Many families' lives were turned upside down when the persecution of Falun Gong began in July 1999. The persecution not only ripped many families apart, but also forced many family members into detention for lengthy periods of time.
One family in particular has struggled to keep everyone together since the persecution began.
Mr. Yang Pinggang, a former Radio and Television Bureau Chief in Daiyue District of Tai’an City, Shandong Province, was fired from his job, detained in a forced labour camp for three years, and sentenced to six years in prison.
Ms. Chang Lijun, Mr. Yang's wife, was detained in a labour camp twice, each time with a three-year sentence. Yang Kemeng, their son, was sent to a labour camp for three years during college.
Falun Gong Brings Family Happiness
Mr. Yang’s family lives in Tai'an, a city adjacent to Mount Tai, the foremost of the Great Five Mountains. Often associated with sunrise, birth, and renewal, Mount Tai has been well-known for thousands of years as a place of spirituality.
Like his ancestors, Mr. Yang searched for a way that enabled a healthy and happy life. He was instead plagued by a number of illnesses: bronchitis, arthritis, ischialgia, cardiac insufficiency, hyperosteogeny, hepatic lipoma, and a nervous breakdown.
As Mr. Yang’s health deteriorated, a friend recommended Falun Gong in 1995. At that time Mr. Yang was 39 years old and a township Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Secretary.
Practising Falun Gong dramatically improved Mr. Yang’s health. His illnesses disappeared, and through the teachings he learned the the principle of “good is rewarded with good, and evil is met with evil.” His mind naturally elevated and he became a better person.
His wife, Ms. Chang Lijun, a government officer in Daiyue District, began to practise Falun Gong after seeing the positive changes in her husband. Soon after the couple began cultivation, their son joined in as well.
By following the principles of Truth-Compassion-Forbearance, the family became more considerate and tolerant of one another. Their conflicts became easily resolved. With less criticism and more guidance, Yang Kemeng made steady progress with his schoolwork.
The Choice: Belief or the CCP
Even before the persecution officially began on July 20th, 1999, local officials in Daiyue District already spoke with Mr. Yang several times about giving up his belief. After he refused, officials removed him from his position as the Radio and Television Bureau Chief and transferred him to a lower position in the agricultural committee.
District Party Secretary Zhang Xianyi led other officials to hold an eight-day brainwashing session for district officials, including Mr. Yang, his wife, and six other practitioners.
Every morning, police and various officials would take this group to the brainwashing facility and force them to watch videos that slandered Falun Gong.
Officials demanded repeatedly that this group write statements to give up the practice. This process took place the entire day into the evening, when the officials would finally send them home. During these sessions, security officers even guarded the door to prevent escape.
For the most determined practitioners who worked in the district government, Zhang Xianyi and Ding Qingyu, the police department chief, spoke with them one by one on July 28th. More than 30 officers from other divisions were also present, including the Political and Legal Affairs Committee, the Organization Department, and the Police Department. They pressured each practitioner and punished them for speaking against the persecution.
Police searched Mr. Yang's home and the home of Ms. Chang’s mother. Officers confiscated Falun Gong books and materials, and a bronze plaque engraved with the words Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.
District officials held another brainwashing session in December, which lasted for more than three weeks. Soon afterward, they forced Mr. Yang and Ms. Chang to choose between Falun Gong and their CCP membership.
Without hesitation, the couple wrote statements to quit the CCP.
Liquor Torture at the Detention Centre
Officers from the Taishan District Domestic Security Division arrested Mr. Yang and Ms. Chang on September 6th, 2005. The officers interrogated Mr. Yang at the Dongguan Police Station and sent him to a detention centre in the afternoon.
Forced-Feedings and Beatings
After Mr. Yang protested the detention with a hunger strike, the detention centre's guards and its doctors began to force-feed him. They took him to a designated room, pushed him into an iron chair, tied his legs down, cuffed his forearms, and harnessed his chest to the chair. Guards wrenched open his mouth with wooden slats to force-feed him. The feeding tube was sometimes jabbed into Mr. Yang's windpipe, which caused him to choke.
Mr. Yang refused to give in, so Domestic Security Division Director Yang Rufa extorted 5,000 yuan1 from Mr. Yang's workplace to rent four rooms at the Tai'an Fourth Hostel for a week-long torture session.
At that point, Mr. Yang was in the midst a two-week-long hunger strike; he was very weak, and his lips were crusted over and peeling. Two guards handcuffed him and ordered that he stand still. They also dragged him by the handcuffs back and forth across the floor, and other times they forced him to run quickly in circles. Mr. Yang’s wrists were bleeding from the wounds, which left permanent scars.
Under his now poor health and fatigue, Mr. Yang could no longer stand and collapsed to the floor.
