When Ms. Wang Jianhui's (王建辉) sister was finally allowed to visit her in August 2014, she was surprised by what she saw: Ms. Wang—once young, healthy, and full of life—now looked like a frail old woman who had difficulty breathing and could hardly walk.
“I was put in solitary confinement for refusing to do forced labour,” recalled Ms. Wang.
“That place [solitary confinement] is the worst place in the prison,” said one inmate, “It has no window, and is dark all the time. There's only a wooden bed with no mattress... You can't move with your hands cuffed and your feet chained—it's hell.”
Ms. Wang also told her family that she was frequently beaten by inmates. Instead of intervening, guards watched and encouraged the brutal assaults. Prison officials sanctioned the violence in the name of “transforming” Falun Gong practitioners, forcing them to renounce their beliefs, as part of the communist regime's persecution of Falun Gong.
Ms. Wang was arrested on February 28th, 2010, and sentenced to eight years in prison, later reduced to six years after an appeal. She was transferred to Heilongjiang Women's Prison in August 2010.
Ms. Wang had previously been imprisoned for practising Falun Gong, in September 2001, when she was sentenced to three years of forced labor and tortured at the Harbin Drug Rehabilitation Centre.
“If We Kill You, It's Within the Death Limit”
Shortly after Ms. Wang arrived at the prison, Cui Xiang and other inmates took her to a cell specifically used to torture practitioners, where they shoved her around. To humiliate her, they forced her to squat down and reply when called by her inmate number.
Because she was imprisoned solely for her belief, Ms. Wang did not consider herself a criminal, and refused to respond. Cui and another inmate furiously beat and kicked her.
As the assault continued, guard Zhao Hanjiao closed the gate to the cell and walked away. The guard's acquiescence led to intensified abuse. The inmate in charge of the cell, Wang Fengchun, forced Ms. Wang to sit on an inches-tall stool without moving, for 16 hours a day.
When Ms. Wang tried to stand up to alleviate her pain, Wang Fengchun started beating her. Ms. Wang tried to run out for help, but five inmates dragged her back and restrained her arms, while Wang Fengchun landed a hard kick to her stomach. Wang Fengchun kicked her repeatedly, while yelling, “If we kill you, it's within the death limit, and we're not responsible.”
Consent for the abuse was given by not only guards but also higher prison officials. After a particularly vicious beating, division manager Wang Yali came to investigate. Hearing Ms. Wang's explanation, Wang Yali replied, “Just endure it and let them have some fun.”
Due to the repeated assaults, Ms. Wang was unable to eat or drink for many days.
Suffocated for Doing Exercises
Ms. Wang was transferred to the No. 4 Division on April 15th, 2011. To regain her health, she tried to do the Falun Gong exercises. Two inmates dragged her into the cell by her hair and assaulted her. One grabbed and twisted Ms. Wang's breasts so hard as to cause visible injury. She also rammed Ms. Wang's head against a metal angle bracket on the bed.
When Ms. Wang tried to do the exercises the next day, three inmates pulled her hair, held her down on the bed, and beat her on the head, back, and chest, leaving a large lump on her head.
Ms. Wang still did not yield. When the inmates paused for a break, she stood up again to do the exercises. The inmates then threw her on the bed and wrapped her head in a quilt, restricting her breathing. After a while, they resumed punching Ms. Wang in the head.
Ms. Wang fainted twice from the suffocation and assault. Each time, the inmates pinched her awake, pushed her onto the bed, and continued their beating.
This torture lasted two hours. Ms. Wang developed a headache and felt dizzy. She recalled having pain in her chest and back, along with nausea, and difficulty standing and sitting. She also lost hearing in her left ear, which was bleeding, along with a long gash in her neck.
Ms. Wang reported the event to prison officials on multiple occasions, but no action was taken.
Beaten with Broom Handle for Refusing to Wear Uniform
Many Falun Gong practitioners refused to wear prisoner uniforms on the grounds that they were arrested and imprisoned. On February 21st, 2012, Zhao Xiaofan, deputy head of the No. 4 Division, ordered a group of 40 inmates to force practitioners to wear the uniform.
Eight inmates began beating Ms. Wang and another practitioner, Ms. Jia Guilan. Their fists rained down, leaving fresh wounds on their heads and bodies. Several officials were standing next to her, but they did nothing when Ms. Wang pleaded with them to stop the assault.
Backed by prison officials, the inmates became more ruthless. Yuan Chunqiu kicked Ms. Wang's lower back, while another inmate bent her fingers backward to their breaking point. Sun Chao, who was imprisoned for human trafficking, struck Ms. Wang's hands with a thick broom handle, leaving a large bruise and swelling. Sun then struck Ms. Wang's entire body with the wooden handle until it broke into pieces. Another inmate kicked Ms. Wang's abdomen, causing pain that lasted many days.
Further Assaults and Humiliation
The physical torture was often combined with other forms of mistreatment. At one point, inmates denied Ms. Wang use of hot water. When she called out, “Falun Gong is good! Stop persecuting Falun Gong!” Ma Guirong and other inmates beat her again, tearing her clothes and leaving a long, deep wound on her neck.
Guard Guo Lei encouraged the inmates to attack Ms. Wang more aggressively. She also stripped Ms. Wang of her clothes to humiliate her.
Visitation Cut Short After Wounds Revealed
In early 2013, Ms. Wang was transferred to the No. 11 Division, which was dedicated to the torture and “transformation” [forcibly renounce Falun Gong] of practitioners. After numerous refusals, officials finally allowed her family to visit her in prison.
At the visitation, Ms. Wang appeared to be emaciated and in pain. She was in tears upon seeing her family. She told them, “They [prison officials] wanted to 'transform' me and beat me badly.” When she showed her wounded hands to her sister, the guards intervened and terminated the visit.
When her family visited in summer 2014, Ms. Wang appeared in much worse shape. Despite her poor health, she was once again put in solitary confinement.
Similar Abuse of Other Practitioners
Other Falun Gong practitioners in the prison were subjected to similar abuse. For example, guards forced Ms. Jia Guilan, 70, to sit on an inches-tall stool day and night, with no sleep or access to the toilet. When Ms. Jia fainted, guards tied her to the legs of the bunk bed, leaving her hands heavily bruised. The restraints were so tight that her fingernails turned black in one night, and still have not healed after six years.
When Ms. Jia refused to wear the prisoner uniform in late 2010, inmates pushed her to the floor and beat her viciously on the head. She was unable to get out of bed or eat for a week. After learning that she had fainted and become emaciated, her family requested a medical exam, which revealed signs of a stroke. Officials agreed to grant her medical parole, but she was still imprisoned at the time of this writing.
Inmate Guo also brutally beat Ms. Hua Xiaojun, another practitioner previously held in the No. 4 Division, in 2009. Ms. Hua experienced heart problems as a result, leaving her almost unable to take care of herself. She continues to face life-threatening conditions frequently.
Shi Genghui (史耕辉), head of Heilongjiang Women's Prison
Zhao Xiaofan (赵晓帆), head of No. 4 Division
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