(Minghui.org) Having barely survived 8.5 years of torture in custody for practicing Falun Gong, Ms. Zhai Cuixia was devastated to see her pension suspended since 2021. In addition, the authorities also demanded that she return what she had received while serving time incarcerated for her beliefs.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline with five meditative exercises. It’s been persecuted in China since July 1999 because of its immense popularity.
Ms. Zhai, of Yuanbaoshan Town, Chifeng City, served two labor camp terms and a prison term, for a total of 8.5 years. She was subjected to all kinds of torture methods and almost died.
The labor camp and prison guards constantly beat her, handcuffed and shackled her in an unnatural position for long periods of time. Sometimes they hung her up by the wrists, shocked her with electric batons, deprived her of sleep, and force fed her nerve-damaging drugs.
Her family was also implicated in the persecution. Her endless arrests and incarcerations traumatized her husband and put heavy financial burden on him. He died in 2012 while Ms. Zhai was still in prison. Their daughter had to drop out of school and live with relatives. The authorities did not allow the young woman to attend her father’s funeral. Her brother was heartbroken by their father’s death and mother’s imprisonment. He left home and has gone missing for the past 20 plus years.
Practicing Falun Gong Saves Her Life and Family
Before Ms. Zhai learned Falun Gong, she had a hot temper. She often engaged in physical fights with her husband. Years went by and she developed hepatitis, cervical inflammation, spinal disc extrusion, nasal inflammation, and abnormal growth in the breasts.
All of the symptoms vanished two months after she took up Falun Gong in 1997. She lived by the principles of the teachings: Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance and stopped fighting with her husband. Her family of four lived a peaceful life again.
Going to Beijing to Speak up for Falun Gong
After former Chinese communist regime leader Jiang Zemin launched the persecution, Ms. Zhai went to Beijing to speak up for Falun Gong in October 1999. The authorities refused to let her into the state council’s appeals office and called the police on her. The police arrested her and put her into Xicheng Detention Center, where the guards stripped her and poured cold water on her to humiliate her. Thirteen days later, she was transferred back to her hometown and detained in Yuangbaoshan District Detention Center in Chifeng City.
Ruthless Torture at the Detention Center
As soon as Ms. Zhai was brought into Yuanbaoshan District Detention Center, she was greeted with dozens of reporters, who photographed her and the escorting officers, asking why she went to Beijing. She told the reporters that the persecution was illegal and that the propaganda on television against Falun Gong was fabricated. An officer shouted at her and ordered her to stop. He threatened to slap her in the face, but relented as the cameras were still on. After the reporters left, the detention center guards had her stand in the hallway without heating until midnight on a cold winter day.
One day a guard caught Ms. Zhai doing the Falun Gong exercises and took her to the deputy director’s office. The director beat her and put a 10-pound shackle and handcuff on her. When she accused him of violating the detention center rules, the director said they made exceptions for Falun Gong practitioners, “If you die, it will be counted as suicide. You are just like a chickling to us and we can do whatever we want.”
The next day the guards put shackles on her leg and handcuffed her behind her feet. They called the torture “Reaching the Shackles.” This way, she couldn’t sit with her back straight, neither could she lie down or stand. The shackles and handcuff stayed on for days, which caused her unbearable pain. She went on a hunger strike until the torture stopped. In the next two months, she had to kneel and squat for extended periods every day.
Brainwashing at Another Detention Center
An officer arrested Ms. Zhai again in May 2000 when she was working on the farm. They put her in Yuanbaoshan District Detention Center because she refused to write the three statements to renounce Falun Gong. Four people from the 610 Office came to brainwash her around the clock. They would not let her sleep for days.
They made her do the “Duck Walk.” In this torture, she was forced to squat in her bare feet, with both hands behind her back, while carrying 60 pounds of cornmeal. She then had to walk back and forth in this position for a whole morning on hot summer days on sandy ground. Another practitioner, Ms. Bu Guoqin, who couldn’t squat, had to crawl carrying the cornmeal on her back, which ruined her knee caps.
After Ms. Zhai came back from finishing the “Duck Walk,” the guards forced her to sit in icy cold water and had other detainees pour buckets of cold water on her. Even practitioners who had menstrual periods were also subjected to the inhumane treatment.
When the practitioners remained unmoved despite the torture, the guards then ordered them to jump quickly with legs lifted up high. If they slowed down, the guards whipped them with a 4 cm. diameter plastic pipe. Seeing that they could still jump after a while, the guards forced them to do it under the scorching sun and emptied their water bottles. They were forced to jump for over an hour.
Later on, Ms. Zhai and seven other practitioners were forced to do the “Frog Jump.” They were forced to squat together with the person behind holding the ears of the person in the front. They were forced to jump simultaneously without letting go of the ears. Some practitioners’ ears were torn and bled.
