Falun Gong Practitioner Dies from Psychiatric Torture in Southeast China

New York—A 40-year-old female Falun Gong practitioner in Hunan province has died in custody, apparently due to psychiatric torture, the Falun Dafa Information Center recently learned. The woman had been detained in May 2008 in a local crackdown before the Olympic Torch passed through the province.

Ms. Chen Chunjun (???), a former accountant at the local railroad company, was arrested on May 10, 2008 in Huaihua city by agents of the 610 Office, an extra-legal task force created in 1999 and charged with wiping out Falun Gong. (6-10 Office) She was walking to a bus stop on her way home when she was detained. Chen was one of dozens of Falun Gong practitioners arbitrarily detained that month in Hunan, as part of a crackdown by local officials ahead of the passage of the Olympic Torch relay through the province from June 1-3, 2008.

Sources inside China recently discovered that Chen died in March 2009 at Huaihua Psychiatric Hospital (a.k.a. Huaihua No. 4 People’s Hospital).

Since 1999, torture at psychiatric hospitals has been a well-documented feature of the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign to force Falun Gong practitioners to renounce their belief. It is an extension of a practice that has been used for decades against those who hold views that do not accord with those of the Party.

In recent years, numerous reports have emerged of staff at Huaihua’s psychiatric hospital, under pressure from the local 610 Office, participating in persecuting Falun Gong practitioners, including injecting them with nerve-damaging drugs. Chen herself had been wrongfully injected with a psychotropic drug during a previous detention in the city. 

“This innocent woman’s death is an abrupt reminder of the terrible toll that last year’s Olympics continue to take on ordinary Chinese, months after the games’ closing ceremonies,” said Falun Dafa Information Center spokesperson Gail Rachlin. “But perhaps the most tragic aspect of Ms. Chen’s death is that it could have been avoided given all of the warning signs that such practices occur at this hospital. For every day that passes without practical measures to stop this, more Falun Gong practitioners in Huaihua are at risk of the same fate.”

“We therefore urge the international community to immediately investigate the circumstances surrounding Ms. Chen’s death and the broader history of abuse at this particular institution.”

In May 2008, Chen was initially detained at Zhijiang County Detention Center, where other inmates—primarily drug offenders—beat her at the instigation of the guards, causing injuries to her head. She was subsequently transferred to Baimalong Women’s Forced Labor camp and then Huaihua City Brainwashing Center, where she was forced to undergo sessions at which authorities sought to force her to renounce her beliefs. She was then transferred to Huaihua Psychiatric hospital. It is a widely used practice for Chinese security forces to use psychiatric torture on practitioners who resist “transformation,” the psychological “reprogramming” aimed at forcing them to denounce Falun Gong.

History of Psychiatric Torture

Prior to her death, Chen had been imprisoned on multiple occasions over the past decade because of her faith – including being sent to Baimalong “re-education through labor” camp in 2001 and sentenced in an unfair trial to three years in Hunan Province Women’s Prison in 2002. According to sources familiar with her case, during those periods of detention, as Ms. Chen persisted in her faith, she was repeatedly subjected to torture including being shocked with electric batons, hung for long periods of time by her handcuffs, and force-fed. At certain points during these periods in custody, she was tortured to the point of being unable to see or walk.

During her previous detention at Baimalong camp, Ms. Chen was injected with the psychotropic drug Thorazine, causing her to suffer severe cognitive dysfunction, a known effect of the drug, particularly when administered to those not suffering from psychological disorders.

Psychotropic drugs are often administered to Falun Gong practitioners in labor camps as a form of torture. Such treatments have been known to cause traumatic hallucinations [See case of Li Heping, cited here: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-faith-column/2008/08/falun-gong-practitioners-china], permanent damage to the nervous system, or death. Of the 103 individuals the Information Center documented to have died in 2007, 11 people—over 10 percent—had passed away after being injected with unidentified drugs during their detention in a hospital, labor camp, or prison.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the World Psychiatric Association have documented the psychiatric abuse of Falun Gong practitioners, political dissidents, and local whistleblowers in recent years. Much groundbreaking work in exposing such abuses has been carried out by Robin Munro drawing on hospitals’ own documentation of cases. In his 2006 book, China’s Psychiatric Inquisition: Dissent, Psychiatry and the Law in Post-1949 China, Munro dedicates a chapter to the issue of psychiatric persecution of the Falun Gong in China. [For more info see: http://www.faluninfo.net/topic/148/ ]

Additional information:
Huaihua Psychiatric Hospital
Address: 65 South Hutian Road
Phone: +86-745-2350362