Case Update: Family Members of Falun Gong Practitioners Beaten as Lockdown at Prison Continues

New York–Since news emerged last month of three Falun Gong detainees being killed in custody at a prison in northeast China, family members of the victims and others prisoners of conscience have been harassed and beaten, as the authorities seek to cover up the deaths.

Torture and abuse intensified at Jiamusi Prison in Heilongjiang province in February after personnel received orders in early 2011 to increase the “transformation rate” among Falun Gong practitioners held at the camp. The orders were issued as part of a nationwide three-year Communist Party campaign to reinvigorate transformation efforts (CECC analysis).

As a result, three middle-aged male practitioners died between February 26 and March 8, 2011: Mr. Qin Yueming, Mr. Yu Yungang, and Mr. Liu Chungjiang (news). Within days of the deaths, news of the incident and photos of the victims were posted on the overseas Falun Gong website (photo gallery). In response to information on the deaths being leaked online so quickly, the prison was put under lockdown.

Since then, family members of the three victims have also been harassed and placed under tight surveillance. According to sources in China, the prison formed a Special Services Team dedicated to the task of silencing the families. Both uniformed and plainclothes security agents have been involved in the harassment. Some of the families, particularly Mr. Qin’s wife and teenage daughters, have experienced repeated persecution in the past.

“As if it were not enough that these families lost a father, brother, and son due to the prison’s brutality. Now, rather than punishing those responsible for these crimes, the authorities are investing additional efforts in making these families lives miserable,” says Falun Dafa Information Center executive director Levi Browde.

Central to the harassment is pressure to agree to the cremation of the body of the family’s loved one in an apparent effort to destroy evidence of torture. Under such pressure and promises of monetary compensation, the relatives of Mr. Yu and Mr. Liu authorized their cremation.

Family Members Beaten, Hospitalized

As the family members of other Falun Gong practitioners held at the camp have reacted with panic to news of the deaths and demanded to see their loved ones, they have also been detained or beaten.

In one incident, ten relatives of Mr. Jiang Botao, a Falun Gong practitioner held at the camp since October 2010, visited the prison on March 11. The prison only allowed two of the relatives, who did not practice Falun Gong, to visit Jiang. When they asked Jiang if he had been beaten and he replied affirmatively, the guards monitoring the conversation immediately disconnected the phone and ended the meeting.

Shortly thereafter, over ten plainclothes police officers entered the room where other family members were waiting and began shoving and hitting them in an apparent effort to force them to leave. One officer struck Jiang’s wife in the mouth, while another tore his sister-in-law’s coat (photo).

In the most serious action, one officer kicked Jiang’s other sister-in-law in the chest, where she had recently undergone surgery. She soon went into convulsions, but the prison personnel did nothing to assist her. Her family members rushed her to the hospital and later reported the abuse to the Heilongjiang Prison Management Bureau, but are still awaiting further investigation.

Ten days later, the families of two Falun Gong practitioners scheduled for release visited the prison on March 21. Among the visitors was Mr. Li Shaotie, a man of around 60. Plainclothes police officers reportedly asked him to show his ID card, but he refused, citing that they had no authority to request such information. He and several family members then left the building.

However, plainclothed officers would not allow them to leave and grabbed Li. A photo taken by an eyewitness shows them carrying him by force to a car (photo). They took him to the Lianjiangkou Branch of the Public Security Bureauand later to the Jiamusi branch. According to sources in China, he fainted several times and his blood pressure rose, causing the police to call an ambulance to take him to the hospital. The officers then wanted to send him to a detention center, but the latter refused to accept him due to his poor health. The police resigned to allow him to go home. Being too weak to walk, Li reportedly had to crawl out of the police station in order to get a taxi home (photo showing marks of abuse).

An additional 70 Falun Gong practitioners are still being held at Jiamusi Prison.

Meanwhile, the prison remains under lockdown and the communications of both Falun Gong and non-Falun Gong detainees and personnel is being tightly monitored.

Since 1999, the Chinese Communist Party has carried out a widespread, brutal campaign of persecution to eradicate Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese spiritual and qigong practice, whose adherents in China still number in the tens of millions. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese who practice Falun Gong remain in captivity, rendering them the single largest group of prisoners of conscience in China (article). The United Nations, Amnesty International, Chinese human rights lawyers, and Western media have documented Falun Gong torture and deaths at the hands of Chinese officials (reports). The campaign and its implementation are in violation of Chinese law and, contrary to common reporting, Falun Gong was not banned as an “evil cult.” (analysis).

Urgent Appeal

The Falun Dafa Information Center urges journalists, diplomats, and human rights groups to further investigate the facts surrounding these deaths, the beatings of family members of detainees, and conditions at Jiamusi Prison. The Center also urges them to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all Falun Gong prisoners of conscience being held there.

For additional information, see: