(Minghui.org) A woman’s husband died in prison while she was being held in a different prison for their shared faith in Falun Gong, a mind-body practice that has been persecuted in China since July 1999.
Ms. Cheng Donglan, a resident in Xichang City, Sichuan Province, suspects that her husband, Mr. Fang Zhengping, did not die of diabetes as claimed by the authorities. An inmate who was incarcerated together with Mr. Fang in Yunnan Province First Prison stated in an open letter that the guards put a cocktail of drugs in Mr. Fang’s food, which possibly led to his death.
The prison authorities never informed his parents of his death. They informed Ms. Cheng, knowing that she was imprisoned at Sichuan Province Women’s Prison.
The timeline of how the authorities handled Mr. Fang’s death did not make sense to Ms. Cheng.
Mr. Cheng “allegedly died on April 1, 2013,” and the authorities visited her on May 7 that year to break the news to her and ask her to sign a cremation consent. She declined. By the end of May, she was told that her husband’s body had been cremated. Based on the prison reports, one of the autopsies was done on July 23, 2013, after she was told in May that the body was cremated. To make it worse, when her son went to the crematorium to pick up her husband’s ashes on August 8, he saw another body cremated in front of him and was given the ashes. Her son was also forced to sign the cremation consent on the spot.
Ms. Cheng has filed multiple complaints to the supervising offices of the Yunnan Province First Prison since her husband’s death. Her efforts were to no avail. Now 69, she continues to demand justice for her late husband, whose cause of death remains a mystery.
In June 2021 she mailed copies of her complaint to the courts, procuratorates, prison management, and appeals offices of Kunming City, Yunnan Province, and Sichuan Province. In the complaint letter, Ms. Cheng exposed Yunnan Province First Prison’s conduct that led to her husband’s death and demanded an official investigation into the matter. She also demanded the prison authorities be charged with murder, assault, torture, and abuse of power.
The domestic security officers from Suijiang County Police Department in Yunnan Province arrested Mr. Fang on October 14, 2007. Two months later, a judge in Suijiang County Court sentenced him to seven years.
He was healthy when he was taken to Yunnan Province First Prison on December 27, 2007, but died suddenly on April 1, 2013. None of his family members saw him from when he supposedly fell ill to when he was cremated. Ms. Cheng was in Sichuan Province Women’s Prison at the time of his death and couldn’t handle the issue. His elderly parents hired a lawyer to look into his death and the prison authorities threatened the lawyer for doing so.
In one of the videos, the prison authorities showed Ms. Cheng, her husband was dying on a bed murmuring “Don’t hit me, don’t hit me.” In the prison report, the prison twice performed an autopsy on Mr. Fang’s body, but never once informed the family. Also, the prison cremated his body despite Ms. Cheng’s disapproval.
While still held in Sichuan Province Women’s Prison, Ms. Cheng filed a complaint to Yunnan Province Procuratorate requesting an investigation into her husband’s death. Later she filed another complaint to Yunnan Province’s Supreme Procuratorate. A representative from the Kunming City Procuratorate came to Sichuan Province Women’s Prison in January 2016 to talk to her. In August 2020, Yunnan Province First Prison responded to her complaint. Neither of the authorities’ explanations cleared her suspicions about her husband’s death.
Regarding her latest complaint, the Suijiang County Procuratorate responded a month later in July 2021, stating that the death was not under their jurisdiction. Sichuan Province Women’s Prison responded in September also saying that the death was not under their jurisdiction. Around the same time, Yunnan Province First Prison responded and said that the prison conducted another investigation and found nothing problematic. The letter did not answer any of her questions.
Ms. Cheng’s Account of Her Husband’s Death
Yunnan Province First Prison Hides Information from Family and Lawyers
The prison authorities purposely hid information about my husband’s health condition from me and his parents since the day he entered the prison.
The authorities did not inform me, who was a free person at the time, when they put him in Yunnan Province First Prison in December 2007. Instead, they sent a notice to his elderly parents, who lived thousands of miles away in Yibin City, Sichuan Province.
