For more than 13 years the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has carried out an irrational persecution of innocent Falun Gong practitioners. Many practitioners have been tortured to disability, suffered mental collapse, or have died as a result of this brutal persecution. Masanjia Women's Forced Labour Camp is one of the most notorious places in China where the persecution is carried out. This is my account of what I heard and witnessed during the two years that I was detained there.
The officials who run the camp launched another round of frenzied persecution in November 2010 and used many types of torture on each practitioner.
A 63-year-old practitioner from Benxi City was forced to squat on a brick floor for long periods of time and her feet became numb. Division head Zhang Jun came over and violently kicked her feet. Shi Yu, head of the labour camp at the time, a male head, and a number of young officers rushed in and out of the cells where practitioners were detained every day, abusing and torturing them. Practitioner Ms. Yu Jie was tortured with “stretching.” Her hands were cuffed, and when Zhang Jun shouted, “Stretch,” the guards would pull the handcuffs hard sideways, until she was hanging suspended in the air and passed out from the pain.
Falun Gong practitioners were detained in Division 3 of Masanjia in 2009. It was located on the 3rd floor of the dormitory building. The 1st and 2nd floors were used to detain criminal inmates. At that time, around 180 Falun Gong practitioners were locked up there. There were a number of teams within Division 3. The left wing to the west of the 3rd floor was called “Xigang” and the right wing to the east was called “Donggang” [the zone used for persecuting Falun Gong practitioners]. Facing the staircase was a triangle-shaped room. Along the corridor of “Xigang” were dormitories, each cell shared by around 20 detainees. There were neat sheets and bedding on each bed, but they were only for display, not to be used. We had to use our own quilt that we purchased, and every day after we got up, we had to put our quilt in a bag, which would be sent to a storeroom in “Donggang” and brought back again in the evening.
Walking through an iron gate to “Donggang,” there were rooms on either side of the corridor, but all the window panes were papered over. This is where guards and division heads and team leaders tortured Falun Gong practitioners. It was such a horrible place that the heads often used the word “Donggang” to threaten practitioners.
The triangle-shaped room is where guards tortured practitioners by hanging them up in the air. About 1.5 meters to the right of the door was a metal water tank, about 2.5 m x 2 m in size; an iron ladder was welded to the surface of the tank. The room had a concrete floor and the concrete ceiling was about 3-4 meters high. If one was cuffed to the upper steps of the ladder, the victim could barely touch the floor with the tips of her toes; if cuffed to the middle steps, the victim would have to bend her back; if cuffed to the bottom steps, the victim had to lie on her stomach on the concrete floor. There were two big iron frames on each side of the room, which was very cold. Practitioner Zhang Griping was cuffed to the iron frame while a team leader took her fingerprints.
Strictly controlled washing time
In Division 3, detainees had to get up at 5:20 a.m. and had only five minutes to wash, and brush their teeth. They were given eight minutes to wash up in the evening. On Saturday evenings, they were allowed 15 minutes at most to wash their clothes and hair. In order to save time, practitioners would put shampoo on their hair beforehand, and when they got to the washroom, they would quickly rinse their hair under the tap and finish washing their clothes in a rush.
The water was freezing cold in winter. Detainees were only allowed to take showers twice a year, once before the New Year and once in summer. The time limit was 20 minutes. Everyone had to go to the toilet together, and no one was allowed to use the toilet during work time. One practitioner was 67 years old. She had lung cancer, but recovered through practising Falun Gong. She was reduced to skin and bones after she was sent to the labor camp. One day, she needed to use the toilet badly, but Huang Haitian, head of the 2nd Team, would not allow her to go and abused her. When the practitioner tried to reason with her, Huang Haitian slapped her face. When the old lady came out of the office, her face was red and swollen. That night she began to run a high fever. Her temperature stayed high for days, and she had to stay in bed. In ten days her term was up, so the officers called her husband to immediately pick up, afraid of being blamed for her condition and held responsible. Her husband came right away and took her home.
