Ms. Gao Yuxiang’s Personal Account of Ten Years in Changchun Women’s Prison
(Minghui.org) Ms. Gao Yuxiang, 58, lives in Lianhua Township, Shulan City. For practicing Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, she was arrested multiple times, imprisoned for 10 years, and tortured in Changchun Women’s Prison. She was released on January 28, 2019.
Before learning Falun Gong in 1995, she suffered from many illnesses, including pleurisy, tuberculosis, and rickets. She recovered from these ailments after taking up the practice.
Below is her account of the persecution she suffered for refusing to renounce her faith.
Two Years of Forced Labor
After the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched its persecution of Falun Gong in July 1999, my family was often harassed by police. I knew the Chinese Constitution granted citizens freedom of belief and freedom of speech, so I went to Beijing to appeal for the right to practice Falun Gong. I was arrested by plainclothes police upon arriving at Tiananmen Square and was detained for 15 days.
I was then detained at the township police station. Policeman Sun Hongbo demanded that my family pay 900 yuan. Ji Xicai from the Lianhua Police Station collected the money, refused to give a receipt, and said that he would return it in the fall. He did not do so.
I went to Beijing to appeal for justice for Falun Gong in October 1999. I was arrested at Tiananmen Square and sentenced to two years of forced labor. In the labor camp, police officers shocked me with electric batons. I won’t go into details about the endless abuse I endured here.
My daughter told me during a visit that when my family sold grain at the grain depot, township government officials confiscated our money but still gave us the receipt. This was robbery.
After I was released, I asked for the money to be returned. The head of the police station said that the person who had confiscated the money had left. He threatened to find an excuse to send me back to the labor camp if I kept asking for the money.
I had no choice but to find temporary employment. Since I was constantly harassed, I was unable to keep a stable job. My daughter dropped out of school at the age of 16 to work.
Beaten During Interrogation
Several plainclothes officers broke into our apartment when I was taking care of my sick mother on October 29, 2009. My mother held me and begged the officers, “Don’t take my daughter away! She’s a good person, the best person!” She was too sick to stand. Police dragged me away from her and ransacked our place.
I was taken to the local police station, tied to a metal chair by my hands and feet, and interrogated. When I refused to cooperate, they beat me until I passed out. They poured cold water on my face and continued the interrogation. I still refused to tell them anything.
The interrogation lasted until the evening. One of the policemen who had beaten me later said, “Ask your master (the founder of Falun Gong) to stop punishing me. My headache is so bad that I can’t stand it. I won’t beat people anymore.”
I said to him, “It’s not my master who punished you. You’re suffering karmic retribution for persecuting good people. Be careful what you do in the future!”
They took me to a detention center, where I went on a hunger strike to protest the persecution. I was force-fed through a nasal tube. My nose bled, and my eyes teared up. The latter symptom follows me to this day.
Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison
My younger sister hired an out-of-town lawyer. The president of Shulan City Court, the presiding judge, and staff from the 610 Office came to the detention center. They threatened to confiscate the lawyer’s license and arrest him unless I removed him from my case.
They claimed, “You won’t have a chance to see the lawyer in court. If you dismiss him, we’ll let him go. That lawyer has been defending you Falun Gong practitioners. We know this. He’ll be implicated and put in prison eventually. Also, higher authorities have handed down documents saying out-of-town defense lawyers aren’t allowed in the local court.”
Six or seven people made the same demand several times and threatened, “Don’t implicate other people [with your case]. We can help you get the lawyer fee back. Even if you refuse to dismiss the lawyer, we still have ways to keep him from appearing in court. We’ve taken his ID. We’ve wanted to deal with him for some time.”
When I asked to see the official document banning out-of-town lawyers, they initially agreed but eventually admitted that it was an unwritten rule.
One of them said to me, “You need money to hire a lawyer. If he can’t appear in court, you’re wasting money. Look at your child–you’ll affect your child’s life, school and job. If you dismiss the lawyer, we can help you find a free local lawyer.”
I knew the hired lawyer would be good for me, but I was afraid to implicate fellow practitioners. Because I didn’t know the law and, I dismissed the lawyer, feeling reluctant and helpless. I cried. They had prepared the dismissal document ahead of time and just needed me to sign it.
They found me a local lawyer. I tried to tell him about Falun Gong and the persecution, such as the self-immolation hoax on Tiananmen Square. The lawyer said he could not defend me in court using the facts I had given him.
They later assigned me a female lawyer in her forties. I asked whether she knew about Falun Gong, whether she knew why we practiced Falun Gong, and why so many people–nearly 100 million–started to practice Falun Gong in just seven years after its public introduction. I explained why I went to Beijing to appeal for the right to practice Falun Gong. She told me it was the first time she had heard about the subject and that she now knew what Falun Gong was truly about.