I visited him in February 2008 and September 2009, which was the last time I saw him. At the time he seemed good-spirited and healthy with a normal weight. It never occurred to me that he’d get so sick and die there.
From when he allegedly got ill to his death and cremation, his parents had not seen him once. The prison authorities avoided his parents.
Yang Cheng, a prison guard, found my son in 2012 and asked him to take his stepfather (my husband) home on medical bail because he had foot problems. My son was not close to his stepfather and refused to do so. He told Yang to contact my husband’s parents, and Yang never did.
Based on the reports from Yunnan Province First Prison, my husband fell critically ill on March 22, 2013, and was taken to several hospitals for treatment. Between the time when he fell ill and his death on April 1, the prison authorities had plenty of time to notify his parents and stepson to go see him for the last time, but they did not. After he passed away, the authorities avoided his parents and waited for over a month to come to me, a person imprisoned for her faith, asking me to handle his legal issues.
When his parents learned about his death, they hired two lawyers to look into it, and demanded the prison authorities give an official statement.
The two lawyers went to the prison on August 30 and October 15, 2012, respectively, and asked for 12 documents related to his death, including his physical exam results when he arrived, his autopsy reports, his video and audio records, and records of the communications between the prison and his family. Both times the prison authorities refused to comply and give any information.
The lawyers applied for state compensation for my husband’s death on October 14, 2013. The Bureau of Yunnan Prison Administration sent people to the two lawyers’ local judicial bureaus and ordered them to threaten the lawyers to drop my husband’s case with non-renewal of their licenses to practice law.
Not yielding to the pressure, the lawyers appealed to Kunming City Intermediate Court and applied for state compensation on January 19, 2014. The Court never got back to them.
Authorities’ Responses Raise Even More Suspicions
I suspect that my husband did not die of natural causes, especially after the guards came to talk to me in Sichuan Province Women’s Prison and I watched the video images they showed me. The reports from the prison regarding the timeline of my husband’s autopsy and cremation raised even more suspicions. The prosecutor from Kunming Procuratorate tried to spin what my husband said on his deathbed a different way, which made no sense to me. The following is a list of my doubts.
1. Body Is Cremated Without Family Approval
Before my husband died, I asked the authorities at Sichuan Province Women’s Prison to let me see him for the last time, and they denied the request. Three guards from Yunnan Province First Prison came to see me on May 7, 2013, to tell me that my husband passed away and that I needed to sign an agreement for his cremation.
From one of the videos they showed me, my husband laid unconscious on his bed and repeatedly murmured “don’t hit me” until his last breath. I refused to sign the agreement for his cremation because I had so many suspicions. Instead, I wrote, “My son has no rights to participate in or handle Mr. Fang’s funeral.” The guards threatened me that they’d cremate my husband’s body anyway.
Towards the end of May, a guard in Sichuan Province Women’s Prison passed a message to me saying that my husband’s body was “cremated according to agreed procedures.” Another guard suggested that I let him be buried so that he could peacefully conclude his life. I wrote a letter to ask my son to pick up his ashes.
My son traveled to Paomashan Funeral Home in Yunnan Province on August 8 to pick up my husband’s ashes, which should have been ready for my son to pick up. As soon as he arrived, a worker asked him to sign a letter to “agree to cremate and will have no objection in the future.” A body that was said to be my husband was cremated in front of him and he took the ashes home.
I watched the video of the cremation process and the body did not belong to my husband.
When I demanded an explanation for why my husband’s body was cremated twice in my complaint letter, the authorities from Yunnan Province First Prison dodged my question. The reply stated that the procedures were legal because my son signed the agreement and that people from Yunnan Province First Prison witnessed the process as well. In a document I signed back when two prison guards visited me on May 7, I refused to let the body be cremated and stated that my son was not allowed to handle the issue. I only asked my son to pick up the ashes after I was told that the body had been cremated. None of the family members authorized anyone to handle the cremation.
Why did the Yunnan Province First Prison have the body cremated without my approval and what was the hurry? I would have never agreed to cremate his body. There were simply too many suspicions regarding how he died.
2. Two Autopsies Three Months Apart and Body Cremated Before Second Autopsy
The Forensic Center of Kunming City twice performed autopsies on my husband’s body based on the reports from Yunnan Province First Prison. The coroner examined the surface of the body on April 8, 2013, and did not find any lethal external trauma. The second autopsy was done on July 23, 2013, and the report concluded that he died of diabetes.
The strange thing is that the prison informed me at the end of May 2013 that his body was “cremated according to agreed procedures.” The authorities have lost all credibility because there are so many things that don’t make sense.
How did they perform an autopsy two months after the body was cremated? Why are the two autopsies three months apart? When they asked me on May 7, 2013, to approve the cremation, why didn’t they tell me that an autopsy had been done and that there would be another one? What are they hiding?
3. The Prison Authorities Fail Its Responsibility
My husband had not been sick for years before he was imprisoned. Yunnan Province First Prison wouldn’t have admitted him if he was ill and failed the health check. When I last saw him in 2009, he had no health issues. How did he become critically ill in three years? Why not inform his family after he fell dangerously ill?
According to the prison authorities, he had type II diabetes. In that case, it could be controlled by insulin injection or other medications. For nearly six and half years he was in prison, the authorities did nothing to treat his illness. On the contrary, they prevented his parents and lawyers from knowing his condition.
4. Family Not Convinced by Prison Reports
After the guards from Yunnan Province First Prison came to Sichuan Province Women’s Prison on May 7, 2013, I had already had questions about how my husband died after I saw the video in which he repeatedly murmured “don’t hit me” on his deathbed. I wrote a letter to Yunnan Province Procuratorate to voice my concerns.
The authorities from Kunming City Procuratorate came to Sichuan Province Women’s Prison on January 5, 2016, to show me papers that documented the cause of my husband’s death and the prison’s handling of the issue. I did not sign off on the documents because I was not given time to read them, nor was I able to verify the facts. After I expressed my concerns, they still wanted me to sign and said that I could always appeal.
5. Authorities’ Denial of Prison Brutality Raises Even More Suspicion
In the prison’s statement, it argued that my husband meant that he didn’t want needle injections when he said “don’t hit me.” This explanation was simply too far-fetched. The prosecutor from Kunming Procuratorate argued that he said “don’t hit me” because the person near him held his hand down. No reasonable person would say “don’t hit me” when someone held his hand down. That was the reflex of a person who had been tortured.
The prison statement quoted an inmate who knew my husband saying that my husband wasn’t tortured before he died. I did not expect a current inmate would tell the truth of what went on in the prison.
To prove that they did not torture my husband, the authorities could have videotaped his whole body. They told me that they didn’t capture his body in the video because he was naked at the time. First of all, if he was naked, wouldn’t that be easier for them to videotape him and show that there weren’t signs of torture? Secondly, why would he be naked?
A person who was locked with my husband in Yunnan Province First Prison once told me that he was locked in Qujing Prison before he was transferred to Yunnan Province First Prison. My husband told him that in Qujing Prison, three guards viciously beat him because he failed to respond promptly when they did the roll call. When he struggled to get up from the ground, the guards fiercely stomped on his head and body. Every time he tried to get up, the guards kicked him back to the ground. After he was transferred to Yunnan Province First Prison, he could not get up and walk for a month and a half.
My husband refused to write Guarantee Letters to renounce Falun Gong and had to stay in solitary confinement. I believe that the tortures he suffered in the confinement is one of the reasons that he suffered multiple illnesses. Another reason is that he was poisoned by the guards.
Peng Pingguo from Qujing City, another inmate who was in the same prison as my husband, wrote a complaint letter on the internet to expose how the prison guards forced a healthy person like him to take drugs and poison him. In the letter, he mentioned my husband’s name and said that he suffered the same torture.
In Peng’s letter, he stated that he was admitted to Yunnan Province First Prison on December 13, 2010, and the prison authorities claimed that he had hypertension after the health check. He believed that he was healthy, but the guards forced him to take antihypertensive drugs three times a day. He named the drugs he took: Betaloc, Beijing Hypertensive No. 0, Enalapril, and Nitrendipine.
