Name: Zhao QunlanChinese Name: 赵群兰Gender: FemaleAge: 58City: YueyangProvince: Hunan Occupation: N/ADate of Death: December 16, 2022Date of Most Recent Arrest: May 2009Most Recent Place of Detention: Hunan Province Women’s Prison

Ms. Zhao Qunlan struggled with severe heart condition and high blood pressure, after she endured five years of torture and involuntary drug administration in prison for her faith in Falun Gong. 

With her health continuing to deteriorate, Ms. Zhao was dealt another blow when the authorities suspended her pension since 2020. The mental, physical and financial persecution took a toll on her health. The Yueyang City, Hunan Province resident passed away on December 16, 2022. She was 58. Even the day before her passing, the residential committee still harassed her.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

Several Arrests for Speaking up for Falun Gong

Ms. Zhao used to suffer from migraine and lower back pain. She also had constant colds and other minor ailments. Although she was 5’3’’ tall, she only weighed 99 lbs. After she started to practice Falun Gong in January 1997, she soon regained her health.

Due to Falun Gong’s immense popularity, the Chinese communist regime ordered the nationwide persecution of the practice in July 1999. Deceived by the demonizing propaganda, Ms. Zhao’s family all opposed her in continuing the practice. They beat her and also burned her Falun Gong books. She felt the world was collapsing. 

For doing Falun Gong exercises with several other practitioners, Ms. Zhao was arrested on March 2, 2000 and held at the Hubin Lockup for over 40 days.

In May 2000, shortly after she was released, she went to Beijing to appeal for the right to practice Falun Gong, only to be arrested by plainclothes police. She was held in a metal cage in a detention facility in Beijing. Hours later, she was transferred back to Yueyang and held at the Yunxi Detention Center for a month. Her family was forced to pay for her living cost in custody. 

Ms. Zhao was arrested again in November 2000 for distributing informational materials about Falun Gong. The police tied her hands and hung her up by the wrists in the air. They pushed her around, causing excruciating pain in her wrists. She was sweating profusely and passed out. By the time she was let down, she had lost feelings in her hands. Her body was also bruised and severely swollen, rendering her unable to care for herself.

When she was later transferred to the Yueyang No. 1 Detention Center, the inmates made fun of her and said she was so swollen that she looked like a panda. After another 40 days of detention, she held a hunger strike in protest. The police released her after extorting 3,000 yuan from her family.

During her several detentions, her husband was extorted a total of 20,000 yuan. Even though he paid for her living expenses in detention, the food she was given was even worse than pig slop.

Torture and Toxic Drug Injection during 1.5-year Labor Camp Term

Ms. Zhao was arrested again in January 2001 at home. She was held in a dark room overnight and transferred to the Yueyang No. 1 Detention Center on the next day. When she held a hunger strike in protest, several guards pressed her legs, hands and head, before prying open her mouth with a metal screwdriver and inserting a sharpened bamboo tube into her throat. Her throat was severely damaged and she coughed for a few months afterwards. 

Five days later, the police gave her 1.5 years at the Baimalong Forced Labor Camp without any due process. 

It was only a few days before the Chinese New Year when she was taken to the labor camp. There, she saw many fellow practitioners who were sent there after being arrested at home. Some were still wearing pajamas and slippers because they were never given a chance to change their clothes during the arrest. 

A brainwashing campaign started after the Chinese New Year holiday. The guards used all kinds of torture methods on each individual practitioner in an attempt to force them to renounce Falun Gong. 

Ms. Zhao was often handcuffed to the metal fence. She was also forced to stand outdoors in the freezing winter and scorching summer. Other torture methods included sitting on a small stool without moving for hours and force feeding. The inmates followed and monitored her around the clock, including when she slept, used the restroom or took a shower. Her body was covered with extremely itchy scabies and festered. 

When Ms. Zhao’s term expired in July 2002, the guards refused to release her. Many other practitioners also had their terms extended. They held hunger strike one month later in protest. The guards retaliated by injecting them with toxic drugs. Ms. Zhao fell into a delirious and drowsy state afterwards.

Torture reenactment: Being hung up

Later Ms. Zhao was taken to the “transformation team,” a division designated to persecute Falun Gong practitioners. Three inmates were assigned to torture her. They hung her arms to the top rail of a bunk bed, with her feet barely touching the ground. The inmates also placed a stool behind her back, leaving her unable to stand straight. She was also deprived of sleep. Whenever she closed her eyes, the inmates wiped mint essential oil into her nose or eyes. Sometimes they beat and pinched her. Before long, her arms became severely swollen and the handcuffs cut deeply into her wrists.

Since October 2002, the guards began to force the practitioners to work without pay. Ms. Zhao wasn’t released until March 2003, when it was eight months past the end of her term. Due to the drug administration, she suffered severe memory loss and couldn’t remember the names of her family and friends. She remained in a delirious state and also had difficulty talking and blurred vision. The symptoms took years to disappear.

Forced to Divorce

During Ms. Zhao’s labor camp term, her husband, who had been laid off many years ago, struggled to find a job to support their teenage son and family. Unable to bear the pressure, he divorced her. 