On the day of the trial, six police cars arrived at the detention center in the early morning. It was ridiculous to see so many armed officers in bulletproof vests. I commented on how the police force was being used to persecute a group of innocent people instead of tackling corruption, drug abuse, and scammers. One of them said to me, “You can say this to us, but be careful what you say during the trial. Less is better.”
The court held the trial quietly without notifying my family. The hearing lasted only a short time. When I refused to sign any documents, they said I would be given a heavy sentence for being a die-hard.
After being held in the detention center for one year and nine months, I was sentenced to ten years in prison on July 5, 2011.
Tortured in Changchun Women’s Prison
I was held in Changchun Women’s Prison from July 5, 2011 to January 28, 2019.
They started by forcing me to sit up straight on a small plastic stool with my hands on my knees. Any incorrect posture would result in a beating. More than 20 “education helpers” sat around me and took turns to try to “transform” me, or force me to renounce Falun Gong.
I told them how I had recovered from multiple illnesses after practicing Falun Gong, how people I knew benefited from practicing Falun Gong, and how good and evil are rewarded and punished. I explained why the self-immolation incident on Tiananmen Square was a hoax, which made them speechless. At last, they gave up on me, and the most vicious prisoner, Pang Shuyan, was assigned to monitor me.
Guard Yang Xi ordered Pang to make me recite the prison rules. I refused because the rules were for criminals, not for Falun Gong practitioners, who followed the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance and didn’t commit any crimes. Since I didn’t admit guilt, the “education helpers” and inmates forbade me from using the toilet, forced me to say that I was a criminal 50 to 100 times, and abused me in other ways.
On my fifth or sixth day of sitting on the small stool, they put a photo of Master Li Hongzhi (the founder of Falun Gong) under the stool, and several people held me down on it. I resisted and simply straightened my body and lay on the ground. They dragged me to the restroom to beat me.
Pang was the most vicious of them and kept hitting my face and mouth. I didn’t give in. Finally, they made me stand with my legs together and without moving. I was made to stand from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, sometimes until 1 a.m. After 20 days of this torture, my legs were swollen.
As I still refused to give up Falun Gong, Guard Yang said, “You stand there alone while so many people watch you. Do you still want to sleep?” The prisoners who monitored me took this as a hint and decided to deprive me of sleep.
After five days of standing without sleep, Pang brought in some of Master Li’s photos and suggested taking off my pants and sticking the photos on me. I was so angry that I pushed them far away. They were surprised by my strength despite not having slept in five days.
They then said, “Since sitting on the stool, standing, and sleep deprivation can’t change you, we decided to allow you to sit in the full lotus position. You’re not allowed to put your legs down, and you have to hold your hands over your head.”
I did this for 12 hours until the next morning. By then, I had been made to stand for 25 or 26 consecutive days and deprived of sleep for six days.
Escalating the Persecution
A batch of inmates were released on August 5, 2011. The prison started reorganizing units and assigned convicted murders and fraudsters to monitor Falun Gong practitioners. About seven were assigned to watch me. One of them was Li Changzhi, who claimed that she could drive a practitioner crazy and make a crazy person insane.
They forbade me to use the restroom or wash myself. I was nearing a mental breakdown at the time and soiled my pants. They made fun of me and said, “It’s such a shame for an adult like Gao Yuxiang to pee her pants.” I burst into tears and felt so ashamed.
They wrote a sentence that slandered Falun Gong and told me to copy it if I wanted to use the toilet. I was muddleheaded and afraid of being laughed at again if I wet my pants. I also worried that I would dirty the floor that everyone ate from, so I complied with their demand. After I went to the restroom, the fog lifted from my mind, and I felt deep regret in my heart.
They then used the “binding” torture on me by making me lay on a bed with my face down, my calves pulled up with my feet close to my buttocks, and my head pulled toward my back. They beat me whenever I changed my posture. They took turns watching me from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m., but let me get up for short meal breaks.
After 10 days, they refused to let me get up during meals and fed me instead. I couldn’t swallow the food and made the bed dirty. When I got up in anger, Pang Shuyan grabbed my head and hit it against the wall. I said I would talk to the head of the ward, and Pang offered to get her.
Instead of getting the head of the ward, she got an inmate from the fifth floor (which was dedicated to torturing Falun Gong practitioners) who was very tall and vicious. That inmate kept hitting me while talking, “I am especially assigned by the head of the prison to deal with practitioners. It’s no use for you to complain to anyone. The government allows me to do anything. Beating [practitioners] to death is counted as suicide. There is a death quota of four or five per year in the prison.” She kept beating me until she got tired and left.
They put me back in the painful position on the bed from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. This lasted 49 days. I became skin and bones, and it was difficult to draw blood during a scheduled medical examination. From that day onward, they stopped this torture and allowed me to get off the bed.
