15-year-old Orphaned as Mother Dies in Custody

Sichuan woman eighth Falun Gong practitioner to die from maltreatment while held unlawfully in Chinese hospital

NEW YORK – The Falun Dafa Information Center has learned of the death of Falun Gong practitioner Ms. Zhou Huimin, based on reports from her son and corroborated by sources from within China. Ms. Zhou passed away at Qingyang District People’s Hospital in Chengdu city, Sichuan province on March 15, 2008. She was 44 years old.

“Just a few days ago, I turned 15. [Also] just a few days ago, my kind and healthy mother was tortured to death,” wrote Zhou Hanyang, the son of Zhou Huimin, in a letter received by the Information Center last month. “During the 198 days since my mother was arrested, we worried and feared for her day and night. With great sorrow, I remember the days I spent together with my mother and mourn her.”

On the evening of September 26, 2007, police officers from the State Security Division in Chenghua district, Chengdu city broke into Zhou’s home and arrested her, sources report. Zhou was first detained in the Xinjin Brainwashing Center, where she was physically abused. On February 1, 2008, she held a hunger strike to protest the unlawful persecution and four days later was taken to Qingyang District People’s Hospital, where she became critically ill soon after her admission.

Zhou’s whereabouts were made known only after a cousin sought her out on March 10, 2008. Family members were not notified by any of the relevant authorities prior to that date. The officers revealed that Zhou was near death and she had fallen into a coma. When Zhou’s cousin requested her release, his demand was reportedly denied on the basis that the provincial State Security Bureau would not allow it. The authorities told Zhou’s relative to instead prepare her funeral arrangements, saying, “Even if she’s to die, she has to do it here.”

“Afterwards, I heard that some police officers proposed releasing her, but the provincial State Security Bureau said that Falun Gong was a major target as the Olympics approached, and denied her release,” writes Zhou’s son. “With grief and indignation, I want to say that I love peace and hope that the CCP will honor the promises it made to improve human rights when competing to host the Olympic Games, including stopping the persecution of Falun Gong, and that it will not commit murder in the name of protecting the Olympic Games.”

Zhou’s death marks the eighth that has occurred at Chengdu City’s Qingyang District Hospital as a result of torture. Previous cases present a pattern in which China’s 610 Office, local police, and local detention centers have collaborated with the hospital to invert its normal functions. In several cases, the claimed cause of death has been “organ failure due to hunger strike.”

Before her 2007 detention, Ms. Zhou had previously been arrested six times since 1999—the year Falun Gong was first banned in China—and held as a prisoner of conscience. She was imprisoned at Nanmusi Women’s Forced Labor Camp in Sichuan province on three of those occasions. During her illegal imprisonment, she was subjected to various forms of torture, according to sources close to Zhou. During one period, from September 7-19, 2002, she was tortured while also held at the Qingyang District People’s Hospital. For 12 hours each day, she was reportedly hung on a bed frame by foot shackles and two handcuffs, one from her calf and one from her hand. Armed police and wardens from the detention center took shifts monitoring her.

Ms. Zhou went on hunger strike eight times in total, asking for her unconditional release. Her longest hunger strike lasted 89 days, from September 2, 2002, to November 29, 2002. Severe muscle and organ atrophy from the protest eventually won Zhou her release, but had lasting consequences on her health.