Food too awful to swallow
We ate breakfast at 6:00 a.m. in the canteen downstairs. The food was buns made of mouldy cornflour mixed with a bit of wheat flour. There was a lot of sand in the buns and they tasted bitter and harsh. There were rat droppings in the pickles. Lunch consisted of cabbage or turnip soup, with only a few pieces of cabbage floating on the surface. It wasn't unusual to see dead flies in the soup and sometimes, we could see a layer of insects floating on top. We had rice a few times a week, but it was usually half cooked.
Masanjia Women's Forced Labour Camp accepts every practitioner sent there, regardless of her age or health. In 2009, a practitioner named Lihua was admitted. She could not walk, and two people had to help her use the toilet. She had been arrested from home and taken in a police car to the labour camp. Another practitioner was still breastfeeding when she was arrested and taken to the labour camp. She was forced to work with the criminal inmates. In order to increase the labour force, the camp authorities sent agents to Beijing and brought back more than a dozen practitioners towards the end of 2009. I heard the leaders say that the labor camp had paid over 300 yuan for each practitioner, and that they were younger and were able to do more work. No one knows just how much money the labour camp has made over the years by exploiting the detainees. The two buildings and a row of single story houses behind the dormitory building are the slave labour workshops.
Practitioners were forced to start working at around 6:25 a.m. The lunch break started at 11:30 a.m., and work started again by 12:20 p.m. We worked until 4:30 p.m. We were forced to watch brainwashing videos from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., sitting on small plastic stools in the middle of our dormitory; no one was allowed to talk. We were not allowed to go to bed until 9:00.
Practitioners detained in the 6th Team were around 60 years old. They were usually assigned to make flowers for export; the daily quota was one bag each (70 flowers). Because of their age, they couldn't see the details very well, and when they failed to finish their quota, they had to work overtime or take the unfinished flowers to their cells and keep working on them. Once, they had to add pollen to the flowers. The yellow pollen floated through the air and coated everything in the room. It was very irritating to the throat and got everywhere on our hands and clothes.
Practitioners in the 2nd Team were ordered to make army overcoats in the summer of 2009, and it was very labor intensive. Everyone had blisters from using scissors, and the pain was only reduced when the blisters broke and turned into calluses. Their finger joints became swollen and most people could hardly straighten their fingers.
The forced labour in the 3rd Team was the hardest. The workshop was very hot in summer and cold in winter. Every work process on the production line was beyond our physical capacity; whoever failed to finish the workload had to work overtime.
The 4th Team had the job of cutting the patterns. Every day, they had to unload big rolls of material, from morning till evening, and they were exhausted afterwards. Zhao Ning, who was team leader at the time, talked about respecting the old and looking after the young, but the very next day she forced practitioners in their 50s or 60s to squat on the floor while she sat on a chair to give her lengthy speeches.
Persecution of “New Arrivals”
Team leader Yu Xiaochuan in Division 3 was in charge of the “New Arrivals” class. She forced them to watch brainwashing videos every day. She would first try to deceive them, then start to beat and torture them, or hang them up in the triangle room. Practitioner Li Shumei was subjected to the “stretching” torture upon arrival and for a whole year afterwards her fingers were numb and would not function properly. When practitioner Huang Yaqin was called to the office, three team leaders – Zhang Jun, Zhang Huan, and Zhang Zhuohui – dealt with her violently. Two of them grabbed hold of her arms and one pulled her hair. They tried to force her to put her fingerprints on a “transformation" [forcibly renounce Falun Gong] statement but were unsuccessful.
They then held Ms. Huang Yaqin down on the floor, kicking her and pinching her arms. Later, two of the leaders held her down while the other unfolded her fingers to get a fingerprint on a piece of paper. Ms. Huang's arms and hands were covered with bruises. She had a lump in her forearm and another one on her back from being twisted. A handful of her hair was pulled out and one could see her scalp.
In 2010 I saw a practitioner in the “New Arrivals” class. One of her arms was wrapped in gauze. I heard that it was broken when Zhang Jun kicked her. Once the guards had used all the different tortures on the new arrivals, the victims would be sent to the workshops to do forced labour.