Despite the cold weather, Mr. Yang had only a T-shirt and a pair of sandals with no socks. After slapping Mr. Yang with the plastic sandals, one guard stomped on his shackled ankles, leaving deep bruises and damaged nerves. Even today, Mr. Yang has discomfort in his right foot.
Another guard bent Mr. Yang's fingers backward to the wrist, almost breaking them. When Mr. Yang called out in pain, the guards stuffed his mouth with dirty rags. They also wrenched, twisted, and ripped at his chest, nipples, and upper body throughout the night.
More guards arrived on the evening on September 24th. They dragged Mr. Yang by his hair, held him down, and forced his mouth open with chopsticks to pour high alcohol content liquor into his throat.
Drinking alcohol is forbidden by the practice of Falun Gong. The liquor torture was implemented for the purpose of physical and mental torture. The guards did not stop until one 500 mL bottle of liquor was finished. At that point, Mr. Yang was very dizzy and almost lost consciousness.
Another round of liquor force-feeding occurred the next day. Because Mr. Wang was already unable to walk, guards dragged him to another room. One guard slapped him and three other guards came to force-feed him with liquor. One of the guards picked him up and dropped him on the floor to make sure the liquor got into his stomach. Seeing that one bottle of liquor was already finished and Mr. Yang was still not yielding, several guards began kicking him.
When they finished, Mr. Yang had bruises all over. Guards then pulled him by the handcuffs and dragged him back and forth across the floor. The handcuffs became tighter and tighter until they dug deep into his flesh. The guards did not loosen the cuffs the entire night. By the time another guard began his shift the next morning, Mr. Yang’s left forearm was severely swollen. His wrists were left with permanent damage.
This type of torture continued for one week, and guards told Mr. Yang that the order was from Huang Longhua, the Tai'an City Deputy Party Secretary, who was in charge of persecuting Falun Gong.
Imprisoned for 6 Years
The Taishan District Court held a secret trial against Mr. Yang on February 16th, 2006, without notifying his family.
After hearing Taishan District Procuratorate officer Wang Jianxin defame Falun Gong and fabricate evidence, Mr. Yang opposed the accusations, but he was stopped by Chief Judge Zheng Jinyou. Nonetheless, Mr. Yang still spoke up about the various tortures he underwent.
In his final statement Mr. Yang reminded the court that Falun Gong improves the mind and body, and that his freedom of belief was guaranteed by the Constitution.
However, court officials sentenced him to six years in prison. Mr. Yang appealed, but the Tai'an Intermediate Court upheld the verdict without holding another trial. Not long after, Daiyue District officials fired Mr. Yang’s from his work as a public employee.
One guard said to Mr. Yang: “Other inmates are kept here for stealing or bribery. Now you have ended up here and are suffering so much. Don't you want to rethink your choice?” To which Mr. Yang replied, “Falun Gong improved my health and taught me to be a better person. I will not give it up.”
Because of Mr. Yang, many inmates began to look positively upon Falun Gong.
Torture at the Tai'an Prison
When Mr. Yang was sent to the Tai'an Prison on May 16th, 2006, he was first kept in Division 5, the division for newly admitted detainees. After Political Director Gao Lingshan traveled to other prisons to learn other torture methods, he worked with Division Director Liu Xinrong to intensify physical abuse and brainwashing.
Group 7 is the most brutal among the various groups in Division 5, and practitioners, including Mr. Yang, are often sent here first. As instructed by prison officials, head inmate Yu Zhijun picked several thugs to “transform” [forcibly renounce Falun Gong] Mr. Yang. Yu forced him to sit or stand still from 5 a.m. to midnight, sometimes even until 3 a.m. All of this was done while watching videos that slandered Falun Gong. Even during his sleep, several inmates continued to monitor Mr. Yang by holding a bright light over his bed.
As the weather warmed up, the brainwashing continued. Sometimes officials would only allow Mr. Yang to wash himself once every couple of weeks. The physical torture and mental stress threatened Mr. Yang’s health, which drove his blood pressure to dangerous levels. His feet became swollen, and ulcerations and pus developed around his toes. He battled bouts of dizziness, poor vision, an irregular heartbeat, and a digestive disorder. Half of his hair also turned grey.
As more practitioners arrived at the prison, Mr. Yang was transferred from Group 7 two months later. He was detained in the Tai'an Prison for 5 years and 4 months in total, and more than 30 inmates were assigned to monitor him.
After Mr. Yang’s sister visited in January 2008, officials took away his right to family visitation for over a year. The cited reason was that he and his sister spoke about Falun Gong during her visit.
1. "Yuan" is the Chinese currency; 500 yuan is equal to the average monthly income of an urban worker in China.
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