Heilongjiang Women's Prison has played an infamous role in the Chinese regime's persecution of Falun Gong. Special wards were designated specifically for “transforming” [forcibly renounce Falun Gong] Falun Gong practitioners, attempting to force them to renounce their beliefs through coercive brainwashing and physical abuse. The prison even has an in-house “610 Office” (an organisation of special agents just for persecuting Falun Gong) which takes orders directly from its headquarters in Beijing.
Physical punishment in the prison is mostly carried out by inmates known as “baojia,” who are assigned by the prison authorities to monitor practitioners in return for sentence reductions. One such baojia was released after serving only 12 years of her already-reduced 20-year sentence, as a result of her efforts in carrying out the persecution against Falun Gong practitioners.
The prison employs a systematic “transformation” process: incoming practitioners are first subjected to beatings and other forms of physical abuse. Baojia then work to persuade them to renounce their beliefs, often using guard-sanctioned violence. As a part of the same process, practitioners are also forced to watch propaganda videos.
“Transformed” practitioners remain under close watch by baojia, who monitor them for signs of returning to Falun Gong. They are also subjected to forced labor to wear down their willpower and potential to resist the brainwashing.
New reports reveal that steadfast practitioners are routinely taken straight to a brainwashing centre upon their release from the prison.
Newly Admitted Practitioners Face “Small Stool” Torture and Sleep Deprivation
The prison designates wards No. 9 and No. 11 for the brainwashing of practitioners and coercing them into renouncing their faith. These are known as the “demon's wards.” The practitioners are divided into two groups: the “attack group” is for yet-to-be-transformed newcomers and steadfast practitioners, while the “reinforcement group” holds practitioners who have been “transformed”. Each practitioner is monitored by five or six inmates acting as baojia.
Upon arrival, a new practitioner has her hair forcibly cut short as a form of humiliation and is then ordered to sit up straight on the floor within an area of 50 or 60 square centimetres, or on a small stool with her hands on bent knees. She is usually not allowed to stand or move from this position without permission. If the guards find her posture lacking, they would often administer a beating. If she refuses to cooperate, she would be tied up and deprived of sleep.
Despite its innocuous name, the “small stool” amounts to a torture device when a victim is forced to remain seated on it for long stretches of time. Practitioner Ms. Qi's buttocks developed festering sores from sitting in this position for a long time. Her legs were injured and her face was swollen after being kicked and beaten.
New practitioners are under watch around the clock, and they have to get Baojia's approval before using the toilet or to move from their designated positions. One inmate threatened, “If you don't 'transform,' we'll keep doing this to you.”
Baojia then take turns talking to and “debating” practitioners deep into the night, even if the practitioners are in ill health.
Ms. Li Wenjun, an elderly practitioner, refused to sit on the small stool. Officers tied her between the top and bottom bunks of a bed for six to seven days. During that week, they deprived her of sleep and denied her use of the restroom, causing her to soil her pants.
Inmates Beat and Torture Practitioners for Early Release
Prison guards have given baojia the liberty to torture practitioners at will. One head baojia shouted, “We'll show you what hell is like. This is hell on earth!”
A particularly vicious inmate, Cui Xiang, had been sentenced to death for embezzlement of public funds, fraud, and corruption. After her family paid a hefty sum, her sentence was reduced to 20 years in prison. She openly said, “I'm living on borrowed time. I've died once already.”
Cui has committed more crimes by assaulting Falun Gong practitioners in prison. She often pretended to be a practitioner to befriend her target, but when she did not get what she wanted from talking with them, she would kick and punch them. As a reward for her ruthlessness towards practitioners, she was released on August 22nd, 2013, after serving only 12 years.
Tang Yongxia, another inmate who participated in the “transformation” of practitioners, had been sentenced to over ten years for corruption. She gloated to one practitioner's family members, “Yes, I beat her. So what?!”
When practitioners reported the beatings to prison authorities, Ge Xuehong, a deputy division head, only replied, “Do you have any evidence?...There is nothing we can do even if she has beaten you. She is going home soon.”
Practitioners also reported the beatings to Shi Genghui (deputy head of the prison) numerous times, but she denied the possibility and never launched a formal investigation. When a practitioner resisted “transformation,” Shi threatened her, “If you refuse to transform, I'll force your husband to divorce you.”
Forced to Watch Propaganda Videos
Practitioners are forced to watch videos that demonise Falun Gong, as well as other propaganda films glorifying the regime. When practitioners refuse, they are dragged and physically held in front of a TV screen.
Some practitioners gave in to the unbearable torture and wrote the “three statements” renouncing their beliefs, against their will. They were then transferred to the reinforcement group to continue watching propaganda videos and receive talks from baojia.
Forced Labour in Other Wards
“Transformed” practitioners are moved to other prison wards, including No. 7 and No. 13, where they are forced to perform manual labour. Baojia in these wards continue forcing practitioners to read propaganda materials to further indoctrinate them.
Many practitioners later regretted giving in to the “transformation” and declared that they would resume their practice of Falun Gong. These practitioners were taken back to wards No. 9 and No. 11 for further brainwashing.
Before 2012, the prison sent practitioners who they failed to “transform” to other production zones until they were due for release. However, after Shi Genghui became deputy head of the prison and brought back “lessons learned” from other prisons, all Falun Gong practitioners were gathered in wards No. 9 and No. 11 for brainwashing.
From the Prison to Brainwashing Centres
The persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in Heilongjiang Women's Prison remains severe. Practitioners recalled hearing from perpetrators, “The situation is different from before. If you don't transform, you won't be able to go home even if your term is due. You will be taken straight to a brainwashing centre.”
A number of practitioners were indeed taken to a brainwashing centre as soon as they were released from the prison.
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