(Minghui.org) Once a convicted robber, Mr. Li Guangqing, 66, credits Falun Gong for turning his life around. He, however, was imprisoned for 19 years after he was arrested in October 2000 for appealing for his right to practice Falun Gong. He was arrested again on August 5, 2021 and is again facing prosecution for his faith.

Mr. Li, a native of Yingcheng City, Hubei Province, was sentenced to 18 years for robbery, at the age of 24. He escaped three times and saw his term extended by 11 years. Though his fourth escape, which took place in 1989, was successful, he lived every day in fear and couldn’t go home to reunite with his family. Although he managed to start a private business and was doing well, he still felt that the future was bleak and he did not know what purpose his life had.

Seven years later, on June 15, 1996, Mr. Li came across a group of people doing the Falun Gong exercises at Hongshan Park in Wuhan City, Hubei Province. Drawn to the beautiful music and calming, slow-moving exercises, he became interested in Falun Gong, an ancient spiritual and meditation discipline with the core principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance.

He borrowed a copy of Zhuan Falun, the main book of Falun Gong, and finished reading the book that night. Moved by its profound teaching and inspired by the idea of returning to one’s original, true self through spiritual elevation, he decided to start practicing Falun Gong and living according to Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance to be a good person. 

Since then, he changed into a different person and started his life anew. 

His peaceful life, however, was shattered again when the Chinese Communist Party suddenly ordered the persecution of Falun Gong in July 1999 due to its popularity and revival of traditional values. 

Despite the danger of being arrested again and taken back to prison, Mr. Li decided to go to Beijing to appeal for the right to practice Falun Gong. 

In Beijing, he was arrested and taken back to prison in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, where he served his previous term for robbery. Months later, the judge announced a new 19-year prison term against him, for his earlier prison escape and for practicing Falun Gong.

After his release in January 2019, Mr. Li moved back to his hometown in Yingcheng City, Hubei Province. He was arrested again on August 5, 2021 for raising awareness about the persecution of Falun Gong. 

Several days before his latest arrest, Mr. Li had been briefly detained. At around 9 p.m. on July 30, 2021, he was stopped by three police officers on the street as he was heading home after distributing informational materials about Falun Gong. The officers snatched his bag and took him to the Shuilu Police Station.

The police found over 30 copies of Falun Gong materials in his bag and took pictures of the materials. When they asked him where he got the materials, he refused to answer.

At 10 p.m., the police ransacked Mr. Li’s home and confiscated his Falun Gong books, materials, photo of Falun Gong’s founder, a DVD player and a copier.

Although the police released him that evening, they arrested him at home several days later. Mr. Li is now detained at the Xiaogan City Lockup and is facing possible prosecution again.

Below is Mr. Li’s personal account.

Regaining Hope after Getting Lost in Life

I was born in 1955 in Yingcheng City, Hubei Province. In September 1979, I was sentenced to 18 years in prison for robbery when I was 24. I first served time at the Dajunshan Glass Factory in Hanyang County in Hubei Province and then was transferred to the Huanggou Prison in Kuytun City, Xinjiang Autonomous Region. 

Because I didn’t agree with the lengthy prison term, I escaped from prison three times and was penalized by getting an additional 11 years. 

One day in September 1989, I escaped successfully from prison for the fourth time. After returning to society, I was in hiding all the time and couldn’t return home. I lived every day in fear. Although I started a business in my home province of Hubei and was doing well, I still felt lost and didn’t know the purpose of life.

On June 15, 1996, I came across some Falun Gong practitioners at the Hongshan Park in Wuhan City, Hubei Province. I was drawn to Falun Gong’s slow-moving exercises and the core principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance. I borrowed the book Zhuan Falun from a practitioner and finished reading it in one night.

I was deeply moved by Falun Gong’s profound teaching. I only wished I had come upon it earlier. Since then, I began to practice Falun Gong and live by the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance. I felt that a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I was filled with hope. My life was changed forever from that point on.

Taken Back to Prison for Speaking Up for Falun Gong

After the persecution started on July 20, 1999, many practitioners were arrested. Their homes were ransacked and their Falun Gong books burned. 

Still having hope in the government, many practitioners went to Beijing to speak up for Falun Gong and appeal for the right to practice their faith.

I was facing a life-death choice: I was afraid of being taken back to the prison in Xinjiang if I went to Beijing and got arrested. But if I did not step up, I would not be able to face my own conscience. After one sleepless night, I decided that I must go to Beijing. I couldn’t be held back by my fear.

Leaving my business behind, I went to Beijing in October 2000. The atmosphere there was tense and policemen were on patrol everywhere. 

I checked into a hotel. Little did I know that over 100 practitioners were also staying there, with most of them coming from Chongqing. Around midnight, the police surrounded the hotel and arrested all the practitioners, myself included.

The police took me to a detention center. I was body-searched. The 650 yuan in my pocket, my leather shoes, belt, and watch were all taken away. I asked for a receipt for the confiscated items, only to be whipped in the back with my leather belt. 

