Guizhou Falun Gong Practitioner Killed in Custody on Eve of Chinese New Year

NEW YORK—As families across China prepared to celebrate the Chinese New Year, the relatives of Ms. Gao Qiying were coping with the sudden death of the 40-year-old photographer.

Gao, a Falun Gong practitioner from Guizhou, had been abducted in 2008 before the arrival of the Olympic torch in her town. She died in custody on February 12, 2010, two days before the holiday and within weeks of complaining to her family that prison authorities had injected her with an unknown drug. Gao is the 10th Falun Gong practitioner whose death from abuse the Falun Dafa Information Center has confirmed in 2010, though the actual toll is almost certainly higher.

“Sadly, Ms. Gao’s case contains two aspects that are all too common among the cases of Falun Gong practitioners in China,” says Falun Dafa Information spokesperson Erping Zhang. “One is the use of unknown drugs to mentally and/or physically incapacitate practitioners in an effort to force them to renounce their beliefs, and the second is the use of ‘Olympic security’ as an excuse to illegal abduct Falun Gong practitioners. There are many cases where both of these unfortunate aspects are present.”

Ms. Gao was a resident of Zunyi in Guizhou, where she worked photographing tourists in order to provide for her two sons and their education. She had been born with a physical disability to her back and chest, which caused her difficulty walking and breathing. Her health improved dramatically after she began practicing Falun Gong in 2000.

The Olympic torch was scheduled to arrive in Zunyi on June 14, 2008. As occurred in many parts of the country, security agencies intensified the monitoring and persecution of local residents known to practice Falun Gong ahead of the international event. One police station in Zunyi’s Huichuan District alone reportedly detained at least ten Falun Gong adherents.

On June 12, dozens of officers raided Ms. Gao’s home, abducting her and confiscating the computer and printer she used for her photography business. Ms. Gao was taken to Nanbai Town Detention Center, where she was reportedly tortured. She was subsequently hospitalized in critical condition.

Ms. Gao eventually recovered, but was then “sentenced” in a sham trial in late 2008 to a prison camp. She was transferred to Yangai prison to serve her term.

At the end of January, 2010, Ms. Gao’s family members visited her at the prison. During the visit, she complained that the prison authorities had forced her to take an unknown drug that was causing severe numbness in her feet.

On February 11, the prison authorities called Ms. Gao’s family to inform them that she was being taken to a police hospital in Guiyang, over two hours away. She died at 12:55pm the next day, while her family was still en route. Additional details of the circumstances surrounding her death are being investigated.

Psychiatric torture—both in medical and penal facilities—is a routine tactic used by the Chinese authorities against Falun Gong practitioners in an effort to force them to renounced their belief. The Falun Dafa Information Center reported a similar case from Hunan in September. Ms. Chen Chunjun, also 40 years old, had been detained in May 2008 when the Olympic Torch was to pass through her area; she died in March 2009 at a psychiatric hospital. (news)