those people are so greedy. We won't be able to help again if you are arrested a second time. When I was there for your release, they were about to rape me. Luckily, someone suddenly came in and I was able to leave. I dare not go to that evil place again.”
The cruel persecution that she was subjected to frightened her family, and they gave up cultivation practice. The Nanjing Cancer Hospital paid well, but they did not allow her to return to work. They gave her 800 yuan a month after she was released. Her son was in school, and her parents were her dependents. Her husband was afraid of being persecuted just because he was married to her and asked for a divorce. He left with their son. She never saw her son again since he dared not return home or see his mother.
Ms. Zhang stated, “On many occasions, provincial or city government officials said that they would go to my son's school and let the school know that his mother was a practitioner. They said, “Why would our government and the CCP let a practitioner's kid get a good education?” They claimed that they would ruin his future and keep him from getting a job. They said they would get the school to expel him, put him in the brainwashing center, and make him 'transform' me. If my son did not obey or didn't succeed, they would take him to a forced labor camp.” “Their threats really harmed my son. He could not concentrate on his studies and dared not go home. He thought about suicide a dozen times. They forced my husband and my son to abandon me. Many of my family and friends worried about me and were busy trying to save me because I was persecuted.”
She went to her hometown to care for her ill mother before the 2009 New Year. A relative said that officers from the Xuanwu District Police Station had called her. After she came home several days later, she found her home had been searched and was in a mess. There were muddy footprints on the carpet, but the windows and doors were locked as usual. The officers used a master key to open her door without her consent and searched her home. She lived alone and this upset her.
The CCP monitored her closely, and the neighborhood committee was at her door. She lived on the second floor, and the neighborhood committee opened a window directly facing the second floor and told her, “The window is opened specifically for you.” Ms. Zhang had been living under intense pressure since the persecution began in 1999. She was followed all the time, and agents from the Nanjing and Xuanwu District 610 Offices harassed her at home many times every year. They used a master key to open her door and searched her home when she was absent in 2010. They ransacked her home and took away many of her things. When she came back from visiting her parents, she saw the mess at home and dared not report it. Her computer, printer, and CD burner were confiscated in 2011.
In August 2012, Po Zhenghui went to her home with several agents from the Nanjing 610 Office. He intentionally kept talking to her in her living room while others searched her bedroom for a computer, printer, and CD burner. They did not find her computer. When they left, Po threatened her, telling her to hand over her computer. Several days later, they went again and demanded her computer. Po threatened her again: “If you tell others how we persecute practitioners, we will get you again. At that time, don't blame us for being impolite.”
The constant pressure took its toll on her health. She lived alone after her forced divorce, and no one knows exactly when she died. Her workplace said she died on January 1, 2013. Her family found her on the floor when they went to visit.