In another torture, the guards forced the practitioners to jump in circles on one leg, still holding each others' ears.
Once the guards aimed the hose used to water the garden on the practitioners, causing them to suffocate.
One evening a guard claimed to let Ms. Zhai sleep and had her lie on her stomach on the bed, after depriving her of sleep for days. Then they ordered the inmates to pour water on her and other practitioners. As the beds were connected, everyone’s clothes and daily necessities kept under the bed were all soaked.
Then the guards dragged Ms. Zhai outside. Instead of having her lie on her stomach, they forced her to kneel on the ground and placed her hands on the ground as well. They put a bucket of water on her back and didn’t allow her to move for a long period of time.
The guards told her that once she renounced Falun Gong, the tortures would stop. She wouldn’t do so. The guards then stripped her and whipped her back with a hard leather belt, which was called the “Open Skin” torture. While whipping her, the detention center director Zhang Haiqing shouted at her, “If I can’t straighten you out tonight, I’ll quit my job as the detention center director. I will give you a taste of the proletariat’s dictatorship. I will beat you into pieces or even beat you to death!”
The whipping force was so hard that Ms. Zhai quickly lost consciousness. The guards kicked her head to see if she was alive. When she came to, they kicked her even harder. After three hours of torture, she managed to walk back to her cell at 2 a.m. A detainee told her, “We thought you died. The whipping noise sounded like fire crackers. We we all terrified and cried.”
The guards handcuffed two practitioners together. They were unable to fully lie down to sleep, nor could they take off the clothes soaked by water.
The next morning, a guard took Ms. Zhai to director Zhang’s office. The director, after knowing that she had been to Beijing to appeal for Falun Gong, kicked her with his hard sole shoe. He kicked her head up like a ball and stomped on it. Then he twisted his foot on her face. She felt like her head was as swollen as a wash basin. A few people then rushed over to beat her. The director dragged her by the hair in the hallway. Later he placed an object around her neck and dragged her around, and the pain caused her to pass out. As soon as she came to, a guard shocked her with an electric baton.
Two months later the authorities transferred her to Chifeng City Detention Center, where she was tortured for two more weeks. The guards had her memorize the detention center rules and beat her when she did the Falun Gong exercises. She went on a hunger strike to protest the abuse.
Persecution Inside Forced Labor Camp
The authorities arbitrarily gave Ms. Zhai one year of forced labor in Tumuji Women’s Forced Labor Campin August 2000. The night she got there, she did the Falun Gong exercises, and the guards rushed over to beat her. They also ordered her to squat overnight.
During a brainwashing session on the next day, a guard questioned her whether she would correct her mistake (of practicing Falun Gong). She replied, “I’ll continue to live by the principles of Falun Gong.” The guard grabbed her hair and punched her face until she fell. She also kicked and stomped on her.
A few months later, Ms. Zhai went on a hunger strike to protest the brainwashing. The guards put her in another brigade, where she had to work outside in the bitter cold. She had to put on layer upon layer of clothes to pick corncobs in an immense field from morning until dusk.
One evening a head guard beat Ms. Zhai after finding out that she did the Falun Gong exercises. The next day, after Ms. Zhai came back to the labor camp after working, the guard ordered her to strip to her underpants to humiliate her.
She had to kneel down and put her head in a bucket meant for the detainees to urinate. Because the toilets were located outside of the building and the gate was closed in the evenings, all of the 80 detainees had to use the bucket at night. They would shove the bucket under her head after they relieved themselves.
The hallway was not heated and, being naked, she couldn’t stop shivering. Fearing that she might die, the head guard put her back in the cell and had the detainees keep her awake all night. She still had to work the next morning and came back to be tortured the same way for the next few days.
The head guard threatened Ms. Zhai with extreme torture if she didn’t give up her practice. She did not back down. The guard gave orders to handcuff her and hung her up in the air with her handcuffs attached to a high bar. After a while, she had excruciating pain in her shoulders and wrists. She stayed in the air around the clock except at mealtimes. One day another head guard came in and saw that she had blood coming out of her mouth and nose and ordered that she be let down.
When her husband and 12-year-old daughter came to see her, the authorities kept them waiting outside in the cold for a long time. When the family met, Ms. Zhai was heartbroken to see both her husband and daughter looking so miserable. Their faces were pale and their lips purple, and her daughter's clothes were filthy.
A head guard allowed her daughter to stay in the cell with her for a night. She washed her daughter’s jacket and put her own clothes on the girl. A detainee told her daughter, “If you didn’t come today, your mother would be tortured as we speak. They torture her every day.” The detainee then told the daughter what Ms. Zhai had endured in the labor camp, and the daughter cried the entire time. Before they went to bed, a guard came in to handcuff Ms. Zhai.
The next day, her husband took her daughter home. “Mom, when are you coming home?” the little girl asked Ms. Zhai while crying. “I’ll be home soon.”
