Ongoing Torture and Brainwashing of Falun Gong Practitioners in Heilongjiang Province Women's Prison
(Minghui.org) Another 132 practitioners of Falun Gong were sentenced to prison in the first half of 2020 for refusing to renounce their faith. Falun Gong is a health-improving meditation practice with moral teachings that has been persecuted in China since 1999.
In the past two decades, the Heilongjiang Province Women’s Prison, located in the capital city of Harbin, has remained one of the facilities with the most practitioners incarcerated, with over a thousand confirmed so far. Currently, there are about 200 practitioners imprisoned in the facility.
There are three major wards that are specifically designated to torture the practitioners into giving up their faith—to “transform” them. They are the 8th, 9th, and hospital wards. The newly-admitted practitioners are placed in the 9th ward before being moved to the 8th ward where the tortures and brainwashing intensify. The practitioners who end up with severe bodily injuries are then sent to the hospital ward.
The guards never get involved in personally abusing the practitioners. They order felons, mostly with drug offenses, to do the job and appoint them as the chiefs of different teams in the wards. These chiefs report directly to the guards.
The following are several ways the prison authorities torture the steadfast practitioners in attempting to get them to submit and renounce their faith.
When the practitioners arrive at the prison, they are placed in the “transforming” team of the 9th ward, where they face collaborators who are professionally trained in brainwashing. The collaborators work on the practitioners individually based on their lives and families. They then take advantage of the practitioners' fear of losing family, freedom, and health and attempt to make them give up their faith. For the steadfast practitioners, these collaborators take turns feeding them with fear and anxiety.
The collaborators repeatedly play the videos that slander Falun Gong and force the practitioners to watch, sometimes for more than 10 hours a day. The repetition even gives the collaborators headaches.
Sitting Still on a Mini Stool
Almost every steadfast practitioner has been forced to sit on a mini stool. The stool is 6” tall and 8” wide. The seat is carved with ridges. The practitioner must keep her upper body straight with knees touching each other and hands on the knees. The stool is so short that the practitioner has to lean forward, and as a result put her body weight on the tailbone. When the tailbone rubs against the ridges on the seat, it starts to hurt in 10 minutes. The practitioner has to sit still on the stool for 15 to 18 hours every day for months.
Ms. Li Xueyan once was tortured this way for 56 days. Ms. Yu Guirong sat on such a stool for over 100 days while her range of activity was restricted to the size of a tile (24” by 24”) during that time.
When Ms. Li Mingfang sat on the stool, the collaborators slapped her constantly. Everyone in her cell was forced to read the propaganda materials with her because she refused to give up her belief. Consequently other inmates held a grudge against her, beat her, and bullied her.
For the practitioners who refuse to give up their faith or cooperate with the prison authorities during health exams or blood tests, the collaborators take turns beating them. These collaborators are never punished even if the practitioners report them.
Ms. Li Erying was tied up and beaten until she was so injured she couldn’t care for herself anymore.
Ten minutes after Ms. Yang Shuqin arrived at the prison, a collaborator punched and kicked her before she told her address. Because she remained steadfast, the collaborator punched her face so hard that her denture flew out of her mouth. She was forced to sit on a small stool and the collaborator used a cloth hanger to whip her. As soon as she started to tremble due to the pain, the collaborator kicked her off the stool and she couldn't get up.
Ms. Yang had been suffering from a severe headache due to a fall in a detention center prior to her prison admission, so the kick only made her condition even worse. She was unable to do intensive labor in the sweatshop of the prison, which resulted in frequent beatings.
Ms. Liang Shurong is in her 70s. Several collaborators picked her up and dropped her on the ground. From then on she couldn't walk or straighten her back. At one point the collaborator threw her food on the floor and forced her to crawl to reach it.
Limited Toilet Use
Practitioners are allowed to use the toilet just three times a day. Many practitioners are over 70 years old. At night they often have to wait in line for the toilet, and many end up having accidents. Even the younger practitioners have the same problem too. Ms. Ma Cuizhi had to relieve herself in a bucket at one point and the collaborators tried to force her to drink her urine. They ended up dumping it all over her.