One week later, I was taken to the Beijing Train Station by two police officers from Hubei Province. Another ten practitioners from Hubei were also there. The police ordered us to buy the train tickets ourselves. After I said that all the cash I had was confiscated by the police, a practitioner from Wuhan spent over 200 yuan and bought the ticket for me. 

As soon as I got off the train in Wuhan, officers from the Yingcheng City Police Department handcuffed me and took me to my hometown in Yingcheng. 

I confessed to the police that I had escaped from prison earlier. A week later, two prison guards came from Xinjiang and took me back to the Huanggou Prison.

A Renewed Prison Term of 19 Years

It was – 4 °F in Xinjiang when I was taken back there in November 2000. The guards held me in solitary confinement and kept me shackled. I slept on a wood board and was given only a thin blanket. I trembled from the cold at night. My whole body also turned black and itchy. But no matter how bad I felt, as long as I began to do the Falun Gong meditation, I was able to calm down and the painful feeling was gone. Different from the previous time when I was imprisoned and always felt uneasy, I felt calm and an inner peace after I was taken back there this time.

A few days later, several people from the Kuytun City Court came to question me. They asked me why I practiced Falun Gong. I said to them, “Falun Gong teaches people to practice Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. It helps improve people’s charater and turns them into good people. I took many detours in life in the past and could not extricate myself, but Master Li Hongzhi [the founder of Falun Gong] showed me a bright path.”

One of them said, “Falun Gong has been outlawed. You will be prosecuted if you continue to practice it.” 

I replied, “I didn’t do anything wrong in practicing Falun Gong and being a good person; why do you have to persecute good people?”

Seeing that they were unable to persuade me, they left. 

In April 2001, four people came to the prison and put me on trial. They accused me of illegally practicing Falun Gong and sentenced me to 19 years.

Tortured in Prison

This prison had four squadrons and each squadron had ten teams. I was assigned to the No. 2 Team in the No. 1 Squadron. Once I arrived at the facility, everyone knew that I had escaped from the prison four times and was arrested for appealing in Beijing for Falun Gong.

In order to force me to renounce Falun Gong, the guards mobilized everyone in the entire squadron to torture me.

Every day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., the inmates, in groups of two, took turns every two hours monitoring and torturing me.

They forced me to run, squat, stand in military style, do push-ups, and push my head against wall with my legs far from the wall. They beat me and chased after me with a broom if I did not follow their orders perfectly. Once, when I ran a little slow, a strongly-built inmate slapped me in the face and caused a tooth to fall out. He threatened me, “If you don’t listen to us, I will knock all of your teeth out!”

Sometimes I was forced to stand under the scorching sun. At night, I was verbally abused and slapped in the face by the inmates.

In addition to the physical torture, the guards also subjected all Falun Gong practitioners to very poor living conditions. I was only fed one steamed bun and one bowl of vegetable soup every meal, every day. Soon, I was emaciated. 

One month later, guard Li Qiang said they’d stop torturing me if I agreed to sign the statements to renounce Falun Gong. I refused and the persecution continued.

One year later, the judge from the Kuytun City Court offered me a term reduction if I promised to stop practicing Falun Gong. I refused to comply. 

Starting in April 2007, the persecution against Falun Gong in Xinjiang intensified. I was suddenly moved to Beiye Prison in Shihezi City in the same province. This prison was a concentration camp with the most severe torture of practitioners. Most practitioners were facing constant beatings, kicks, and electric shocks.

There were two buildings in this prison designated to imprison Falun Gong practitioners. Inside the buildings were cages constructed of welded metal bars. The practitioners were locked inside the cages with both hands cuffed and legs shackled. The cages were so small that they couldn’t even lift their heads. They were fed two meals a day, with one half of a steamed bun and a small cup of water for each meal.

At the end in June 2008, the guards conducted a prison-wide search. The hand-written teachings of Falun Gong that I had were snatched. The lead guard asked me where I copied the poems from. I said that I wrote them down from memory.

The lead guard said, “You are a prisoner. You have to obey the laws and the prison rules. Practicing Falun Gong is not allowed by law. You should not write those poems in the prison.” I denied that I did anything wrong in practicing Falun Gong. 

The lead guard insisted that I admit the mistake to everyone in the teams that evening. After I refused, two inmates came up and dragged me to the No. 1 Team. I shouted “Falun Dafa is good” in protest. One inmate put me in a chokehold and I couldn’t make a sound. Then the other inmates surrounded me and took turns beating me. 

After all the inmates from all ten teams finished beating me, my head was covered with blood and was swollen. I also lost two teeth.

That night, I was shackled, handcuffed, and locked in an isolation unit. Two inmates were assigned to watch me. They did not allow me to sit down or sleep. Despite the low temperature, they poured a bucket of cold water into the isolation unit every day. They played a high-pitched speaker loudly in front of the door to torment me. I was dizzy and my ears were ringing. They ordered me again to sign the “three statements,” which I refused. After 15 days of detention there, I was let out.

After enduring almost two decades of imprisonment and torture, I was released on January 4, 2019.

Chinese version available

Category: Accounts of Persecution