Ms. Zhai walked them to the gate. As they walked away, the girl kept turning back and called, “Mom! Mom!”
After Ms. Zhai returned to her cell, the head guard said to her, “See how miserable your child is with you being here? Have you come to your senses (to renounce Falun Gong)?” She replied that she’d continue her practice.
The guard was infuriated and ordered to hang her up again. This time, they did not let her down during meal times. A detainee spotted that she wasn’t moving and reported to the head guard. The head guard brought her to an office, and she told the head guard, “I am not dead yet.” She then proceeded to tell the guard why the persecution was wrong and the propaganda on television was meant to slander Falun Gong. The guard said to her, “I know that Falun Gong practitioners are good people, but I need this job to feed my family. Can’t you just work with us (and renounce Falun Gong)?” She steadfastly refused.
Every day before the detainees left the labor camp to go to work in the field, the guards made them shout the slogans, “Wash away the stains and become a new person.” One day Ms. Zhai did not comply and protested the torture of other practitioners. A head guard viciously beat her. When she came back from work, she still refused to shout the slogans to enter the door. The guards made her stand outside.
Because Ms. Zhai refused to renounce Falun Gong, the authorities arbitrarily extended her term twice, for a total of five months. She went to a head guard’s office to question the decision. The guard told her that the authorities had intended to extend her term for a year. Upon hearing about it, other practitioners all planned a strike to show their support for Ms. Zhai. She was thus released when the five-month extended term expired.
When Ms. Zhai got home, she was devastated. Things were scattered on the floor. The grass in the yard was as tall as the wall. She spent four days cleaning everything up. A neighbor told her that her husband drank every night and sat in the yard crying. He heard from his daughter how her mother was tortured in the camp and couldn’t bear it.
She learned that her son went to college while she was in the labor camp. Her husband borrowed a lot of money to pay for the tuition and the family was in a lot of debt. Her daughter had to drop out of school and go to live with her aunt.
Force-fed and Water-boarded in Detention Center
Just as Ms. Zhai brought her daughter back from the relative’s, the police broke into her home and arrested her again, leaving her daughter at home alone.
Ms. Zhai went on a hunger strike as soon as she was taken to the Yuanbaoshan District Detention Center. Five days later the guards began to force-feed her milk powder with a large amount of salt. A deputy director ordered a few male detainees to hold her down on a board as they pinched her nose. She opened her mouth gasping for air. The deputy director held a large bucket of water up high and poured the water over her face. The fast running water filled her windpipe and nearly suffocated her. At the moment the guards ordered the detainees to sing out loud to cover her horrid screaming.
The next morning Ms. Zhai heard the guards waterboarding a practitioner in the hallway and shouted for them to stop. The director rushed to her cell, knocked her down, and stomped on her head. A few armed guards rushed in to beat her. They threw her outside in the hallway, and the guards waterboarded her. The next day they put her on a Death Bed, on which her four limbs were chained to the four corners of the bed. Her bones and muscles hurt terribly from staying in that unnatural position for such a long time.
Several days later a guard notified her husband that she was on the verge of death, “Bring 2,000 yuan to the detention center to bail her out.” He did not have that sum of money, and borrowed 1,000 yuan from his sister to take his wife home.
Fleeing Home to Avoid Further Persecution
One morning in fall 2002, as soon as Ms. Zhai stepped outside of her home, a dozen officers rushed over and arrested her. They shoved her into a police vehicle and took her to Chifeng City Brainwashing Center. A collaborator (a former practitioner who had given up her belief under pressure and worked with the authorities to persecute other practitioners) ordered Ms. Zhai to squat. She refused. The collaborator began to beat her, tied her hands, and hung her up on a heating pipe. When Ms. Zhai passed out from the pain, the collaborator stabbed her fingers with needles and pinched her face to wake her up.
She went on a hunger strike, and the collaborator started to deprive her of sleep. The extreme physical stress nearly killed Ms. Zhai. After she was released, she wrote an article to Minghui.org and exposed how the authorities persecuted and tortured her. The authorities saw that article and put her on a wanted list. To avoid future arrests, she had to leave home and become destitute.
Tortured in Forced Labor Camp
Ms. Zhai found a job and lived with practitioners who were in the same situation as she. One night in May 2004 she was alone sleeping in their rented place, when a group of police officers opened the door.
The police had intended to arrest the other two practitioners, so they were surprised to see Ms. Zhai there. They kicked her, put a mop in her mouth to prevent her from screaming, and took her to Yuanbaoshan District Police Department. The interrogation room was sound-proof and the wall was covered with sponge.
When an officers asked where she got the printer and computer and who made the Falun Gong fliers, Ms. Zhai figured that they had arrested other practitioners earlier on and used their keys to come in the house. She refused to answer the questions and the police put her in a metal chair, where her arms and legs were tied to the chair.
