In their attempts to force Ms. Gao Suzhen to give up her spiritual belief in Falun Gong, prison guards forced her to watch as they sexually abused another practitioner, causing Ms. Gao to suffer a mental breakdown.
Her health rapidly declined after she signed a statement renouncing her faith. Despite medical intervention, she passed away on March 5, 2018. She was 64.
Arrest and Sentencing
Ms. Gao was arrested and sentenced to four and a half years in prison in 2012 for being part of a high-profile petition to rescue her fellow practitioner Mr. Li Lankui.
Mr. Li was arrested during a citywide “cleanup” before a trade visit to the region by the then-governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad. The arrest and petition drive to rescue Mr. Li drew wide media coverage internationally, which led to further retaliation by the authorities.
Sixteen practitioners and their family members, including Ms. Gao and her husband Mr. Zhang Tianqi, who initiated the petition, were arrested in August 2012.
Ms. Gao was tortured and interrogated in police custody. After being detained for 12 months, she was sentenced to four and a half years in prison in Zhengding Court in 2013. She was admitted to Hebei Women's Prison in 2014.
Tortured in Prison
Ms. Gao documented how she had been tortured in the prison. To try to force her to give up practising Falun Gong, the guards locked her in a small room without a surveillance camera. They grabbed her hair and bashed her head against the wall. They also instigated inmates to verbally abuse her, slap her face, and beat her. The inmates also wrote humiliating messages on her body and stabbed her hands with pens. Her hands were covered with scars.
Ms. Gao was transferred to another ward in the prison a year later. The guards didn't let her sleep. They put a plastic stool on her legs and then sat on it.
In 2016, in a campaign to improve the “transformation rate” of practitioners in the prison, the head of the ward forced Ms. Gao to watch other practitioners being tortured. In one instance, they restrained a practitioner in a chair and taped her mouth shut. Then they attached wires to her nipples and used a clamp to twist and pull the wire until her breasts bled.
Fearful of suffering the same torture herself, she signed a statement giving up her faith. Shortly after that, she suffered a mental breakdown and became deranged. She also lost her vision and became incontinent.
Ms. Gao spent her last year of imprisonment mostly in the prison hospital. Her vision worsened after the hospital staff gave her unknown drugs. She also developed high blood pressure and high blood sugar during her hospital stay. Her liver, kidneys, and heart started to fail.
Although the hospital issued notices three times that she was in critical condition, the prison authorities waited until the end of her term before releasing her. Even after she was released, the police and agents from the local 610 Office continued to harass her at home.
Despite her family's best efforts, she passed away after experiencing multiple organ failure.
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