Harbin Family Suffers Second Death from Torture

51-year-old Falun Gong Practitioner Died Last Month; Brother-in-law died in 2007; Wife still imprisoned, at risk of torture

New York—A Falun Gong practitioner imprisoned in Harbin’s Daqing Prison died on May 23, 2009 due to abuse in custody, the Falun Dafa Information Center recently learned. Mr. Li Min (??) died at the age of 51, after being tortured and denied medical care when he suffered the symptoms of a stroke.

Li is just one of several family members who have been victims of severe rights abuses at the hands of the Chinese authorities because of their identity as Falun Gong practitioners. In 2007, Li’s brother-in-law died in custody at a labor camp after being tortured. Li’s wife is currently imprisoned in Harbin’s Women’s Prison and at risk of abuse. 

“Falun Gong spread in the 1990s primarily by word of mouth as people saw their relatives and friends’ health and outlook on life improve. So it was not uncommon for multiple members of one family to take up the practice,” says Falun Gong spokesperson Erping Zhang. “But that’s also why – ten years into a brutal persecutory campaign – it is not uncommon for multiple members of a single family to have been killed, tortured, or imprisoned.”

“The story of Li Min and his family is not an exceptional case. Rather, it is a microcosm of the way in which the CCP’s campaign against Falun Gong has targeted one of the most fundamental units of Chinese society, making forced separation, torture, and death a daily reality for millions of families across China.”

A Father’s Death

Li Min, who began practicing Falun Gong in 1998, was arrested from his workplace – the Finance Bureau of Harbin’s Hulan District – in March 2005. He was subsequently sentenced to eight years in prison for practicing Falun Gong. He was sent to the 7th ward of Daqing prison where, according to sources inside China, he was tortured by guards and his health deteriorated dramatically, causing him to suffer the symptoms of a stroke.

When his son visited him during the Chinese New Year in February 2009, Li was unable to walk on his own, but rather had to be carried into the visitation room. He also had difficulty breathing and talking. Despite his weak condition and his family’s appeals in April 2009 for him to be released on medical parole, the prison authorities insisted on keeping him in custody.

In mid-May 2009, Li was transferred to Daqing Hospital. He passed away at 8pm on May 23 at the age of 51. His death brings the total number of adherents known to have died as a result of persecution to 3,287. It also reinforces Heilongjiang’s infamous record as the deadliest province for Falun Gong practitioners – 411 adherents are documented to have died there from abuse since 1999 – as well as Daqing prison’s notoriety as a venue for systematic and brutal torture (for previous cases of abuse and death at the prison see: report).

Li’s wife Du Xiuzhi (???) remains in custody at Harbin Women’s Prison. She was arrested from their home on the same day as him in 2005 and later sentenced to eight year’s in prison, also for practicing Falun Gong. It is unknown whether she is aware of her husband’s death.

Death, Torture a Family Affair

Li is not the first in the family to have died as a result of abuse in custody. His brother-in-law Yu Huaicai (???), also from Hulan District in Harbin, died on April 22, 2007. Yu was arrested on November 15, 2006 and sentenced without trial to one year at Changlinzi “re-education through labor” camp. In February 2007, he went on hunger strike to protest his unjust incarceration.

Guards at the camp are reported to have brutally force-fed him – an act commonly used as a form of torture against adherents rather than as a medical procedure – causing non-stop bleeding from his mouth and nose. Though his life was in danger, the camp director refused to release him. His family members saw him at the labor camp four days before his death, at which time he was unable to speak. Yu, who was over six feet tall, died at the age of 42, weighing only 100 lbs.

Other recent cases of families with multiple members suffering imprisonment and torture include (the following individuals reside outside of China and are therefore available for interviews):

  • Shuangying Zhang: Father sentenced in April 2009 to seven years in prison; over past decade, mother, aunt, uncle, cousin, and sister-in-law were each jailed in a labor camp. See New York Daily News article
  • Bu Dongwei: Former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, released from over two years in a Beijing labor camp in July 2008; he was previously imprisoned in labor camp, as was his wife. See: report; For an account of the couple’s first detention, see: A Love Story of Wind and Rain
  • Yang Guizheng and Zhang Chungang: Mother and daughter from Liaoning province who recently received refugee status in the United States; both had been detained and tortured in labor camps, the latter in the notorious Masanjia camp. See: Des Moines Register article