China’s Alleged Brainwashing “Success” Cause for Serious Concern

BEIJING, November 20, 2001 (Falun Dafa Information Center) — China’s state media claimed today that Ms. Teng Chunyan, a U.S. permanent resident sentenced in China to 3 years in prison, has “renounced” her practice of Falun Gong. The alleged “transformation” of Teng came soon after her transfer to Tuanhe Labor Camp, notorious for its brutality. Officials are touting the case as a victory, parading the story widely in an attempt to win further support in the campaign against Falun Gong.

Something the state media failed to report, however, is that Teng’s remarks, whatever they may be, come only after a harrowing 16 months of detention, abuse, and psychological manipulation at the hands of Chinese authorities.

This Never Should Have Happened

Teng Chunyan is a U.S. permanent resident who normally resides in New York City. Before her captivity she was a successful acupuncturist in Manhattan who taught and ran her own clinic; she also practiced Falun Gong. In early 2000 she had traveled to China at great risk, after being disturbed by reports of severe human rights violations.

On May 11, 2000, Teng was abducted by police in Beijing, China. She was charged with “prying into state information and providing them [sic] to foreigners” for her documenting the illegal detention and abuse of Falun Gong practitioners in China’s mental hospitals and providing evidence to Western journalists. That December she was sentenced to three years in prison and placed in the No. 7 Detention Center in Beijing.

Eyewitnesses who were in the detention center with Teng report that there in captivity she suffered from a number of abuses, which aimed at forcing her to renounce her beliefs. She was interrogated for hours on end on more than 50 occasions; she was forced to stand and squat in excruciating postures for days and nights at a time; and she was even fined 30,000 Yuan as a “service charge” for her own captivity. Family say they have been denied visiting privileges.

Hearing that Teng is suddenly singing the praises of her captors, describing her painful ordeal instead in rosy terms, as China’s media claims, is serious cause for concern. It would suggest that she has become the victim of China’s massive brainwashing efforts, which target Falun Gong.

Teng Chunyan was detained for 16 months under strict surveillance and abused. Friends have said that for over a year of captivity she held fast to her beliefs, amidst incredible pressure. It apparently took 16 months of effort to break Teng’s will, to alter her thinking and beliefs.

FDI Spokesperson Adam Montanaro commented, “It’s just shocking that China’s authorities do such a blatantly illegal thing as locking someone up, abusing her, and then bending her mind with brainwashing and propaganda. And what’s even harder to fathom is that they then parade this around as a so-called ‘success,’ as if violating someone’s freedom of belief is something to be proud of. This is a flagrant breach of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Dr. Teng never should have been detained in the first place.”

“It’s just sick to try to alter someone’s fundamental beliefs for political purposes.”

The Trauma of Brainwashing

It is hard to imagine the pain, the heartache, the suffering and torment associated with systematic brainwashing. The brainwashing tactics employed by China’s authorities, euphemistically referred to as “re-education,” involve severe physical and mental deprivation, torture, and reprogramming. One is completely broken down, the will in tatters, before being shaped anew by the oppressor. It is very difficult to know what a person truly believes when in this state of delusion. The case of Professor Kunlun Zhang is telling.

Zhang is an artist and Canadian citizen who practices Falun Gong. He is also a victim of brainwashing. Zhang went through something similar, it appears, to Teng. While in China visiting family, Zhang was arrested for his association with Falun Gong and imprisoned. There, in captivity, Zhang experienced firsthand the horror of brainwashing.

In Zhang’s words, “From day one guards forced me to sit through brainwashing sessions day and night. They burned my flesh with electric cattle prods and isolated me. When I was not forced to watch propaganda videos, people surrounded me around the clock, saying bad things about Falun Gong to me. They tortured and brainwashed me to the point where my mind was numb. I repeated whatever they told me, even though I didn’t believe a word of it… This mental torture was even worse than the physical torture. These memories are extremely painful, and beyond words’ description.” Zhang was forced to pay roughly one year’s salary, as “tuition” for the “re-education class.”

While in custody Zhang even made public statements on Chinese TV against his will. But when he was released after international pressure, he realized what he had done. He revealed the terrible lengths Chinese authorities had gone to to break his will. “Now that I’m a free man, I can say that none of what I said under pressure was true. Falun Gong is good, and I will practice it the rest of my life” Zhang declared in a recent statement. Zhang has spent the past year traveling the world to raise awareness about mental torture in China.

Brainwashing is part of a larger plan by China’s communist officials to “eradicate” Falun Gong. According to a Washington Post report on 8/5/01, authorities in China are using a combination of brainwashing, propaganda, and torture to systematically destroy Falun Gong and all who practice it. To this end, thousands of offices, school rooms, and other facilities throughout China have been turned into so-called “classrooms” for brainwashing Falun Gong practitioners.

The Falun Dafa Information Center is disturbed by the alleged reports surrounding Teng Chunyan, and believes that, if true, they are fundamentally linked to brainwashing and abuse.

Spokesperson Adam Montanaro: “Chinese authorities have absolutely no business deciding what spiritual beliefs a person should have. Beating, torturing, and driving the beliefs out of people is just plain sinister—that’s not what a government’s supposed to do, or anyone for that matter.”