“It felt like my head was about to explode after I took the drugs. I then developed dizziness, heartaches, and swollen legs. The guards threatened me and wouldn’t leave until they saw me swallow the pills. I heard that another inmate Fang Zhengping from Xichang City, Sichuan Province, had to take these drugs too. The prison doctor and guards put the drugs in his milk and meals,” Peng said in his letter.
“After I was released, I checked the descriptions of these drugs and consulted a doctor. What I found sent chills down my spine. These drugs are compound drugs that aim to treat patients with moderate to severe hypertension, and they cause severe side effects.”
“The doctor suggested that these antihypertensive drugs should not be taken together. They must be prescribed according to the patient’s condition, and the dosage should be moderate. After knowing that I, a healthy person, had been forced to take antihypertensive drugs three times a day for three years, the doctor seemed shocked. After coming to his senses, he told me: ‘Antihypertensive drugs reduce blood pressure by dilating blood vessels. If a healthy person took antihypertensive drugs for a long time, first of all, the blood circulation will go wrong. Then he’ll feel dizzy and fatigued. Systemic organ dysfunction will follow. The kidney, stomach, liver, and spleen will fail, plus there will be an irregular heartbeat, insomnia, palpitations, and chest tightness. The symptoms are the same as having hypertension. Finally, the patient will fall unconscious and die. It’s a process of slow suicide.”
The symptoms are the same as having hypertension. This is why the prison authorities claim that my husband died of hypertension.
6. Biased Investigative Report from Kunming Procuratorate
The investigative report from Kunming Procuratorate claimed that the prison did not inform my in-laws of my husband’s death because it already informed me at the time. The prison chose to inform his imprisoned wife 36 days after his death instead of notifying his parents right away. Still, now my in-laws have not received any notice about his death. The authorities claimed that they did not know his parents’ address, yet they sent them a notice after he was imprisoned in 2007. All the signs point to the fact that Yunnan Province First Prison tried to conceal the truth about my husband’s death.
The prosecutor claimed that the first cremation that took place in May 2013 never existed. If it was true, why did Yunnan Province First Prison inform Sichuan Province Women’s Prison to tell me that his body was “cremated according to agreed procedures” at the end of May 2013?
All things point to the fact that they did not care about my husband’s death other than wanting to cover up their crimes. I cannot live with the facts that the ashes I have do not belong to my husband and that I did not get to see him before he died. It hurts and I want the truth.
List of the Perpetrators Named in Ms. Cheng’s Complaint Letter
Ms. Cheng’s complaint was filed against the following individuals:
Yang Guodong, male, former warden of Yunnan Province First Prison, +86-13987795189, +86-15987195189 (cell)
Yang Shuwei, male, former warden of Yunnan Province First Prison
Zhang Yigui, male, former warden of Yunnan Province First Prison
Hu Jun, male, former deputy warden of Yunnan Province First Prison, +86-13308802217 (cell)
Liu Siyuan, male, former deputy secretary of CCP commission of Yunnan First Prison
Zhou Zhaoying, deputy warden of Yunnan Province First Prison, +86-13888373258 (cell)
Pu Minghui, male, deputy director of Office of Yunnan Province First Prison, +86-63834133 (o), +86-13808739909 (c)
Chen Bo, male, former deputy chief of the Investigation Division of Yunnan Province First Prison and deputy chief of the prison 610 Office
Yang Cheng, male, captain (in charge of prison guards) of the 10th ward of Yunnan Province First Prison
Zeng Gang, male, deputy captain of the 10th ward of Yunnan Province First Prison
Ma Lin, male, director of Bureau of Yunnan Province Prison Administration
Mu Yong, male, director of the political division of Bureau of Yunnan Province Prison Administration
Warden of Qujing Prison in Yunnan Province
Jiang Xing, male, an officer of the Domestic Security Brigade of Suijiang County Police Department in Yunnan Province
Sun Jingming, male, former president of Suijiang County Court
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