(Minghui.org) Sometimes life can be very hard and worse than one could ever have imagined. For Gao Guobo, a miserable childhood was just the beginning of her hardships. She then found a righteous path that changed her life around.

Unfortunate Marriage

Gao Guobo was born in Heilongjiang Province in northeast China. The death of her father made her miserable. Although she was a smart girl who did well in school, she had to quit after the second grade to help her mother make a living.

She got married at the age of 18, but got divorced two years later. She remarried and her second husband died six months after their wedding. Without a home, she and her mother had no choice but move to the rural Lesser Khingan Mountains. There, Gao's mother asked her to marry a man who was at least 10 years older than her, in exchange for one big bag of flour.

The couple lived in a deserted makeshift house that had been used for construction. The nearest village was miles away and they often never saw anyone for days, although wolves often came by at night. If living in poverty in such an isolated place wasn't enough, her husband brought a neighbor's daughter from his hometown, saying he would find an ideal husband for her. When Gao found her husband sleeping with the girl, Gao got angry and sent the girl home.

This incident led to heated arguments between them. When Gao and her husband were having a fierce argument, she hit him with a metal hammer and killed him.

After turning herself in for killing her husband, Gao received a deferred death sentence at age 30.

Fighting and Struggling in Prison

Gao was sent to Heilongjiang Women's Prison in March 1992. The guards treated inmates badly, often swearing at them or beating them. Like other inmates, she only received low-quality food, but had to work hard. She was addicted to smoking, but had no money to buy cigarettes. As a result, she often looked for cigarette butts left by others for a few more puffs. Once she even exchanged her comforter for a cigarette.

She was a smart person, so with a dictionary she learned many words. Since there were not many books available, she began to read books from Mao Zedong. However, the more she studied them and absorbed the theory of struggle, the worse she became. In prison, she was well-known for swearing at others. She could swear at one person for several hours straight until the person fainted.

By 1998, 37-year-old Gao already had heart disease, mental problems, stomach trouble, and skin disease, but she had no money for medical treatment. Although her deferred death sentence was changed to life imprisonment and then to 19 years, she was not sure if she could live that long.

Police Officers Support Practicing Falun Gong

Some detainees began to practice Falun Gong, including Gao's friends Zheng Guiqin and Liu Wenying. Gao learned the exercises from them and her illnesses quickly disappeared. The rashes on her skin caused by dermatitis were also gone.

Police officers were also supportive. One of Gao's acquaintances was illiterate and she asked the guard if she could be moved to the same unit so she could learn Falun Gong with her. The guard said yes and Gao helped several illiterate detainees learn Falun Gong.

Detainees at the prison were forced to produce clothing, often from 5:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. or midnight. Nonetheless, the practitioners studied Falun Gong's teachings for one hour every day after work plus they did the exercises. They only had one copy of Zhuan Falun and Gao spent two hours every day hand copying it, which took about two months to complete. Despite the hard work, she was very energetic and was diligent with her work assignments. In 1999, her term was reduced by 20 months.

Through Falun Gong's teachings, Gao had a better understanding of life. In the past, she had wanted to be a good person; however, she was not sure how to achieve that. Through the teachings of Falun Gong she now knows how to be a good person, a better person, and to cultivate so she can be saved.

Other people also saw the changes in her. Gao stopped smoking and drinking, and she no longer swore at others. Gao also realized that if she had practiced Falun Gong sooner, she never would have killed her husband.

For detainees who were difficult to manage, guards often told them to practice Falun Gong. At that time, about 100 people in the prison were practicing Falun Gong. One police officer, Liu Liming, and a director in the provincial police department, Li Dezhong, were also practitioners. Once they heard that there were few copies of Zhuan Falun in the prison, Li brought some copies and gave every practitioner one copy.

Gao and other practitioners were very delighted to receive the books. Several of them who had been illiterate soon learned to read Zhuan Falun in a short time.

Suppression and Perseverance

Real tests came after the Chinese Communist Party started to persecute Falun Gong in 1999. But Gao and other practitioners were determined in their belief.

After the persecution started in July 1999, officers asked them to give up cultivation. “Falun Gong changed me from a bad a person to a good one. I will not stop,” replied Gao. “Shame on you!” one officer shouted at her and slapped her.

Guards often beat practitioners and put them in solitary confinement, trying to force them to give up their belief. They also ordered dozens of inmates to watch the practitioners closely. When several practitioners in solitary confinement went on a hunger strike in February 2000 to protest the mistreatment, guards forcibly pried open their mouths with heavy duty pliers to force-feed them. Some practitioners' teeth were knocked out. Gao's mouth was wounded and bleeding, as well.

After the staged Tiananmen Square self-immolation incident in January 2001, practitioners refused to watch the defamatory videos. Gao, Zheng and four other practitioners were put in solitary confinement for two and a half months.

Besides starvation and forced labor, guards also chained them to the floor while being handcuffed. Although it was very cold in northeast China, guards took off their shoes and socks to cause their feet to freeze. Zheng lost consciousness due to the torture.

Some practitioners were put in solitary confinement for about a year and were not transferred back to a regular cell until 2002, when over 400 practitioners were transferred into the prison.

Prison officer Liu Liming was fired for practicing Falun Gong. However, many inmates came to know the facts of Falun Gong from him and began to cultivate. At least seven inmates in the unit where Gao stayed became practitioners.

When guards forced Gao to stop practicing Falun Gong, she always refused, “Falun Gong teaches me to be a better person by following the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. There is nothing wrong with it. Give up practicing Falun Gong? No way!”

Although Gao was scheduled to be released in 2008, her term was extended by six years because she refused to give up her practice.

As she walked out of the prison on June 27, 2014, Gao did not regret her decision. Compared to 22 years ago when she was sent to prison, she is now healthier and happier. And more importantly, she has found a path that has given her hope of a bright future.