While many families reunited and celebrated the Chinese New Year in February 2019, Ms. Li Yanqiu was sentenced to five years for not renouncing her faith in Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
Ms. Li was admitted to Liaoning Women's Prison on February 19, 2019, which was the Lantern Festival and the last day of the Chinese New Year holiday season. She died in prison 13 days later.
Ms. Li was assigned to the 12th Ward in the prison. Also known as the “Correction Ward,” it was set up specifically to persecute Falun Gong practitioners and try to force them to renounce their faith.
Ms. Li was extremely weak the day she arrived. She had been on a hunger strike and force-fed since her arrest on December 14, 2018, for distributing calendars with information about Falun Gong.
She continued her hunger strike in prison, so the guards took her to the prison hospital, where she was force-fed and allowed to see her family for the first time since her arrest. She used a rollator when she came out to meet them.
Her family applied for medical parole for her after the visit, but their request was turned down and they were never allowed to visit her again.
According to inmates who were familiar with her, the guards moved Ms. Li back to the 12th ward after she was force-fed and kept her in solitary confinement in her final days, despite her condition.
The guards stripped off her clothes and made her sit on the cold concrete floor. The temperature was between 25 to 37 °F, and there was no heat in the room. After a few days of this, she began to have blood in her urine and was unable to stand on her own, yet the prison officials sought no medical treatment for her. She died just days later, on March 4, 2019. She was 52.
Ms. Li's sudden death devastated her family. Her elderly father, who used to live with her, had to move in with her older brother after her arrest. In his 80s, the usually very outgoing man became withdrawn and had trouble sleeping after Ms. Li was arrested. He also suffered from frequent nosebleeds, heart discomfort, and dizziness caused by high blood pressure. Fearing that the news might be too much for him, Ms. Li's family hasn't told him about her death.
Ms. Li, a resident of Jinzhou City, Liaoning Province, was retired from working in a hotel. She was well known in her hometown for being tall and charming, outgoing and warm.
After the communist regime launched the persecution of Falun Gong in 1999, she went out to raise awareness about the persecution but was repeatedly arrested and detained for her courageous efforts.
She was sent to Masanjia Forced Labour Camp for two years without due process after she was arrested on October 30, 2005. She had been accompanying the relatives of two practitioners, who had been arrested earlier, to the police station to seek their release.
She held a hunger strike to protest the detention and was force-fed and tied to a death bed, which led to her becoming mentally disordered. She was released at the end of 2005. The labour camp extorted 3,000 yuan from her family.
Officers broke into her home, harassed her father, and ransacked her home on September 14, 2009. They later came back to harass her, forcing her to live away from home for six months.
She was arrested again on November 3, 2013, and December 21, 2017, for talking to people about Falun Gong. She was detained for about 10 days both times.
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