Exposing the Shihezi Brainwashing Center in Xinjiang
(Minghui.org) This article is about a brainwashing center in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region that has been used to detain political dissidents and persecuted religious groups, including Falun Gong practitioners.
This center is located inside Shihezi Drug Rehabilitation Center in northern Xinjiang. Founded around 2014, it once detained nearly 800 people, two-thirds of whom were from persecuted religious groups.
In March 2018, this center began to detain Falun Gong practitioners. About 80 practitioners, the oldest nearly 90 years old, have been detained there at one point or another.
Four practitioners including Lian Xiuli, Qi Lanzhi, Wang Yi, and a practitioner surnamed Bai were among the first group of practitioners sent to the Center. Liu Tao and Xue Jianli, a married couple, were taken there in July 2018. Luan Qiao was sent straight to the center after serving three years in prison for refusing to renounce Falun Gong. Ma Shuting was arrested in 2017 and kept at Laojie Police Station and later a local detention center before being transferred to the center.
At the time of writing, nearly 100 people are still held at the center, and about a dozen of them are Falun Gong practitioners, including Gong Runzhong, Yang Hong, Xue Jianli, Lv Mingxia, Ma Shuting, Luan Qiao, and Deng Yanling, who have been held there for more than one year.
Wang Yongkang, Deputy Director of Shihezi 610 Office, is in charge of the brainwashing center. Other key officers include Jia Guijian, Chen Hongwei, and Zhu Dechun.
The 610 Office is an extralegal agency tasked by the Chinese Communist Party with coordinating the persecution of Falun Gong across law enforcement, judicial, and other government agencies. In recent years, its role has expanded to persecuting other religious groups and political dissidents in the regime's “social stability” campaigns.
In addition to Shihezi Brainwashing Center, many reeducation camps were established in Xinjiang after Chen Quanguo became the region’s Party Secretary in August 2016. Up to 1,000 Uyghurs and people from other religious groups are detained there for brainwashing. Falun Gong practitioners Li Wensheng and Xu Liyan, a couple from Kashgar in southwestern Xinjiang, were arrested on April 18, 2018 and kept in one such reeducation camp.
Humiliation and Brainwashing
After someone arrives at the Shihezi Brainwashing Center, the first step is blood sampling and physical examination at either Lvzhou (Oasis) Mental Hospital or Bashi (Eighth Division) Hospital, both of which are connected with the military. Those with poor health are then sent to Lvzhou Mental Hospital, while those with good health are sent to the brainwashing center. These transfers usually take place in the evening. Upon arrival in the brainwashing center, everyone is required to remove their clothes and squat down. Some detainees cried over such humiliation.
Detainees in the brainwashing center are required to get up at 6 or 7 a.m. They must fold their quilts military style. The daily routine includes running, military drills, and brainwashing in classrooms. They will not go to bed until 11 p.m. or midnight. Detainees take turns standing night duty, including walking back and forth to check if everyone is sleeping. Each shift lasts one or two hours.
A flag ceremony takes place on Mondays, during which time detainees are forced to swear and read statements to renounce their spiritual belief (a process called “shouting your voice and showing your sword”). These statements typically include thanking the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for saving them and vowing to follow the CCP. Before each meal, detainees are required to sing pro-CCP songs. Brainwashing sessions include reciting regulations against extremism and watching videos on the self-immolation hoax on Tiananmen Square as well as pro-CCP films. Detainees must write thought reports every week on giving up their belief systems, which are reviewed and scored by the guards.
Collective Punishment and Secrecy
Surveillance cameras cover all areas of the camp. Besides guards, three inmates are assigned to each Falun Gong practitioner, and no conversation is allowed. Whether using a toilet or taking a bath, detainees are watched by guards at all times. Male guards have access to all the videos with no privacy restrictions. Personal items are checked once per week for contraband or paper slips.
The brainwashing center labels itself an educational facility that teaches laws and skills. It also claims to deradicalize detainees and prepare them to return to society. In reality, officers encourage detainees to report on and criticize each other. Those who beat detainees who hold to their beliefs are rewarded with term reductions.
Anyone considered disobedient would be punished by standing for a long time, running, or cleaning. Deprivation of food and sleep, beating, or torture on the tiger bench is also applied to detainees, including the elderly. Collective punishment is implemented for all detainees in the same cell to punish the disobedient individual. Those who fall ill as a result of the mistreatment are then sent to Lvzhou (Oasis) Mental Hospital.
Upon release from the brainwashing center, detainees have to sign confidentiality agreements not to tell others about anything inside the center. Even after release, they do not have real freedom. For example, they are required to report to their local community administration every day in the first month and once a week afterwards. Officials also harass them from time time.