Meanwhile, their son also changed from a cheerful boy to someone who was withdrawn. He quit high school after one year of study and moved out of town at the age of 17 with his father to work. 

Ms. Zhao stayed at her parents’ home after she was released, yet the police and 610 Office agents kept coming to harass her, including searching her parents’ room for Falun Gong books. To avoid having her family living in fear, she was forced into displacement in 2004.

One More Arrest

Ms. Zhao was arrested one more time on May 12, 2006 with two other practitioners, Ms. Peng Xiaohui and Ms. Leng Xuefei, who were sharing the rental apartment together. The three of them were all interrogated. Their cash of 20,000 yuan and computer and other devices worth up to 50,000 yuan, as well as another 1,000 yuan in cash Ms. Zhao had with her were confiscated. No confiscation list was given to them. 

The three practitioners were taken to the Yueyang No.1 Detention Center a few days later. The guards stripped them naked and poured cold water on them. The inmates also sexually assaulted Ms. Zhao, beat, and verbally abused her. When her brother took her home two months later, her body was covered with bruises.

Sentenced to Three Years

Ms. Zhao’s last arrest was in May 2009 when she was walking on the street. Four officers grabbed her from behind and dragged her into their car. After taking her to the Yueyang No. 1 Detention Center, officer Cai Dechun grabbed her hair and hit her head against the ground. A handful of her hair fell out and a large bump appeared on her head. Meanwhile, the detention center guards forced Ms. Zhao to work without pay. They twice handcuffed her behind her back when she protested. 

The Junshan District Court held a hearing of Ms. Zhao’s case on August 4, 2009. Her two lawyers entered a not guilty plea for her. The lawyers argued that no law has ever criminalized Falun Gong in China and that it’s courageous and heroic for Falun Gong practitioners to stand up against the communist regime’s tyranny. The judge later sentenced her to three years at the Hunan Province Women’s Prison. 

For over two years, Ms. Zhao was held at cell No. 4 in the sixth ward of the prison. There were six bunk beds in the room of twenty square meters, leaving almost no extra space. Yet Ms. Zhao and other inmates were ordered to stay in the cell all the time, including eating, sleeping and using the restroom. They also did the forced labor in the same place, from 6 a.m. to late night. The room was always filled with a foul smell from the restroom and the smell from the bamboo mats they made.

The inmates closely monitored Ms. Zhao and other Falun Gong practitioners in the cell, preventing them from talking to each other or doing Falun Gong exercises. She couldn’t even sit on the bed with her eyes closed or stretch her hand. Everything she did would be reported to the guards.

Due to long term incarceration and forced labor, Ms. Zhao suffered systemic swelling and declined vision. She began to have chest pain, palpitations, and difficulty breathing since October 2011. After a physical checkup, the doctor found she had insufficient blood supply to her heart. She also developed high blood pressure due to malnutrition. The prison refused to provide treatment to her and still forced her to work without pay.

After Ms. Zhao was released on March 20, 2012, her health continued to deteriorate, with persistent chest pain and difficulty breathing. She was out of breath when climbing the stairs and she was unable to do any labor.

Pension Suspension

After Ms. Zhao reached the retirement age of 55 in 2019, her younger brother borrowed 80,000 yuan to pay her overdue pension contribution, so that she could start to receive a monthly payment enough to get by. 

Starting in September 2020, the Junshan District Social Security Bureau (SSB) suspended her pension without providing any explanation. She travelled a dozen times to the SSB to seek justice upon finding out about the suspension, but to no avail. 

Ms. Zhao went to the SSB again in late December 2020. The two directors, Han Menglian and Xiao, insisted that her service at work prior to 1996 and during her three-year prison term between 2009 and 2012, totaling 15 years, would all be wiped out from her pension calculation, even though she had worked for over 30 years before retirement. 

The SSB claimed that in order for her to start receiving her pension again, she must return all the pension she had received since she retired, which amounted to 134,000 yuan, and make an additional contribution to make up for the wiped-out 15 years of service. 

Her brother and other family members helped her pay the 134,000 yuan. The SSB then reset the clock of her retirement and recalculated her monthly payment to be 1,300 yuan, only about half of her original benefits. 

Five officials, including Cai Zhongwen, the secretary of local residential committee, Kuang Zimu, the new security director and Yan Dingji, the security director who just retired, as well as two officials from the provincial government, came to harass Ms. Zhao again on November 15, 2022. 

An official surnamed Yu from the provincial government said they were with the poverty lifting team and they came to help her. Ms. Zhao told them how she regained her health by practicing Falun Gong, but then began to suffer health issues due to the torture and drug administration in prison. She was supposed to receive over 3,000 yuan every month after she retired, yet the authorities withheld more than half of it, causing her tremendous financial difficulty.

Before she finished, Yu interrupted her and slandered Falun Gong. Ms. Zhao tried to clarify the facts, but was stopped by secretary Cai. 

For the next few weeks, the officials from the residential committee harassed Ms. Zhao a few times, including on December 15, one day before her passing.

Related report:

Yueyang City, Hunan Province: Falun Gong Practitioners’ Service at Work Wiped Out and Pension Arbitrarily Suspended