Intercepting TV Signals in China: A Look Back at Falun Gong Practitioners’ Peaceful Resistance to the Persecution
(Minghui.org) The Chinese Communist regime launched its campaign against Falun Gong in July 1999. The next few years saw state-owned media filled with propaganda against the spiritual discipline, which is based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.
As all legal channels to appeal against the persecution had been blocked, Falun Gong practitioners utilized some unconventional means to educate the public of what the practice was about and why the persecution was illegal. One of the “get-the-word-out” techniques was to tap into cable TV to broadcast programs exposing the illegality and brutality of the persecution.
Such an act touched a nerve with the Chinese regime, which retaliated by ordering arrests, imprisonment, and torture of the practitioners involved in the TV tapping incidents.
A total of 129 practitioners, nearly one-third female, were confirmed to have been arrested between 2001 and 2005, when all known TV interceptions took place. More than 85% of the practitioners, numbering 110, were given prison terms ranging from 3 to 20 years, with an average length of 12.5 years.
To date, 11 of the sentenced practitioners have died from torture-induced injuries or health problems, while 10 other practitioners have also lost their lives over the years.
Some of the surviving practitioners are still serving time in prison, while others, though released, are struggling to deal with the long-term damage they sustained while in detention.
TV Tapping Spread Across China, Peaking in 2002
The TV tapping incidents and subsequent arrests took place in 21 cities in 11 provinces and centrally controlled municipalities, from northern Liaoning Province to southern Guizhou Province, and from western Qinghai Province to eastern Shandong Province.
Hebei Province led with 24 arrests, followed by Jilin with 22. Four other regions also registered double-digit arrests, while the rest reported single-digit arrests.
Two Chongqing practitioners tapped into local cable TV in 2001, marking the first such feat in practitioners’ efforts to expose the persecution. The year that followed saw a flurry of TV tapping events, which led to the arrests of 93 practitioners.
These activities tapered off in the next three years, with 10 arrests following events in 2003, 9 arrests for 2004, and 14 arrests for 2005.
There was one arrest for which the timing of TV interception is unknown.
21 Lives Lost
Some of the 129 practitioners died soon after their arrests, while others passed away either while serving time or after they were released with badly damaged physical and mental health.
One of TV Interception Pioneers Dies 6 Days After Her Arrest
Ms. Liu Chunshu, a Chongqing City resident, was arrested on January 3, 2002 for tapping into local cable TV the year before. The police forced her to take off her coat and kept her in a room without climate control, all the while denying her food and drink.
Her family sought her release on medical parole, which was granted with a condition that she no longer go out to tell people about Falun Gong. Ms. Liu returned home the next day, but the mistreatment she received in detention and the mental anguish of not being able to practice her belief took a toll on her health. She developed a high fever and acute abdominal pain, and she had trouble swallowing.
She was rushed to the hospital days later, on January 8. Her family wasn’t allowed to visit her, and the police kept threatening to take her back into custody. She passed away the next day. She was 44.
Eighteen Falun Gong practitioners tapped into the state cable television broadcast network at around 8:00 p.m. on March 5, 2002 in Changchun, Jilin Province. The programs “Self-immolation or Hoax?” and “Falun Dafa Spreads Worldwide” were broadcast on eight channels simultaneously for about 45 minutes.
Within days, more than 5,000 practitioners in the Changchun area were arrested. Seven of them were beaten to death days later.
Police Blame Stroke for Qinghai Man’s Sudden Death
Mr. He Wanji, a Qinghai Province resident, was sentenced to 17 years in December 2002 for broadcasting Falun Gong videos over cable TV in Qinghai and neighboring Gansu Province. His family received a notice on May 28, 2003 that he had died of a stroke.
His family suspected foul play, but the police refused to provide any medical records or autopsy reports. The 53-year-old man had been illness-free since he began to practice Falun Gong years ago.
Mr. He’s death followed the passing of his wife, Ms. Zhao Xiangzhong, who was tortured to death on February 22, 2003 for refusing to renounce Falun Gong.
Latest Victim Dies 4.5 Years After Being Released on Medical Parole
Mr. Li Aige, a 44-year-old man from Xiong County, Hebei Province, is the latest victim of the Chinese regime’s retaliation against practitioners’ TV interception activities.
Mr. Li was arrested in August 2002 for broadcasting Falun Gong programs on local cable TV. He was sentenced to 15 years and sent to Baoding Prison, where the guards subjected him to various forms of abuse on a regular basis.
He developed symptoms of brain hemorrhage in November 2011 and was released on medical parole. Before he was let go, the prison authorities forced his wife to sign a liability waiver promising not to sue the prison or seek compensation for his medical expenses.
Mr. Li's release did not bring him any respite, as the police frequently went to his home to harass him. He never recovered from his condition, and he died on March 5, 2016.
Survivors Still Serving Time or Struggling to Live Normal Lives
Many of the 129 arrested practitioners were given heavy sentences for their efforts to inform the public of the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong.
Mr. Li Wenming, Mr. Wang Pengyun, and Mr. Wei Junren were each sentenced to 20 years in prison for tapping into cable TV in Lanzhou, Gansu Province in 2002.
Fifteen of the practitioners involved in the aforementioned Changchun tapping incident were given prison terms ranging from 4 to 20 years. Mr. Liu Chengchun and Mr. Liang Zhenxing each received 19 years; both died in prison.
To date, 12 of the 108 surviving practitioners are known to remain imprisoned, and 23 have been released. The current status of the rest remains to be investigated.
Mr. Cheng Fengxiang from Hebei Province was arrested soon after he tapped into local TV networks in January 2004. He was beaten, injected with drugs that damaged his central nervous system, and deprived of sleep. He managed to escape after 10 months of detention and has never been seen or heard from since.
Several practitioners are known to have developed debilitating mental problems after suffering long-term torture in prison. Mr. Chang Jubin was no longer his usual self after serving 11 years in Lanzhou Prison, Gansu Province. His wife divorced him, and he ended up a homeless man. Mr. Yun Qingbin from Changchun, Jilin Province was sentenced to 14 years, during which time he was brutally tortured. He had a mental breakdown and was later released on medical parole.