In the summer of 2009, female guard Yu Xiaochuan went to “Donggang” while a practitioner was being tortured. She pinched the practitioner and then exclaimed, “It's great fun beating someone!”
There was also a special team in Division 3. Eight or nine practitioners were locked in a small, free-standing building behind the dormitory building in 2009, and we often saw male guards walking in and out the building. At night, we often heard miserable screams coming from that building. A few months later, these practitioners were transferred to “Donggang.” Some were force-fed every day. Most of them suffered mental breakdowns later. They were handcuffed all the time, even when they went to toilet. Some were cuffed to the bed at night. When they were due for release in July 2010, their terms were extended by different lengths of time before they were released.
Practitioners in Division 3 were subjected to “Stretching Torture” and other brutality
In August 2009, the labour camp put Falun Gong practitioners through what they called a “sifting” process, then took steadfast practitioners to “Donggang” for intensified persecution to force them to renounce their belief. More than 30 practitioners were taken there for torture. Some were forced to squat for long periods of time; some were cuffed to a bed for days; some were deprived of sleep for days and nights in a row. The 2nd Team leader, Huang Haiyan, slapped Zhao Cuizhi hard on the face. She then used adhesive tape to seal Ms. Zhao's mouth. When Zhao Cuizhi was allowed to come back to the workshop, there were cuts on her face, ears, and mouth, and her face was badly swollen.
Practitioner Ms. Jia Fenglin was also beaten by Huang Haiyan, until her face was red and swollen. The most vicious abuse of all was what was done to a 50-year-old practitioner. She was held down on a stool with her legs wide open. Then two other guards, each holding one of her legs, pulled her legs up sideways. The practitioner could not walk properly afterward, and needed help. When her term was up a few months later, she had to lean against the walls and slowly move step by step out of the labour camp.
Another practitioner from Jinzhou also suffered a similar torture. Afterwards her hipbones and pelvis caused her great pain. She wept in the workshop. Zhu Haijie, a team leader in charge of production, scolded her for being slow. When she explained that she had unbearable pain in her crotch, Zhu Haijie said, “If you don't work properly, I'll send you back to Donggang!”
In order to brainwash practitioners, Division 3 ran classes on a regular basis and assigned detainees "homework." A practitioner from Benxi refused to do the homework and was locked in the cold triangle room. She was cuffed to the lowest steps of the ladder and had to lie on her stomach on the concrete floor for two days and one night. When she was let out, she could not move her legs and she hurt all over. Ms. Huang Yaqin was also taken to the triangle room for not doing the homework. She was cuffed to a middle step of the ladder for a whole day and was not allowed to eat or use the toilet.
Guards in Division 3 often searched practitioners, especially when there were inspections from their superiors. During these searches, practitioners were forced to take off their pants in the corridor, leaving only their singlet and underwear on. Sometimes the guards would turn their pockets inside out. Once in a while, they would take out all the cotton filling in the “display quilts” to check if something was hidden there. Personal belongings in the storeroom were often searched and ransacked.
The guards found a small piece of paper in the luggage of a practitioner from Beijing that had an article by Master. Her term was extended by five days. Once in a while, the guards would also dig into the floor of the workshops to search for things. Each dormitory kept a light on throughout the night. In the beginning, the leader on duty would check the rooms three times a night. Later, they did the check once every two hours. They also set up a small room at the end of the corridor for the leader on duty to sit in.
In November 2010, Division 3 carried out another round of frantic persecution. Again, they called practitioners one by one to “Donggang” to be tortured. A 63-year-old practitioner from Benxi was forced to squat on the brick floor for a long time. Her feet became numb; Zhang Jun came over and kicked her feet violently. Other guards did the same. When the practitioner tried to stand up, she was held down again. Later, the guard handcuffed her arms behind her back and fastened her to a bed pole. She could not stand or squat, and the handcuffs cut into her wrists. She was not allowed to eat or use the toilet for an entire day. Shi Yu, a male and the then head of the labour camp, and several other officers walked in and out of the torture chambers with wooden sticks in hands. They abused practitioners, and some also participated in torturing them.
