Shandong College Lecturer Develops Ovarian Cancer While Serving Time for Her Faith—Dies 14 Months After Release
(Minghui.org) A college lecturer in Qinhuangdao City, Shandong Province was relentlessly tortured while serving time for her faith in Falun Gong. She developed ovarian cancer in prison and passed away 14 months after her release. She was 51 years old.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual and meditation discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
Ms. Zhang Xiaojie was arrested along with sixteen other Falun Gong practitioners on June 10, 2013. The police ransacked their homes and confiscated a total of 1,700,000 yuan in cash and seven cars. Over one million yuan of the confiscated cash and two cars belonged to Ms. Zhang.
Close to half of the confiscated cash was banknotes bearing messages about Falun Gong. With legal channels to appeal for their right to freedom of belief blocked, many Falun Gong practitioners have used creative ways, including printing Falun Gong information on banknotes, to raise awareness about the persecution.
Ten of the seventeen practitioners were sentenced to prison in September 2014, and given terms ranging from twenty months to seven years. Ms. Zhang was given five years.
Tortured in the Detention Center
While Ms. Zhang was held at the Qinhuangdao City Detention Center following her arrest, she was assigned to a small cell of more than 20 detainees. Her restroom use was restricted and she was provided with very poor food.
The detention center guards ordered the inmates to pour cold water on her, slap her in the face, and use custom-made pepper spray on her.
All detainees at the detention center were asked to fill out a survey in December 2013, about whether they had been abused there. Ms. Zhang detailed the abuses she suffered and was thus retaliated against by the guards, who put shackles weighing several dozen pounds on her hands and feet and immobilized her for two weeks.
When her lawyer protested against the abuse, director Tian of the detention center said, “I don't think this is illegal. It's not considered torture anyway.”
Tortured in Prison
Ms. Zhang was transferred to Hebei Province Women’s Prison in late 2014 and was held incommunicado in the 13th ward. She wasn't allowed to meet with her family or call them. Four inmates monitored her and brainwashed her around the clock.
The inmates woke her up at around 5:00 a.m. every morning. She was then taken to a classroom and forced to listen to or watch slanderous programs attacking Falun Gong for nearly 19 hours.
During the long hours of brainwashing, the inmates made her either stand or sit all day, which often caused edema in her legs and feet.
The inmates often ordered her to put her fingerprints on prepared statements to renounce Falun Gong or curse its founder. When Ms. Zhang refused to comply, the inmates beat her, pulled her hair, and sometimes stepped on her hands, in order to force her to sign.
After returning to her cell around midnight and going to bed, one inmate would sit next to her and monitor her. She was allowed only four or five hours of sleep before being awakened for another day of brainwashing.
Ms. Zhang wasn't allowed to take showers. She also had to ask the inmates every morning whether she would be allowed to wash her face or brush her teeth for the day. She had a strong odor as a result of not being allowed to wash herself on a regular basis. Her cellmates often verbally abused and humiliated her. The inmates also denied her from clipping her toenails.
The inmates also denied her rights to buy daily necessities, including sanitary napkins. While she wasn't allowed to use her own money, the inmates could use it at will. They also replaced Ms. Zhang's new pillow, clothes rack, and even toiletries with used ones.
Because the inmates could be exempted from doing hard labor if they were assigned to monitor and "transform" practitioners, most of them bribed the guards to get the job. The guards, in turn, based term-reduction decisions on the inmates' ability to make practitioners give up their faith, which further motivated the inmates to torture the practitioners more severely.
As a result of the long-term, intensive mental and physical torture, Ms. Zhang's health declined quickly. She was found to have an ovarian tumor in early 2018, yet the prison refused to provide her with any treatment.
By the time she was released in June 2018, the tumor had grown quite large.
Demanding that Police Return Confiscated Items
Upon returning home, Ms. Zhang was appalled to find that she had been fired and denied pension benefits by her workplace, the Qinghuangdao Senior Vestibule School. With her savings and most valuable belongings confiscated by the police during the home raid in 2013, she was left in a destitute situation.
She wrote several letters to the police, explaining that the persecution of Falun Gong had no legal basis, and demanded the return of her personal belongings.
With her persistent effort, the police returned her cars and jewelry but refused to return the over 1 million yuan confiscated, the Falun Gong books, and her computers.
The stress of seeking justice and compensation contributed to Ms. Zhang's deteriorating health. She was in tremendous pain and unable to sleep in her final days. She passed away on August 24, 2019.