After multiple arrests, detention, a prison sentence, and torture in custody, a 75-year-old woman in Chongqing passed away on September 25, 2020, as a result of being persecuted for her faith in Falun Gong.
Ms. Yu Yeyi is one of the over 4,500 Falun Gong practitioners confirmed to have died in the campaign of persecution that was started by the Chinese communist regime in July 1999.
Ms. Yu was born on May 7, 1945, four years before the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power in China. In her youth, she witnessed and personally suffered during the Party’s political campaigns aimed at eliminating “dissidents” and indoctrinating the Chinese people with communism's ideologies.
In her teens, she was forced to join other young intellectuals in the “Down to the Countryside Movement” to be “re-educated” by the peasants. The nine years of hard farm work took a toll on her health. She had to retire early, at the age of 45, from her job as a quality control inspector.
To improve her health, Ms. Yu studied many qigong schools, but none of them had much effect on her. In September 1998, she was introduced to Falun Gong and was drawn to the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. She lived by the principles and did the Falun Gong exercises and soon recovered her health.
Arrested for Appealing in Beijing, Tortured in Detention
Less than a year after she took up Falun Gong, the persecution began. Ms. Yu went to Beijing to appeal for the right to practice her faith and was arrested on January 2, 2001. At the Fangshan Detention Center in Beijing, the police pulled out her hair, hit her head against the wall, stomped on her with their boots, and shocked her with electric batons.
In the criminal complaint Ms. Yu filed on January 8, 2016, against Jiang Zemin, the former CCP head who ordered the persecution, she recounted the abuses she suffered in the detention center.
She said, “I held a hunger strike to protest the arbitrary detention. Four days later, they began to force-feed me for nearly a month. My mouth and nose always bled during the force-feeding. Officer Zheng threatened me many times, ‘If you don’t cooperate, we will feed you to the wild animals in the mountain.’
“At that time, many practitioners went to Beijing to appeal and were arrested. In the one small room where I was kept, nearly 30 other practitioners were also detained. We barely had space to sit on the floor. A few days later, some young practitioners were taken away and never seen again. After the crime of forced organ harvesting was exposed later on, I began to wonder whether these young practitioners were victims of that horrific crime.
“Two murderers surnamed Liu and Lai often beat me and verbally abused me. They later made me stay near the broken front door when it was snowing outside. The wind blew on me and I kept coughing. For one month, I was unable to talk and had tremendous difficulty swallowing. I had to chew each bite of food over 30 times before I could swallow it. During the four months I was in the detention center, I was barely allowed to sleep. My health was significantly damaged.”
The Chongqing police took Ms. Yu from Beijing back to Chongqing on April 20, 2001, and had her admitted to the Baiheling Detention Center and then the Shapingba District Brainwashing Center. She was held for a month in each place.
After that, the police and community workers often came to harass her.
More Arrests and Detention
Ms. Yu was arrested two more times, in April and again in October 2002, during two major political conferences in Chongqing. She was held at two brainwashing centers for more than ten days each time.
For talking to people about Falun Gong, she was arrested on August 5, 2008. The police ransacked her home and confiscated her Falun Gong books and materials and a photo of Falun Gong’s founder. After spending 11 days in the Baiheling Detention Center, she was sent to Chongqing Women’s Forced Labor Camp. Her blood pressure was dangerously high and she had difficulty sleeping.
Security personnel noticed her posting stickers with information about Falun Gong at Chongqing University on August 19, 2012, and arrested her. The police held her in custody for one day and ransacked her home. Her Falun Gong materials and photo of Falun Gong’s founder were confiscated.
Convicted for Raising Awareness about the Persecution
Ms. Yu was arrested again on June 22, 2014, for giving a store employee a DVD with information about Falun Gong. The police put her in handcuffs with wedges. Both of her hands were so bruised they didn’t recover until weeks later. The police also beat her, causing injuries all over her body and a sprain in her back.
During the two weeks she was held in the Liudianzi Detention Center, she was unable to move due to the injuries. On July 7, she was taken to a brainwashing center and forced to watch and listen to video and audio propaganda demonizing Falun Gong. Because she was unable to walk on her own, the guards dragged her to the room to attend the brainwashing lectures.
The abuses further damaged her health. She began to have whole-body spasms. Her hands and feet were numb. Her blood pressure persisted at a life-threatening high level. The doctor said she had heart disease and Parkinson's disease.
While Wang Yulin, the head of the brainwashing center, accused her of pretending to be ill, he also put Falun Gong books and a photo of Falun Gong's founder next to her and took pictures, attempting to “prove” that she was dying from practicing Falun Gong.
Wang threatened Ms. Yu, “If you don’t give up practicing Falun Gong, we will arrest your son [who was working abroad] and bring him back to China. We can also suspend your 84-year-old husband’s pension and bring him here to accompany you. This [brainwashing center] is a black jail. It’s nothing if anyone dies here.”
While Ms. Yu was in the brainwashing center, several police officers ransacked her home.
Forty-three days later, on August 19, Ms. Yu was released, only to have the police submit her case to the procuratorate two days later.
The Yuzhong District Procuratorate indicted Ms. Yu. She appeared in the Yuzhong District Court on January 14, 2015. She defended herself and argued that no law in China has ever deemed Falun Gong a crime and that she didn’t violate any law by practicing her faith.
The Yuzhong District Court sentenced her to three years on June 23, 2015. She was taken into custody and held in the Chongqing City No.1 Detention Center that same day. She was found to have several medical conditions during the physical exam and was taken straight to the detention center’s hospital.
In the detention center, Ms. Yu filed an appeal with the Chongqing No.5 Intermediate Court. Meanwhile, her 85-year-old husband and son also wrote letters to the judges and prosecutors to seek justice for her.
On November 5, 2015, the appeals court ruled that her three-year sentence be reduced to six months. Her new term was from June 23 to December 4, 2015.
Ms. Yu said, “This is not what I want. What I’m demanding is a full acquittal. Even if they reduced my term, I’ve still been wrongfully sentenced for my faith.”
The persecution of Ms. Yu distressed her family acutely. Her husband fell ill and was resuscitated several times. Her son was also under tremendous pressure while working abroad.
The police continued to monitor Ms. Yu after she was released and her home phone was tapped. Before she passed away on September 25, 2020, she couldn’t make outgoing calls on her landline and could only receive calls.
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