The next morning while she remained in the metal chair, she saw a guard bring over a practitioner, Mr. Wang Yanping, whose face was swollen and covered in blood. Fearing that Mr. Wang may not be able to stand the torture, Ms. Zhai admitted to the guards that she owned the computer and made the fliers. The guards did not believe her at first but she insisted. The authorities thus gave her three years in a forced labor camp and Mr. Wang two years. Ms. Zhai went on a hunger strike at the detention center for months and was force fed heavily salted milk.
Ms. Zhai was taken to the Hohhot Women’s Forced Labor Camp in August 2004. As soon as she got there, a head guard placed her in a storage room and assaulted her around the clock. The room’s door and window were covered with newspaper. Hanging down from the ceiling were a metal chain and handcuffs. There was a helmet on the wall. The room was filled with the odor of blood.
The guard slapped her, hung her up after she couldn’t stand anymore, and shoved a mop in her mouth. She was forced to wear the helmet, which caused her to faint. Despite the fact that she already had over one month of hunger strike and was very weak, the guards didn’t alleviate the savage beating of her.
Later, she was taken out of the storage room and placed in the second team, where she had to work during the day and was subjected to brainwashing, beating, standing during night.
After a while they put her in the third team, where she had to do labor intensive work such as packaging chopsticks. One day a head guard came in with a few detainees, threatening to torture her. She sat still and told them that nothing would change her mind. From then on the head guard never tried any torture on her.
A few months later she was transferred to the first team, where she went through brainwashing sessions every day. When the brainwashing failed, the guards made her do the unpaid labor and arbitrarily extended her term for 21 days. She was released in May 2007.
Vicious Tortures and Drug Administration in Prison
Ms. Zhai went to a neighboring village on April 13, 2012 to raise awareness about the persecution. An officer arrested her and put her in Yuanbaoshan District Detention Center. The police ransacked her home and confiscated her personal belongings while no one was home.
Ms. Zhai was tried on August 21, 2012, and sentenced her to four years in prison. Two days prior to her transfer to the prison, her husband died in a car accident. Her daughter called the detention center and asked that she be allowed to go home to take care of her husband’s funeral. The answer was no.
The authorities took Ms. Zhai to the Inner Mongolia Women’s Prison in November 2012 without informing her family. One morning a head guard came to her cell and, without saying a word, punched her in the chest and started beating her. She fell down and the guard stomped on her mouth and shocked her with an electric baton. She lost bowel control right then. Her chest hurt and her teeth loosened after that. All of her teeth fell out one after another before the end of her term.
The guards assigned a few prisoners to watch her. The prisoners held her down to take her blood pressure and claimed that she had hypertension. They insisted that she take the medicine and she refused. For the next two months they kept force feeding her the unknown medicine, which made her numb and tight in the head. She trembled, couldn’t think straight or focus, was exhausted and sluggish, and her stomach burned all the time. When night came, as soon as she fell asleep, she felt like she was falling off a cliff and woke up terrified. One day she felt so nauseated and awful that, without thinking, she tried to jump out of the window. The bars stopped her. The guards force-fed her more drugs and forced her to stand still.
Ms. Zhai became skin and bones. She was so disfigured that her cell mates asked her to cover her face when she slept because they got scared seeing her face at night.
Ms. Zhai didn’t realize her irrational behaviors were caused by the drug until the Chinese New Year came. For four days during the holiday, no one force fed her the medicine, and she gradually became clear-headed and felt comfortable physically. Later she fought hard to not take the medicine, even when the head guard threatened her. In the end they gave up. To retaliate, the guards did not let her call her family for a year.
Later a prisoner who used to be a drug addict told Ms. Zhai that when she was held in a rehab center, people there gave her the wrong medicine for her addiction. She ended up with the exact same symptoms Ms. Zhai had (including trying to jump out of a building, numbness and shivering), after she was given the medicine. The prisoner warned that she might have been given psychiatric drugs.
Ms. Zhai made up her mind that she had to resist the persecution. Since then, she refused to memorize the prison rules, wear a tag, sign documents, or work with the guards. A head guard threatened to put her in the team specialized in torturing Falun Gong practitioners.
The day Ms. Zhai was released, a guard had her sign a piece of paper, and she refused, “I was never guilty.” The guard put her back in the prison. A while later they told her to get ready and let her go. Her daughter and son in-law were there to pick her up, and the daughter could barely recognize her mother, as she was disfigured due to the tortures.
The local bureau of social security suspended Ms. Zhai’s pension in 2021 and demanded that she return the funds she'd already received, without providing an explanation. She sued Yuanbaoshan District Social Security Bureau in 2022 for the financial persecution. The Yuanbaoshan District Court ruled in favor of the social security bureau.
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