Gao Rongrong: The Face of Persecution
Like many Falun Gong practitioners, Gao Rongrong paid a harsh price for remaining true to the principles she believed in.
In 1999 this lovely 31-year-old accountant was fired because she practiced Falun Gong. In response, she filed legal appeals to protest the government’s persecution of the practice. This was brave considering other practitioners had been arrested for exercising this “right.”
A few years later in July of 2003, Ms. Gao was taken by police and imprisoned for her beliefs. They sent her to the Longshan forced labor camp in Shenyang city. There, witness say she was routinely beaten for refusing to give up her belief in Falun Gong.
On May 7th, 2004, Ms. Gao was summoned to an office by two labor camp officials who then tortured her with electric batons for seven hours straight. The torture seared the skin off her face, head, and neck, and she sustained severe, disfiguring burns. Her once-radiant face was left scared with blisters and her hair was matted with pus and blood.
In a desperate attempt to escape her torturers, Ms. Gao jumped from the 2nd-floor office window of the facility. She suffered several injuries and was hospitalized.
While in the hospital, Ms. Gao was under constant surveillance by Chinese police. Authorities declared she would be returned to captivity upon as soon as she could leave the hospital. But before this could happen, a small courageous group of Falun Gong practitioners rescued her and Ms. Gao went into hiding.
The escape allowed people to take pictures of Ms. Gao’s disfigured face. The photos made their way overseas, where rights activists publicized them widely. Details of her case were submitted to related government offices in the U.S. and other nations. Her case was also presented to the United Nations.
When Ms. Gao’s case attracted international attention, one of China’s highest-ranking officials stepped in to stifle the flow of information. Politburo Standing Committee member Luo Gan ordered the Liaoning Province Chinese Communist Party Political Judiciary Committee, the Procuratorate, the Department of Justice, and the Police Department to conceal any and all information about her case, and to bring her back into police custody.
The Shenyang City Police Department tapped the phone lines of all known Falun Gong practitioners in the region, hoping to discover her rescuers and the practitioners that helped publicize her case. Police carried out a manhunt and all individuals believed to have helped Ms. Gao were rounded up. One such individual, Mr. Sun Shiyou, is reported to have been severely tortured by authorities, including having his genitals shocked by electric batons and long sewing needles stabbed under his fingernails. Mr. Sun’s family members were also abducted.
Sources in China report that on March 6, 2005, Ms. Gao was located by police and sent to the Masanjia Hospital. By the time her family was informed of her whereabouts on June 12th, Gao had lost consciousness. Her organs were atrophying and she was hooked up to a respirator. Her family member say she was little more than “skin and bones.” Gao Rongrong died four days later at the age of 37.