Every cell has curtains on the door to prevent the practitioners from seeing one another. The practitioners are isolated and have to take turns using the toilet, doing dishes, and washing up. At night they often have to wait at least half an hour before they are called and allowed to use the toilet. The guards criticize or punish the collaborators if they accidentally let the practitioners see or greet one another. Every movement of the practitioners has to be reported to the guards on paper.
Ms. Gao Xiuzhen was coerced into writing a statement to renounce her faith and later tore it. To punish her, the authorities injected her with an unknown drug and put her in solitary confinement.
Standing for Long Periods of Time
When a collaborator orders a practitioner to stand for a long time, sometimes all the inmates in that cell have to stand with the practitioner. This stirs up hatred and incites abuse against the practitioner.
The practitioners are told that they will never make it home if they refuse to renounce Falun Gong, even after serving their terms. They are warned to get ready to go to a brainwashing facility or detention center after their terms are up.
In random conversations the collaborators make sure the practitioners overhear what they say. “So and so was put in a detention center after serving her term and now is back in prison for refusing to ‘transform;’ the only way out is to “be ‘transformed.’”
The Tackling Team Threatens and Terrorizes
According to the guards themselves, there is a strategy to “tackle” the steadfast practitioners in the 9th ward, which is also known as the tackling team. Ge Xuehong, former captain of the 8th ward, said that the collaborators would take on different roles to deceive the practitioner: some are to viciously beat the practitioner, verbally abuse her, or pepper her with deadly threats, while others are to be the “gentle one” who “sympathizes and supports” the practitioner.
The gentle one feeds the practitioner with lies and threats by saying things like, “So and so agreed to ‘transform’ and her sentence was reduced,” “So and so refused to comply and was beaten, and her child was kicked out of school and couldn’t leave the country,” or “So and so was sent back to prison again for refusing to give up the practice.” Practitioners under tremendous mental and physical pressure tend to believe the “gentle” collaborators and appreciate their kind support, and some worry about their families and decide to give up their belief.
When practitioners are first put in the tackling team, they have to sit on the mini stools all day. Some couldn’t stand it anymore and signed the document to renounce Falun Gong. They then could transfer to other teams.
The steadfast practitioners, however, are faced with more severe persecution. Ms. Gao Shuying, 56, from Tahe County, Heilongjiang, was placed in the tackling team in May 2018. She sat on a mini stool from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. for five months. If she moved, the collaborators stomped on and punched her. At the end of 2019 she refused to write a repentance letter. She was forced to sit on a mini stool for 8 days.
Worse Treatment for Practitioners Who Regret after Renouncing Faith
Some practitioners later regretted signing the statements to renounce their faith when they were incoherent after being tortured. These practitioners tried to void their statements and ended up being treated worse. The 16th team in the 8th ward handles these practitioners especially. One would often hear the team chief screaming and shouting abusive words at them.
Chief Ge Xin was heard bragging how she abused a practitioner: “ I forced her to get down on the ground, then stepped on her head while I force fed-her (unknown) drugs. The next day she volunteered to take the drug, but it wasn’t good enough. I wrestled her down nonetheless and stepped on her head while she took the drug. The third day she wanted to avoid the misery and agreed to sign the statement to renounce her faith. But I told her it wasn’t good enough because I just wanted to torture her.”
Ms. Xue Li was often subjected to such humiliation. A chief often took her to a washroom in the winter and repeatedly poured buckets of cold water over her. The guards encourage the chiefs and collaborators to torture the practitioners to more effectively “transform” them.
There is no workshop in the prison, so the prisoners are forced to do intensive labor in their cells. The work often involves assembling caps for wine or seasoning bottles or folding paper bags. They often have to work till 8 p.m. or 11 p.m. if their quota is not finished.
The wards often get notices ahead of time when the inspectors are coming. The chiefs then make the prisoners hide all the materials and pretend to be “studying.” The inspectors then go to a meeting room where the inmates put on a performance.
Ms. Cao Shuyun from Yi’an County, Heilongjiang, is 68. She worked past 11 p.m. one evening in 2019 and had to wake up at 3 a.m. to finish her quota. She was too exhausted to get up. The chief and another prisoner held her down and beat her.
The collaborators repeatedly pinched and bruised Ms. Tan Rui's face and kicked her because she couldn't work as fast as they wanted her to.