(Minghui.org) Editor's note: This story of Ms. Li Cuifang's experience in 1999 – 2004 is a detailed account of the torture and terror a Falun Gong practitioner was subjected to during the peak of the persecution.
Even though the forced labor camp system in China is declared to have been “shutdown,” the harm and pain it has caused millions of Falun Gong practitioners, including Ms. Li, has had long-lasting effects.
This is the first very detailed report of Ms. Li's story Minghui.org has ever published. We understand that oftentimes the first step of healing begins with the ability to recount the experience. This especially holds true with Ms. Li, as she was tortured to near death and was forced to verbally deny and slander Falun Gong against her will, causing her painful regret.
We are pleased to support her efforts to resume her cultivation journey as a genuine Falun Gong practitioner with joy and dignity, free from her traumatic memories.
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Ms. Li Cuifang, 60, a retiree from the Hualian Industrial Corporation in Shaanxi Province, has been illegally sentenced to the Shaanxi Women's Forced Labor Camp on three separate occasions, from December 1999 to July 2004. She was also detained four times by agents from the local 610 Office and the police. While imprisoned, she nearly died as a result of the torture.
Ms. Li's income and medical insurance benefits were withheld, along with her husband's, despite the fact that he was not a Falun Gong practitioner. Ms. Li and her family members, including the couple's two children and their elderly parents, had lost their only source of income, making their lives very difficult.
After the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) started the persecution of Falun Gong on July 20, 1999, thousands of practitioners went to Beijing to clarify the facts to government officials and to defend their right to practice Falun Gong.
Ms. Li Cuifang and other fellow practitioners went to Beijing on December 20, 1999, to appeal. They were arrested as soon as they arrived and were locked in a small iron cage at the police station. That evening, they were taken to the Shaanxi Province Liaison Office in Beijing and later transferred to the Baoji City Police Department for 15 days. They were charged with the crime of “disturbing social order,” before being released.
Ms. Li was arrested again soon afterward and was held in a detention center in the Jintai District for 15 days. She was later sentenced to the Shaanxi Women's Forced Labor Camp for one year.
At the labor camp, Ms. Li was assigned to the same team as practitioners Ms. Chen Chun'e and Ms. Liu Aiying, who were later tortured to death. Shortly after, Ms. Ma Yunhua was also transferred there.
The guards used every means at their disposal to force Ms. Li to renounce her belief. In order to prevent her from doing the Falun Gong exercises, several guards ordered four inmates to sit on her bed to monitor her. However, she still got up to do the exercises in the middle of the night.
The guards then increased her workload for several days in a row, forcing her to sleep less to meet her daily work quotas. This did not deter her from doing the exercises. Even when the head of the team stood in front of her, she still kept doing the exercises.
Although Ms. Li had been repeatedly beaten by a group of inmates, she would not give in to the guards' demands. Ms. Li, Ms. Chen Chun'e and Ms. Ma Yunhua were then forced to stand in the hallway every day for a whole month without sleep. Five inmates took turns reading aloud slanderous lies about Falun Gong, non-stop.
The practitioners' recited Falun Gong teachings to resist the persecution. One evening, Ms. Ma Yunhua briefly closed her eyes and started to doze off, when suddenly the head of the team, Li Zhen, struck her legs with a baton and poured cold water over her face.
In an attempt to incite hatred against practitioners, the guards locked the doors to every practitioners' cell and did not allow anyone there, practitioners and non-practitioners, to use the toilet.
One time all the practitioners were gathered outside in the scorching sun and ordered to stand on one leg for a very long time. Whenever a practitioner moved, even a little bit, they were brutally beaten. Ms. Li murmured a few words and was immediately punched in the face by Li Zhen, resulting in a bloody nose and swollen lip. The practitioners were also forced to squat for many hours. When they were eventually allowed to stand up, many of them couldn't walk.
No matter how hard the guards tried to force Ms. Li to give up her belief, their efforts were in vain. Even under this tremendous pressure and intimidation, she still recited the Fa, did the exercises and disciplined herself according to the standard of a practitioner. She held no grudges or hatred towards the guards or inmates who persecuted her, and she was always kind to others.
Inmates who shared the same cells with practitioners were impressed by the practitioners' steadfastness. One of them said, “I don't know much about Falun Gong, but from your actions, I can see that Falun Gong is good. Your Master has great disciples. He is amazing!”
The guards decided to separate the practitioners from each other by assigning each one of them to an individual team. Ms. Li was assigned to the most ruthless team in the labor camp, which was located on the third floor. In order to prevent the practitioners from doing the exercises in the evening, the teams used a rope to tie up the practitioners or hung them up from the metal door frames. Some of the practitioners were persecuted like this every night, yet they still had to finish their assigned work quotas the next day.
