Eighth Falun Gong Practitioner Involved in Changchun TV Broadcasts Dies in Custody
New York—A Changchun resident who tapped into Chinese state-controlled media in March 2002 to air footage exposing the persecution of Falun Gong died in custody on May 1, the Falun Dafa Information Center recently learned. Mr. Liang Zhenxing (梁振兴), 46, is at least the eighth practitioner detained in the broadcasts’ aftermath who is known to have died from abuse in custody.
Liang and others made international headlines in 2002 when state-run TV in Changchun suddenly gave way to footage of Falun Gong being practiced around the world, documentation of human rights abuses, and a video deconstructing the so-called “self-immolation” incident as a hoax. As reported in the 2002 Amnesty Urgent Action, the broadcasts reached hundreds of thousands of viewers in the city and surrounding province of Jilin.
The broadcasts came at a time when airwaves were overflowing with vilifying propaganda, inciting hatred and violence against Falun Gong practitioners. Because of the Communist Party’s tight control over the media, practitioners had no avenue for their voices to be heard.
“As in all large scale persecutions, the Communist Party’s use of pervasive hate propaganda has been crucial to enabling atrocities as it causes the ‘bystander’ population to view victims as sub-human,” says Falun Dafa Information Center executive director Levi Browde. “But for that one evening in Changchun, for that brief moment, the veil of fallacy and of Orwellian ‘thoughtwork’ was broken. Instead, the reality of Falun Gong’s innocence and the persecution’s brutality unfolded before millions of eyes.”
In an April 2002 article, the New York Times described the incident as follows: “One man from Changchun said that when [Falun Gong founder] Li Hongzhi’s image suddenly appeared on all eight of the city’s cable television channels on March 5, some residents assumed that the government had lifted its ban on the movement and took to the streets to celebrate.”
Due to the widespread sympathetic response to Falun Gong that the incident sparked, Communist Party leaders responded with one of the largest scale sweeps of the campaign, imposing a security lockdown on the city and abducting at least 5,000 practitioners.
Liang was among those detained. He was subsequently “sentenced” following a show trial to 19 years in a prison camp. While being held at Siping prison camp, Liang was tortured severely, including being shackled for long periods of time, being shocked simultaneously with multiple electric batons, and pouring cold water over him in -20 degree weather.
In December 2009, Lang was reportedly transferred from Siping prison camp to Gongzhuling city prison camp. He died in Gongzhuling Central Hospital on May 1, 2010. Family members who saw him several weeks before his death report his being emaciated and having difficulty walking or talking.
“It’s important to remember that despite the Party’s efforts to portray the incident as a ‘hijacking’, the reality is that this was a remarkable act of nonviolent civil disobedience, ” says Browde. “No guns were fired, no force was used, no hostages were taken, no bystanders were injured. The actions of Liang and other practitioners were entirely peaceful. Liang was a hero and his death is a tragic loss. He never should have been imprisoned in the first place.”