(Minghui.org) Mr. Lu Yougen, a Falun Gong practitioner in Hubei Province, witnessed something that he would never forget. When another practitioner protested being force-fed while he was detained, three guards grabbed him: one pulled his head backward, one restrained his shoulders, and the third forcibly struck his lower jaw.
“With a cracking sound, the practitioner's lower jaw was dislocated and hung down at an odd angle. As the guards force-fed him, the practitioner was motionless, as if he were dead,” recalled Mr. Lu.
This happened in September 2009 at a brainwashing center in Wuhan City, Hubei Province. Labeled the “Hubei Law Education Center,” this facility is essentially a concentration camp where the treatment of practitioners is no less brutal than in prisons, labor camps, or other places where Falun Gong practitioners have been detained and tortured.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a self-improvement practice based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. Since the Chinese Communist Party started to persecute the group in July 1999, untold numbers of practitioners have been detained and tortured, with at least 4,200 confirmed dead due to torture in police custody.
Under orders from the Hubei Province 610 Office, at least 1,200 Falun Gong practitioners have been detained and tortured—both physically and mentally—at this brainwashing facility since February 2002. For refusing to renounce their faith, they have been subjected to isolation, deception, brainwashing, humiliation, threats, and torture.
When Mr. Zhang Sifeng from Hanyang District was confined there, he pointed out that he was being illegally detained. An officer replied that he only cared about brainwashing, not laws. “What I say is law!” shouted the officer. “If you don't believe it, I can remove one of your kidneys right now!”
Like other brainwashing centers, Hubei Law Education Center is dedicated to forcing practitioners to give up their belief. The facility has been praised numerous times by the Political and Legal Affairs Committee, a government agency that oversees the persecution of Falun Gong.
Without following any official procedures or paperwork, officials can arrest any practitioner in Hubei Province and detain him or her in this facility. This includes those who have just finished prison terms and even a surgeon who was operating on a patient in a hospital. Kept in cells behind metal bars, they are watched 24/7 and subjected to brainwashing from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. or later every day. Officials confiscate their watches so that they lose track of time and block cell phone signals to cut them off from the outside world. They are not allowed to write home or receive family visits. The lights are always on, even at night.
Ms. Cui Hai, who used to work at the Wuhan Chemical Import & Export Co, was detained for 70 days in the facility following her arrest in October 2012. “As a result of the torture, I was severely emaciated, and several times, my lower jaw almost fell off.” Her hair turned gray, she suffered memory loss, her entire body shook, and her limbs swelled.
Ms. Cui was later sentenced to five years in prison for her faith. She survived torture and abuse during her incarceration, only to die on January 1, 2018, less than three weeks after she was released.
In contrast to prisons and forced labor camps, brainwashing centers like Hubei Law Education Center are extrajudicial organizations that operate secretly and prohibit family members from visiting.
From their inception to their operation, these brainwashing centers exist outside the law, as there is no government policy authorizing them. Some officials claim it is a type of house arrest. But a court of law needs to approve a house arrest, while no legal procedure or paperwork is needed to detain someone in a brainwashing center.
In addition, officers and guards in these facilities have more authority than ordinary law enforcement officers. They can arrest, detain, and release practitioners at will. Nor is there a limit on how long a person can be held. Those in charge closely monitor basic human needs—talking, eating, sleeping, and access to a toilet—and deprive their detainees of them at will. They can beat, force-feed, and shock their charges with electric batons with no repercussions.
Operating as extrajudicial facilities, they exist throughout China in almost every city and county and many communities. In fact, 610 Offices exist at all levels, and they can all set up brainwashing sessions as they see fit.
Ding Xingqiao, one thug who tortured practitioners at the Hubei Law Education Center, once received a phone call from practitioners outside of China asking him not to mistreat practitioners. At that time, Ding was mistreating and trying to brainwash practitioner Zhang Sifeng. Without hesitation, Ding denied all the brutality, claiming they only “talk” with practitioners there.
Mr. Zhang Su, a tennis coach from Wuhan, talked about how he was mistreated at the Hubei facility. “Several plainclothes officers approached me at a train ticket retail site near my home in May 2011. They sprayed something in my face so I couldn't breathe, knocked me down, and handcuffed me. No one ever showed their identity or explained why I was arrested,” he wrote.
Later that day, Mr. Zhang was taken to Hubei Law Education Center. When he protested the brainwashing, guards beat him, slapped him in the face, and threatened to shock him with electric batons. This went on for about two months, and his blood pressure was often as high as 120/230 mmHg.
After three months, Mr. Zhang noticed that what he ate gave him diarrhea, palpitations, and tightness in his chest. This lasted for three months, during which time he fainted twice. When he was examined, he had heart damage, gallstones, and other symptoms similar to heart disease. The doctor said he had to be hospitalized, and Mr. Zhang also requested it.
But officials dismissed their concerns and continued the brainwashing sessions. Jiang Lili, one of the staff members, said there was no need to discuss “laws” since all the branches of the justice system—the police, the Procuratorate, and the courts— work closely with the Political and Legal Affairs Committee, which supervises the 610 Offices.
“The Party can crush you like an ant. You could be executed tomorrow and it would be deemed a suicide. Your family will only get a box of ashes,” Jiang smirked. “Or, they could take you to a hospital and remove your organs to save other people—just like at Sujiatun. You will then be cremated, and your family may not get your ashes. There is nothing you can do about it.”
Hubei Law Education Center in Wuhan, Hubei Province
The format of a “law education center” is rooted in the cultural revolution, when society became essentially lawless. Although it was abolished in 1979 by the Supreme Procuratorate, former Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin resurrected this format, along with the expansion of prisons, forced labor camps, and detention centers, to persecute Falun Gong practitioners. The 610 Office in Beijing created such centers in 2001, and all subordinate 610 Offices throughout China followed suit.
Hubei Law Education Center, also referred as Banqiao Brainwashing Center, was established in February 2002 by the Hubei 610 Office. The first list of arrestees was in the office's document 2002-No 6, issued by its then director Huang Zhaolin. It was eventually relocated to its current location in Mahu Village.
Funding for the center comes from both the national government budget and extortion from locals, namely employers and village or street neighborhood groups. The government allocation is said to be three million yuan per year, and extortion from locals comes to about 20,000 yuan a person per session (about 40 days). Besides this basic “expense,” 610 Office agents also extort wages from locals for two “minders” who accompany the practitioner to be brainwashed. With about 20 rooms in the center, this amounts to about three million yuan per year, a lucrative incentive for officials.
As mentioned above, despite being labeled “law education” facilities, these centers primarily focus on brainwashing for several reasons. First, “transforming” a practitioner is linked to bonuses for the staff members. Second, officials can report their “successes” to the sponsoring 610 Offices to justify the continuation or expansion of the center. Third, with more practitioners being “transformed” and providing detailed information about their activities, more practitioners can be arrested to sustain the operation of the brainwashing centers.
Brainwashing centers that target Falun Gong practitioners share many similarities with the concentration camps in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in the 20th century.
State within a State. The brainwashing centers are extrajudicial entities under the direction of the 610 Offices. Officials are not bound by law, and no other government agencies are allowed to intervene.
Loss of dignity. Like prisons and forced labor camps, practitioners are often physically and mentally abused. They are force-fed, administered unknown drugs against their will, deprived of sleep, deprived of access to a toilet, and humiliated.
Secrecy. The brainwashing centers operate solely under the 610 Office. Family members are not allowed to visit, and the buildings are often unmarked, especially after the labor camp system was abolished in 2013.
Functionaries. Once officials manage to force some practitioners to give up their belief, they coerce these practitioners to “transform” other practitioners, using force, threats, or financial incentives.
The intensity of brainwashing, on the other hand, surpasses that in concentration camps of the past. Detainees are often forced to sing songs praising the Communist Party. When Mr. Lu Songming from Huangshi City refused to yield, he was forced to say, “Sir, I want to eat food provided by the Party” before given anything to eat or, “Sir, I want to use the toilet provided by the Party” before being allowed to use the toilet. This also happened to other practitioners.
Another brainwashing center in Hubei Province is Haikou Brainwashing Center in Wuhan. All the rooms in Haikou have cameras to monitor practitioners at all times. High-volume speakers broadcast propaganda slandering Falun Gong and its founder all day long. Phrases defaming Falun Gong are written on tables, floors, and chairs. Ms. Dai Juzhen from Dongxihu District was taken there on August 9, 2017. Within three days, she was in life-threatening condition due to high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Her family suspects she was drugged in the facility.
Mr. Zhang Weijie was arrested at work on May 5, 2011 and taken to the Hubei Law Education Center. One thug, Deng Qun, told him the brainwashing center’s schedule: Stand motionlessly for a long time, get beaten, be deprived of food, get force-fed, be deprived of sleep, get hung up high, be drugged, and get shocked with electric batons. Force-feeding alone took place twice a day, during which thugs kept inserting and pulling the tubes in and out to increase the pain. Practitioners were fed two buckets at a time, twice as much as the stomach can hold. “As the liquid food came back up and spilled all over the floor, the thugs would sop it up with newspaper and spread it all over my face and head while beating me. By then, everyone there was laughing at the show,” recalled Mr. Zhang.
When Ms. Wang Yujie's labor camp term expired on March 11, 2011, Xintao 610 Office took her to the Hubei Law Education Center. Within two months, she was often in a trance and mentally disordered. She died several months later on September 3, at the age of 24.
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