Although Ms. Li remained determined to continue practicing Falun Gong, she was not able to read any Falun Gong books in the camp. Bombarded daily with the lies and propaganda, she grew confused and finally gave in to the pressure to be “transformed”, renouncing her belief in Falun Gong.
After her release, she read one of Master Li’s poems and realized that she should not have given in to the pressure. She later sent a solemn written declaration to the labor camp and other relevant departments, stating that the so-called "transformation" that she had gone through was invalid, and that she would continue practicing. As a result, the authorities arranged to have her arrested and put through another round of intensive brainwashing.
When Ms. Li found out that the police had contacted her husband and her boss, and monitored all of the telephone booths in the nearby city of Xi'an, she decided to leave home to avoid further persecution.
After a few months, Ms. Li returned home and was immediately arrested and detained for more than 10 days. She was later sentenced to 18 months in the Shaanxi Women's Forced Labor Camp again. Upon seeing her, the guards were infuriated that she had began to practice Falun Gong again.
The guards ordered several inmates to pull Ms. Li's hair, tie her up and stuff dirty rags into her mouth. While struggling with the inmates, one of them bit her fingers, which bled profusely, soaking the front of her prison uniform with blood. Shortly after, her fingers became infected and some of her nails fell off. Whenever she got up in the middle of the night to do the exercises, the inmates brutally beat her. The guards announced at a meeting that if Ms. Li was caught with her legs crossed, she would be severely beaten until she unfolded them. They ordered inmates to beat her, even if she sat up in her cell.
To resist the persecution, practitioners in the cells along both sides of the hallway performed the sitting meditation. The guards and several inmates ruthlessly beat and kicked the practitioners. One guard kicked Ms. Li in the face, beat her with a baton and verbally abused her.
Ms. Li was handcuffed to a bunk bed and her feet were shackled. She was also ordered to do forced labor while handcuffed. When she firmly resisted the demands, the guards made her wear handcuffs day and night. The handcuffs cut into her skin causing her wrists to become swollen and infected. A large odorous sore with three pustules later appeared on her right underarm area.
The guards took her to the prison infirmary, where a doctor used a knife to crudely dig out the pustules, and did not administer any anesthetic beforehand. Despite her condition, Ms. Li was still required to do hard labor during the day while handcuffed, and she was still handcuffed at night to prevent her from doing the exercises. This torture went on for over a month.
In March 2002, the then-head of the Chinese Communist Party, Jiang Zemin, visited Shaanxi and allocated 800,000 yuan to escalate the persecution Falun Gong. Liu Xinwen, head of the Shaanxi Province 610 Office, mobilized a team of thugs to go to the Shaanxi Women's Forced Labor Camp, including the notorious Feng Xiyao and Wei Qiming from a Shaanxi Men's Forced Labor Camp, Baoji Zaozihe from the provincial-level 610 Office and Zhao Xiaoyang, the General Secretary of the CCP's Discipline Committee at Shaanxi Women's Forced Labor Camp.
Liu Xinwen then separated the practitioners into separate two buildings, located about 50 meters apart. When a practitioner was being tortured in one building, their screams could be clearly heard in the other building. The guards employed various tactics to persecute the practitioners, including using their family members to plead with the practitioners to give up practicing Falun Gong.
The CCP used money, promotions and other incentives to entice the guards to actively persecute Falun Gong practitioners in an attempt to get them to renounce their belief. As a result, the guards did everything in their power to persecute them.
Zhao Xiaoyang was given the award of “National Model Worker” for persecuting practitioners. When he arrived at the camp, Ms. Li was beaten by more than 20 inmates for doing the exercises. Liu Peilan beat her with a baton so badly that her bottom became swollen and turned purple, and she was unable to walk. He then handcuffed her to a metal window frame. During the struggle, Ms. Li's hand was seriously injured and bled profusely.
They later locked her up in a warehouse and used metal clamps to pry open her mouth, damaging several of her teeth. They handcuffed her from behind and hung her upside down from a two-meter-high shelf. Since the weight of her whole body was supported by her hands, the handcuffs instantly tore into her flesh, causing her to lose consciousness. The guards refer to this brutal form of torture as, “duck floating on the water,” and is commonly used to persecute male practitioners at the Zaozihe Forced Labor Camp.
Several practitioners asked the head of the team to release her from her handcuffs as she nearly died, but to no avail. Ms. Li later lodged a formal complaint against Liu Peilan, however, Zhao Xiaoyang refused to punish Liu. Instead, he shouted out that the guards had been “too lenient” on Ms. Li.