They told me to give them a list of family members who would visit me. My mind was blank, and I couldn’t remember my daughter’s phone number, my son-in-law’s name, or even my grandson’s name. The inmates laughed at me. I laughed too, but it was not a normal laugh. My heart was pained, and I burst into tears. I couldn’t control myself. Everyone thought I had gone insane.
I tried to recall Falun Dafa teachings but could not remember anything. When I remembered one sentence, I would keep repeating it. Gradually, I was able to remember more and more, and my mind became clear. Dafa saved me again from the verge of a mental breakdown.
They gave me a notebook to write down what I wanted to write about Dafa. I thought carefully and wrote slowly. I wrote for three days and filled the whole notebook with my personal experiences of practicing Dafa, those of my relatives and friends, and stories of good being rewarded and evil being punished. I gave the notebook to a guard.
They demanded that I read articles that slandered Dafa, which I refused. They forced me to watch propaganda video defaming Dafa, including the self-immolation on Tiananmen Square and so on. One day they found one of Master Li’s articles that I had brought from the detention center. I was punished by being made to stand for long hours, and Pang beat me with a paper roll.
Someone reported my situation to a guard who still held a conscience. She called me to the office and asked if anyone had beaten me. I didn’t answer since Pang was just behind me. She told Pang to leave and then told me to remove my clothes. My body was covered with bruises. Many guards saw them, and some were taken aback by my injuries.
Pang was no longer made to monitor me, and I was ordered to “study” in the strict control unit on the third floor, which was in effect brainwashing. Inmate Xu Changping, who was now tasked with monitoring me, pulled out a long strap and threatened me with a form of hanging torture if I refused to go “study.”
I was arranged to stay in an activity room instead of a cell. But to use the toilet, I still needed to go to Pang Shuyan’s cell. I was made to clean up the toilet inside and out after using it each time. Even so, Pang often refused to let me use the toilet.
Along with almost all the Falun Gong practitioners imprisoned there, I was made to do forced labor while suffering physical and psychological abuse. By 2016, the credits I had earned for my labor would have reduced my term by two years. However, because I refused to write statements renouncing Falun Gong, the prison officials denied my term deduction
Overview of the Prison’s Persecution of Falun Gong Practitioners
All Falun Gong practitioners in Changchun Women’s Prison were held in the No.8 Ward, where Ni Xiaohong was in charge.
The ward was divided into six units. Some practitioners were held on the third floor to be brainwashed. Those on the second floor were placed under strict control, and those on the first floor were placed under extremely tight control. All those who refused to be “transformed” were isolated and monitored by six or seven inmates.
On the third floor, two inmates were assigned to watch each practitioner. They had to go to the restroom together. Those who refused to be “transformed” were forced to sit on a small stool, made to stand for long hours, beaten, deprived of sleep for days at a time, and so on. Some were also tortured with the “tiger bench,” “binding,” “death bed,” “stretching bed,” and so on.
Inmates in the prison normally get up at 5:30 a.m., but to increase the “transformation rate,” practitioners were forced to get up at 4 a.m. to sit on small stools from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. Clocks were removed from the cell to keep practitioners from knowing the time and arbitrarily extend the punishment time. This form of abuse continued for about a half year.
At the end of 2018, they stopped making practitioners get up early but continued to make them sit on the small stools. The inmates took turns watching practitioners. Some stools had a small hole in the middle, and the inmates would purposely insert a paper stick in it, forcing the practitioner to sit at the edge of the stool. Some practitioners sat with their legs shaking, and some had festering wounds on their buttocks, causing their pants to stick to them.
As a result of the torture, some practitioners went insane or had mental breakdowns. One fellow practitioner was forced to sit on a stool on top of Master Li’s photo. If she refused, they beat her. In the end, she couldn’t bear it anymore and broke down. Those villains still didn’t let her go and made fun of her. Their laughter seemed to come from hell and did not contain a shred of humanity.
I remember another practitioner who was taken to an isolation cell for two months for reading an article by Master Li. When she was released, she could not walk and was dragged down the hallway by two people.
More than 19 practitioners, including Ms. Wang Yaxin, Ms. Li Ruiying and Ms. Niu Yuhui, were held on the first floor around April 2018. In addition to sitting on small stools, they were fed only pickles. They were not allowed to purchase food or see visitors. For a long time, they were not allowed to take a shower, wash their face, or brush their teeth.
Drinking water was also restricted. Some even had to drink the water used to flush the toilet. After more and more persecution details were publicly revealed by practitioners, they were provided normal prison food at the end of 2018.
One type of brainwashing involves learning so-called traditional culture. The “education helpers” played special video programs, guided practitioners one by one, and made them do homework every day. Without access to Falun Gong books and under threats and the harsh environment, many practitioners were thus “transformed.”
At the beginning of 2019, there were still more than 100 Falun Gong practitioners in Changchun Women’s prison.