Practitioner Dong Ying was stripped down to her underclothes and was ordered to sit on the brick floor for several days. Practitioner Yu Jie underwent the “stretching torture.” Her hands were put into handcuffs separately, and when Zhang Jun gave the order, two guards on each side would pull the handcuffs until Yu Jie was hanging in the air and passed out in pain. Her fingers remained numb until she was released.
Practitioner Du Yuhong was extensively tortured. She was shocked with electric batons on her ears. After she was subjected to the stretching torture, she could no longer raise one of her arms and could not sleep due to the pain. Another practitioner named Ni Cuixia was shocked with electric batons as she was rolling on the floor in pain. By the time she was released, she was emaciated.
When practitioner Wan Xiaohui was put on the “stretching torture,” the handcuffs broke due to the force used. Later she went on hunger strike. She was tied to a bed and force-fed. Her mouth was torn and became swollen. The guard told the doctor to inject unknown drugs into her temples. There was a hammer in the torture chamber. When the team leaders came in, they grabbed the hammer and hit her head, until her head was covered with lumps. Ms. Wan was tortured for several days before she was let out of “Donggang.” She felt nauseous and could not eat. She vomited and her face turned sallow. She could barely even walk. Later, she was taken for an exam and was told she had a liver problem.
Practitioner Liang Yu was locked in a room in “Donggang.” She was forced to sit on a stool and deprived of sleep for a week. Team leaders took turns keeping watch on her. They woke her up whenever she dozed off. When she came out, she looked wan and sallow, like a totally different person.
Practitioner Zhao Lerong suffered the “stretching torture” when she was in the “New Arrivals” class. She did not look well when she was sent to a work team. Her eyes hurt when exposed to light. When she asked to see a doctor and to get a pair of glasses, Zhang Lei yelled at her and pulled her out of the No. 3 workshop, and forced her to take off her shoes to stand on the icy cold ground. Zhang Lei then grabbed Ms. Zhao's hair and forced her face up to look into the sun. When another practitioner helped Ms. Zhao put her shoes back on, Wang Guangyun saw it. Wang poured out a torrent of abuse on them. Sun Jingyuan, leader of the 3rd Team, dragged Ms. Zhao Lerong to the storehouse and beat and kicked her.
According to the regulations, detainees are supposed to be allowed family visits once every two months. However, whether they could see their families or not depended on Zhang Huan, who would go to the reception room on visiting day and make the decision. If she said no, no matter from how far away the visitors had come, they would not be able to see their loved ones. Practitioners who had not been “transformed,” in particular, were denied visits. Once, when a family member was extremely concerned about the wellbeing of a practitioner, he quietly put some money into Zhang's hand, and only then did Zhang allow him to see the practitioner.
Evidence of crime
In 2010 we were told to clean up the building in the front, the one on the left of the big iron gate for cars. Only two rooms upstairs were clean, and they looked like duty offices, but the rest of the rooms were very dusty and looked like they had not been used for a number of years. To the left of the staircase were two small cells, about 5 square meters . There were no windows in those rooms. I saw some pieces of clothing stuck to the wall, and on the floor was a pile of clothes, some sportswear, and some worn out cotton cushions. I picked up the sportswear, wiped away the dust, and saw old blood stains. There was also a tall wooden stool with a pair of handcuffs hanging of the back of it. When I wiped away the dust on the stool, there were more blood stains. To the left of the small cell was another room with strange facilities. There was a long cement table in the room, with racks on the wall. It looked sinister.
I heard from others that, in the early years of the persecution of Falun Gong, about two or three thousand practitioners were detained at Masanjia Women's Forced Labour Camp. One practitioner named Bao Qingying was hung in the air while the guards beat her. All her teeth were knocked out. Now she has to wear dentures. In 2009, she was arrested again and sent to the same labour camp for two years.
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