In order to resist the persecution, Ms. Li and other practitioners clarified the facts about Falun Gong at a meeting at the labor camp. This angered the guards and they intensified the persecution against Ms. Li. Once, she and a few other practitioners were handcuffed to the top of a metal window frame for nine days and 10 nights. When they were let down, their legs were so bruised and swollen that they couldn't walk.
When Zhao Xiaoyang presided over a so-called “transformation” meeting, Ms. Li stood up and tried to persuade them to stop trying to “transform” the practitioners. When she tried to tell them that Falun Gong practitioners were innocent, Zhao Xiaoyang began beating her head with his baton. Practitioner Ms. Li Shulian immediately snatched the baton from Zhao's hand and admonished him: “How could you beat her like that?” Other practitioners also stood up and shouted, “Stop beating her!”
Zhao Xiaoyang, and others were shocked by the practitioners actions. When a group of guards arrived, Zhao Xiaoyang grabbed Ms. Li and forcibly pushed her out of the door where several people were waiting to beat her. Ms. Li was then taken back to the meeting, where it was announced that her “re-education” period had been extended by one month.
She was later hung from a window frame and mercilessly beaten with batons. They finally let her down when she lost consciousness and her body went all cold. When she woke up, she remembered Master Li's teachings and she realized that her historic mission hadn’t yet been completed. She held a firm thought that she must not die in the labor camp.
Ms. Li was then taken to a separate room where she was cuffed by her four limbs to a bed frame. They ordered an inmate with a serious skin disease to monitor her.
The guards secretly moved Ms. Li from one room to another in order to prevent the other practitioners from having any contact with her. She was not allowed to use the communal toilets, and was given a small bucket to use instead, which was emptied once a night.
Ms. Li's sentence was extended by three months in total before she was released.
Shortly after returning home, Ms. Li was reported to the authorities for handing out truth clarification materials. She was later arrested and taken to the Jintai District Detention Center in Baoji. As soon as she arrived, she began a 10-day hunger strike to protest the persecution. Her legs were shackled and her hands were cuffed to the shackles, which made it impossible to sit up straight. She was also tied to a bed frame. On the tenth day of her hunger strike, the guards told her family to take her home, so as to avoid responsibility in case she died.
After spending less than two months at home, the authorities again ordered Ms. Li to be arrested. She was taken to the Shaanxi Women's Forced Labor Camp without being charged with a crime. Shortly after she arrived at the camp, she sat with her legs crossed. As a “punishment” for crossing her legs in meditation, she was confined to a small room, which is less than 2 meters square, with a one-way viewing window on the door.
When Ms. Li started to do the Falun Gong exercises, the guards forced her to wear a straight jacket. They tied the long sleeves of the straight jackets behind her back, then across her front, then to the back where they were tied very tightly. Then they put another straight jacket over the top and tied that one tightly too. She kept trying to free herself from it. In order to stop her doing this, the guards moved her out of the small room and a few inmates were assigned to monitor her. She was left like this for one month, during the hottest time of the year.
Ms. Li then started a hunger strike again to protest the persecution. The guards brutally forced-fed her while several other guards stomped on her chest. Sometimes, the guards poured gallons of flour water all over her face, almost suffocating her.
The guards then moved Ms. Li to a damp room with a thick layer of mold and mildew on the walls. As she would not “repent” for her belief in Falun Gong, she was forced to wear two straight jackets again 24 hours a day. Two inmates were ordered to monitor her around the clock, while they forced her to watch videos slandering Falun Gong.
Drugs were often mixed in the practitioners' food, causing them to feel disoriented, confused and mentally unstable. Ms. Li experienced feelings of aggression, irritability, low self-esteem and depression after being forced to eat this food. She later exhibited symptoms similar to schizophrenia. She also felt faint and chilled most of the time.
It was later confirmed that the top officials in the labor camp ordered the guards to add drugs to the practitioners' meals. This was witnessed by a practitioner first hand. As a result, the practitioners lodged a formal complaint with the head of the team Wang Li, who acknowledged the situation, then said that she had spoken to the Discipline Committee chair, Zhao Xiaoyang, about the issue.
Wang Li lied to the practitioners, telling them that adding drugs to the practitioners' food “was a supplementary form of psychotherapy, the cost of which would be borne by the labor camp.”
The labor camp hired a female doctor, with the surname, Zhao. Ms. Li's health steadily worsened, and her blood pressure shot up. She experienced dizziness, poor memory, twitching, numbness, and heart and lung problems.
Ms. Li's two-year labor camp term was cut short by one year, due to her poor health, which was a direct result of being severely tortured every day.