(Minghui.org) Almost every corner of China is now covered by surveillance cameras, be it public spaces like bus stations, streets, parks, and stores, private homes, and even alleys and the countryside. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has turned the country into a surveillance state. As soon as Chinese people step out of their homes, they are under surveillance every minute of every day. When they are at home, their cell phones and computers are turned into monitoring tools.
Surveillance and inspections are most effectively and frequently deployed in the CCP’s prisons, especially against Falun Gong practitioners. The tactics used in Zhengzhou Prison provide a glimpse into the severity of the persecution of Falun Gong, which has been targeted by the CCP since July 1999.
When Falun Gong practitioners arrive at the prison, strict monitoring is used to create an atmosphere of terror. They are not allowed to have any personal space or time to move freely. With strict isolation implemented at the same time, practitioners are constantly under pressure and on edge.
Most practitioners are assigned to the Ninth Ward, which is designated for holding Falun Gong practitioners. Each practitioner is confined in a small room with assigned inmates watching them at all times. These inmates were specially selected, including both educated, articulate ones and stronger, more violent ones.
The inmates would not let practitioners meet other practitioners when going to the toilet and using the washroom. Practitioners were not allowed to say hello or exchange expressions with other practitioners if they occasionally saw each other. They were forced to sleep in a way such that their faces could be seen.
Meanwhile, prison officials deployed various tactics to force practitioners to renounce Falun Gong in a formal “conversion.” They used instructors, mostly collaborators who had given up Falun Gong under pressure, to play the role of “kind people.” The instructors utilized lies and tricks to deceive and befuddle practitioners so as to make them give up their faith.
If that did not work, they would employ violent means, including beatings, verbal abuse, sitting on a “small stool” for long periods of time, and exposure to the scorching sun. They would also deprive practitioners of sleep and refuse to let them shop at the prison store or make phone calls. Some practitioners’ family members were also brought in and instructed to make a scene in an attempt to use family emotions to weaken their willpower. Some inmates even forged the practitioners’ signatures or thumbprints on repentance letters, and the prison officials pretended to be unaware of the truth.
Zhengzhou Prison, a small facility that holds two to three thousand inmates, spent several million yuan on surveillance cameras which fully covered every corner of the prison. But the guards ignored what they did not want to see, such as whenever Falun Gong practitioners were beaten.
Once practitioner, Mr. Li Junqi, was severely beaten by inmate Zhang Jianfeng and other inmates, who also beat other Falun Gong practitioners in the corridor. But all the video cameras malfunctioned at that time, and it was no use when the alarm was pressed. Instead of punishing the inmates afterwards, the guards punished Mr. Li by shackling him.
Practitioners are constantly monitored from the day they enter the prison to the day of their release. Those who uphold their belief are subjected to strict monitoring and control.
For regular inmates, strict monitoring and control is a severe punishment second only to increased sentencing terms, and prison rules forbid it from being used for more than three continuous months. However, practitioners who remain firm in their faith are often put under strict control for six months, a year, or even several years, such as practitioners Mr. Bai Hongmin and Mr. Li Junqi.
Practitioners under strict control have barely any freedom. They are forced to sit on small stools from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and only given a small bun for each meal without any vegetables. The strict control room was hot in the summer with a lot of mosquitoes and cold in the winter, but practitioners were only allowed to have a thin quilt.
In the Ninth Ward, inmates abused the practitioners under strict control at will. They beat the practitioners harshly whenever they felt like it. When these practitioners could not recite the prison rules as required, they were shocked with electric batons.
On the surface, the Falun Gong practitioners who were forced to give up their faith were no longer under special surveillance. But in reality, the inmates were still ordered to covertly monitor them and report on their activities every week, especially their attitude on Falun Gong and the CCP. If any of their suspicious activities, such as positive thoughts on Falun Gong or negative thoughts on the CCP, were reported, the practitioner would be summoned for a talk.
Another special treatment for these practitioners was the so-called monthly “thought report.” They were forced to repeatedly reinforce their sense of compromise every month. They would be called out if any of them sat with their legs crossed, similar to a meditation pose.
The procuratorial department inspected the prison to find irregularities and violations or wrongful convictions through interviewing the detainees on a regular basis. The process seemed pressing and real every time, and the detainees actively reported the injustice against them. But in reality, the reports were rarely investigated, especially those from Falun Gong practitioners.
Practitioner Mr. Lu Shunmin's teeth were knocked out by an electric baton when guard Chen Youzhi tortured him in 2003. He reported the incident many times but never got a response. Some wrongfully convicted inmates filed complaints whenever the inspection happened, but nothing changed even after many years.
All other inspections are merely formalities. Many are done over a video stream. The prison is notified in advance, and the inspection is conducted after the prison prepares and stages everything.
Internal inspections in Zhengzhou Prison were undertaken more than once a week, at the prison level or section level. Some inspections were scheduled and some were random.
In addition to the weekly inspection, thorough inspections are done on major holidays, when detainees have to move all their belongings, including bedding, downstairs for inspection. The guards go through them carelessly and throw things around on the ground. They are specifically picky when handling belongings of Falun Gong practitioners.