Imprisoned and Tortured for Five Years, Heilongjiang Man Unable to Walk or Speak Upon Release
(Minghui.org) For the parents of Mr. Zhang Jinku, July 2, 2018 was a somber day. That was the day their son was to be released after serving five years for his faith in Falun Gong. But they were not allowed to pick him up at the prison about 300 miles away. Instead, they were told to wait at home.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a traditional mind-body practice based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. The practice has been brutally persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999. Many Falun Gong practitioners have been arrested, tortured, or have even had their organs harvested for refusing to renounce their faith.
A police van finally arrived at the parents' home. Several officers brought out an emaciated man who could not walk. He was nothing like the young and healthy son that his parents knew. “Where is my son? What happened to him? How could you do this to him?” wept his mother. As a furious and moaning crowd started to gather, the officers sped off.
Neighbors carried 45-year-old Mr. Zhang inside. He weighed only about 90 pounds and could not speak a word.
Once inside, he started looking around, searching for someone. Through her tears, his mother had to tell him that his wife, Ms. Li Yali, had been so traumatized by his arrest and torture that she died in May 2016 at the age of 47.
Mr. Zhang's mother is doing her best care for him, but his recovery has been slow. When she asked him why he was so emaciated, Mr. Zhang slowly wrote with his non-dominant left hand (his right arm had been broken due to torture in prison), “I was on hunger strikes on and off for about five years.”
When his mother quizzed him further, he wrote, “They [guards and inmates] put drugs in the food.” He then thanked his family, relatives, and other Falun Gong practitioners for urging the prison to release him. Although he wasn't released ahead of time, their efforts significantly improved his situation in prison.
Arrest and Imprisonment
Mr. Zhang Jinku, a resident of Boli County, was arrested on March 29, 2013, shortly after Wang Xiankui, governor of Heilongjiang Province, saw banners reading “Falun Dafa is good” and “Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance is good” along a highway. Wang gave orders to investigate the origin of the banners, and many other Falun Gong practitioners in the province were arrested the same day as Mr. Zhang.
In the Yilan First Detention Center, police chief Bai and his officers beat Mr. Zhang so brutally that his ribs were broken and he lost several teeth. His injuries led to a lung infection that turned into tuberculosis. Due to Mr. Zhang's severe injuries and because he was vomiting blood, he was released on bail a few weeks later, on April 20, after his family paid 10,000 yuan.
Mr. Zhang was arrested again on July 17, 2013, and tortured in detention. His spine was injured, leaving him paralyzed. Upon hearing the news, residents throughout his village signed petitions calling for his release. But Mr. Zhang was still sentenced to five years and taken to Jiamusi Prison on a stretcher on August 21, 2013.
Severe Abuse in Hulan Prison
By the time Mr. Zhang was transferred to Hulan Prison on October 1, 2103, he was already unable to walk because of the injury to his spine. But the guards and inmates often beat and humiliated him, as well as other practitioners, at will.
The day after Mr. Zhang was admitted to Hulan Prison, Wang Hongbin, an inmate convicted of homicide, kicked Mr. Zhang in the chest. Mr. Zhang fell backward, hit his head, and almost passed out. Wang stepped on Mr. Zhang's chest with one foot and pounded Mr. Zhang's head against the floor with the other.
When Mr. Zhang was too weak to move or stand up, he could hear Wang yelling, “Officials have told us that any Falun Gong practitioners beaten to death will be counted as suicides. Several practitioners have already died because of me.”
Although Wang had no medical background, he was assigned to draw blood from Mr. Zhang. He often drew excessive amounts of blood, intentionally twisting the largest needle in his muscle as he did. This made Mr. Zhang nauseated and dizzy. Wang also drew blood from Mr. Zhang's neck and chest.
One time, another inmate tried to stop Wang, worried that Mr. Zhang would die. Wang dismissed the concern and said, “That's okay. His blood can be used for hospital patients. Even if he dies, it would be counted as suicide anyway.”
Wang once grabbed Mr. Zhang's head and slammed it against the floor. He also squeezed his testes and kicked his private parts. Guards who saw Wang do such things did not say anything or simply walked away.
Rescue Efforts Made a Difference
According to Mr. Zhang, 2014 and 2015 were the worst times of his detention. All Falun Gong practitioners in Hulan Prison were ordered to renounce their belief. If they did not, they were forced to stand motionlessly for a long time or run laps. The environment was very harsh and the area was severely infested with lice. Besides physical and mental torture, practitioners were also deprived of family visits.
Just as Mr. Zhang was on the verge of death from the abuse he sustained, his family, four attorneys, and over 100 relatives and local villagers came to visit him. All the prison officials, from the warden to the guards, were shocked by this and, for the first time, they began to allow Falun Gong practitioners who had refused to renounce their faith to have family visits.
Meanwhile, Mr. Zhang did his best to oppose the persecution inside the prison. But his health continued to deteriorate. Similar to many other detainees, he developed pulmonary edema. In fact, dozens of inmates died of pulmonary edema and a prison doctor predicted that Mr. Zhang would not survive three months. “But I am so fortunate that I was able to make it,” he wrote.
Wife's Pain and Death
Mr. Zhang's wife, Ms. Li Yali, had been traumatized by her husband's arrest and decline in prison. She wrote a letter to the Heilongjiang Bureau of Prisons. It said in part: “Since my husband was jailed, my family has no income. I am too weak to support this family. The pressure is so huge, like a mountain, and I do not know how long I can survive.”
In an article she submitted to the Minghui website, Ms. Li wrote, “I was sobbing all by myself. After a while, I wiped my tears and told myself to stand up, because I had to continue on with my trip [to the prison]. And I had to get my husband home before it was too late to cure his illnesses.”
It is over 300 miles by train and bus from Boli County to Hulan Prison near Harbin City, the capital of Heilongjiang Province. Ms. Li made 11 trips to the prison between October 2013 and January 2014.
She wasn't allowed to see her husband until her 11th visit, on January 9, 2014. When Ms. Li saw her husband, he was no longer the strong man she had known before. He was carried into the visitors' room on a cart.
During several family visits in 2014 when Mr. Zhang was still able to speak, he would always say that he had been brutally beaten by inmates. But as soon as he said that, guards and inmates would take him away. Very often, Mr. Zhang would touch his head during the meeting and say he had a headache because of the abuse.
His health worsened. When his younger sister visited him on February 17, 2014, he told her that prison doctor Tian once said to him, “No official would care even if you were tortured to death here.”
In addition to going to the prison to try to see her husband, Ms. Li also visited many government agencies in Harbin City, but they all refused to grant her husband medical parole. Because of the anxiety, constant disappointments, and intimidation by authorities, she passed out twice, once in Hulan Prison and another time in Heilongjiang Bureau of Prisons.
Her health deteriorated quickly and her weight fell to less than 80 pounds. When she visited her husband again on May 4, 2016, neither of them knew that it would be the last time they saw each other.
Ms. Li died just 10 days later, at 5 a.m. on May 14, 2016.
A Daughter's Distress
After losing her mother and with her father in prison, Ms. Li and Mr. Zhang's daughter became distant and withdrawn and was unwilling to visit her paternal grandparents who share the same home as her parents.
The young woman wasn't there to welcome her father when he was released.
Mr. Zhang now has to rely on his parents to care for him. The extent of his torture and the injuries he sustained are not yet completely known, as he can only communicate by writing with his non-dominant left hand.
What Mr. Zhang and his family have suffered is but one example of what tens of millions of Falun Gong practitioners have experienced since the persecution began 19 years ago. We hope more people pay attention to this crisis and held stop such tragedies.