Award-winning Teacher Jailed 6 Years and Tortured for Distributing Pamphlets
Ms. Wang Juzhen, an elementary school teacher and Falun Gong practitioner from Kunming City, Yunnan Province was arrested in August 2014 for distributing pamphlets about Falun Gong. Afterwards, she was sentenced to 7.5 years of imprisonment in the Yunnan Province Second Women’s Prison. While in prison, guards forced her to do intensive labor without pay, tortured her, tried to brainwash her, gave her little food, and rarely allowed her to wash up or use the restroom.
Before she was released from prison in August 2020, Ms. Wang Juzhen learned that her school had fired her, even though she was an outstanding teacher for 27 years, with several county and provincial education bureau awards to her credit. With no means to support herself, she is now struggling to resume a normal life.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
Details of the Arrest and Sentencing
Ms. Wang and three other Falun Gong practitioners, Mr. Wang Zhengli, Ms. Bi Jinmei, and Ms. Li Xiaoling, went to neighboring Xundian County on August 16, 2014 to raise awareness of the Chinese regime’s persecution of Falun Gong.
They happened to give a brochure to Gui Mingxing, the secretary of the local Political and Legal Affairs Committee, which is an extra-judiciary agency tasked with overseeing the persecution. Soon after officers from the Xianfeng Police Station shot the tires of a practitioner’s car to prevent them from driving away and arrested them. An officer beat them. Consequently, one of Ms. Bi’s teeth was knocked out.
The officers and agents from the 610 Office held the practitioners overnight, handcuffing them to iron chairs, in the Xundian Police Department. The next day, the police transferred the three women to Kunming City Women’s Detention Center and Mr. Wang to Xundian County Detention Center.
At that time, Songming and Xundian County police broke into and ransacked practitioner’s homes. They confiscated 10,000 yuan worth of belongings, including computers, DVD burners, printers, Falun Gong books, and cash.
The practitioners appeared in Xundian County Court on April 10, 2015, charged with “sabotaging law enforcement,” the standard pretext used for criminalizing Falun Gong. Outside the courthouse, hundreds of police officers surrounded the building, and the courtroom was occupied by the police and judiciary officials. Only two family members per practitioner were allowed to enter the courtroom.
The prosecutor listed several witnesses in the indictment, but none of them appeared in court to accept cross-examination. Ms. Wang’s lawyer asked that the evidence be exhibited in the courtroom, but the judge ignored the request.
The lawyers entered not guilty pleas for the practitioners. They argued that the practitioners’ freedom of belief was protected by the Chinese Constitution and should not be infringed upon by the government. They emphasized that the prosecutor failed to present any evidence to show how their clients undermined law enforcement with their spiritual belief. They requested that the practitioners be acquitted.
When Ms. Wang testified in her defense, the judge interrupted her repeatedly and didn’t allow her to continue.
The judge handed down the sentences on May 4, 2015. Ms. Wang, Mr. Wang, and Ms. Bi were each sentenced to seven and half years, and Ms. Li to three years with four years of probation. Ms. Wang appealed to Kunming City Intermediate Court, which ruled to uphold the original verdict on July 20, 2015.
On September 17, 2015, the Songming County Bureau of Education administrators fired Ms. Wang.
One Year of Forced Labor in Detention Center
Before she was transferred to prison, Ms. Wang spent over a year in Kunming Women’s Detention Center, where she had to work in a sweatshop. Every day from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. she assembled light bulbs and pushed them into the lamp sockets. She had to complete over 1,000 each day and put in extra hours if the demand was higher. Her fingers blistered and bled until calluses formed. Some of the products were exported.
Ms. Wang had to work 12 hours a day, but she was barely given anything edible to eat. Her only options were cabbage covered with insects or squash for several months straight.
Tortured in the Women’s Prison
Ms. Wang and Ms. Bi were taken to the Yunnan Province Second Women’s Prison on September 23, 2015. The guards ordered an inmate to strip Ms. Wang and take her clothes and shampoo. She later found out that the inmate had given her belongings to other inmates, and she was left with only a few pairs of underwear and a bar of soap.
A guard ordered two inmates to watch Ms. Wang around the clock.
For the first nine months of her imprisonment, Ms. Wang was forced to sit still on a tiny stool for 13 hours a day, which hurt her back and leg tremendously. The guards wouldn’t let her sleep when she refused to memorize the prison rules. They also tried to force her to read books that slandered Falun Gong and write reports of her thoughts. In the winter when other inmates had to wear two coats to stay warm, Ms. Wang had only a thin shirt. The inmates verbally abused her around the clock, and the guards turned a blind eye to it.
The guards tried to score points with their superiors by making the practitioners renounce their faith publicly. In a room full of people, Ms. Wang went first to the podium and said, “Falun Gong practitioners are not guilty for what they believe. When I leave this prison, I will spend the rest of my life suing the prison authorities for persecuting the practitioners.” The guards put her under strict observation right away.
She was banned from talking to anyone, including her family during that time. She had to put in an application if she wanted to write or receive letters or have family visits. The application needed to be approved by a dozen guards and reviewed in a meeting. The guards did not let her get her meals or water on her own, so the inmates assigned to monitor her had to do it for her. They were not happy about the extra work and cut down on the amount of food she got and limited her use of hot water.
She had to sit still on a tiny stool from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. with only two hours of walking time in between. The guards gave her one bucket of clean water per week and made her bathe and wash her clothes in half an hour. On the other days, she was given only enough water to brush her teeth. She was only allowed to go to the toilet six times a day. She was not allowed to talk to other or to look around.
The inmates, most of whom were inside for drug trafficking, were given absolute power and could take the practitioners’ belongings at will. They included Wang Ping, who was sentenced to life; Song Jing, Wang Ruxin, Gu Shangqiong, and Yu Boxiang, who were all sentenced to 15 years; and Gui Fen, who was sentenced to 12 years. They constantly came up with different ways to frame the practitioners so that the guards could torture them.
Persecution Continues after Release
Only one month after Ms. Wang was released on August 17, 2020, authorities harassed her. The director of the 610 Office sent someone to threaten her family on September 16, 2020. The person said that she had to report to the police and that if she didn’t, they would monitor her family and shut off their cell phone service. Songyang Town Police Station officers called six days later, ordering her to report to them again.
In October 2020 and January 2021, officials and police called and visited Ms. Wang and her family to harass them.