High-profile Torture Victim Dies Surrounded by Chinese Security Agents

37-year-old Ms. Gao Rongrong (above), a Shenyang accountant, who suffered severe and prolonged torture that left her face disfigured (below) and, four days ago, resulted in her death.

37-year-old Ms. Gao Rongrong (above), a Shenyang accountant, who suffered severe and prolonged torture that left her face disfigured (below) and, four days ago, resulted in her death.

NEW YORK (FDI) – The grossly disfigured face of 37-year-old Ms. Gao Rongrong (photos) – the result of torture by Chinese authorities – was publicized around the world to the alarm of many. But it wasn’t enough, sources revealed yesterday, to save Gao from being tortured to death by Chinese Communist Party officials.

FDI has learned that Gao died just four days ago. Her death follows nearly two years of incarceration, brainwashing, and torture for her beliefs. Gao died in the emergency room of China Medical University Hospital of complications stemming from torture and abuse in custody.

Sources report that Public Security Bureau agents closely guarded the room in which Gao was held and stood watch at the hospital’s entrances. The agents intended to prevent news of her condition and maltreatment from reaching the outside world; this fits a pattern of complicity that reaches to the highest levels of China’s regime.

According to sources familiar with the case, Gao’s body is currently being held at the Wenguantun Funeral Home in Shenyang City. Chinese police are pressuring Gao’s family to cremate her body quickly, destroying what evidence remains of the torture she endured.

Gao’s death is the 54th by Falun Gong practitioners in Shenyang City, Liaoning Province, investigated and verified by FDI. Gao, as with previous victims, died of injuries from physical torture and maltreatment in captivity.

“To do such violence to an innocent woman and then, further, to try to cover up her death suggests how little China’s regime seeks to uphold its own legal system and international rights agreements,” says FDI spokesperson Erping Zhang.

Woman’s Face Burnt, Disfigured from Torture

Ms. Gao was an accountant at the Luxun College of Fine Arts in Shenyang City. For her affiliation with Falun Gong, she was stripped of her job in 1999, soon after Falun Gong met with suppression. Gao then lodged legal, sanctioned appeals with authorities in Beijing calling for an end to the wrongful persecution. Authorities then, acting outside the law, detained Gao, holding her for several months.

In July of 2003 Gao was sent to Longshan Forced Labor Camp. During her detention Gao was physically beaten by camp personnel, report sources familiar with her case. Almost one year later, on May 7, 2004, at approximately 3:00pm, Tang Yubao, the deputy head of the No. 2 Brigade along with team leader Jiang Zhaohua, summoned Gao to the duty office and began to torture her by means of electric baton. Sources report that the torture continued for some 7 hours. Those detained with Gao in the labor camp say she sustained multiple burns to her face, head, and neck. Gao’s face was covered with blisters and her hair was matted with pus and blood. So severe were the injuries that Gao was left disfigured and had difficulty seeing.

In a desperate attempt to escape her torturers, Gao later jumped from the 2nd floor office window of the facility, sustaining multiple fractures. Subsequent hospitalization allowed those close to Gao to take photos of the injuries to her face and body. The shocking 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 and presented to the United Nations.

While hospitalized, Gao was under constant surveillance from Chinese police. Authorities declared she would be returned to captivity upon release from the hospital. On October 5, 2004, however, Gao – having recovered sufficiently to be moved – was able to leave the hospital with the help of a small group of friends, thus avoiding abduction by police and the possibility of further torture.

Politburo Standing Committee Member Personally Oversaw Gao’s Case

As international pressure mounted concerning Gao’s case, one of China’s highest-ranking officials stepped in: Politburo Standing Committee member Luo Gan. Luo proceeded to order 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 Gao’s case.

“Gao’s death is part a of disturbing pattern of systematic rights violations, systematic cover up, and zero accountability,” says Erping Zhang. “Chinese authorities, instead of trying to hold accountable the murderers, are shielding them in this and most every case we know of. We’re calling on all international bodies to join us in condemning Gao’s death and seeking to hold responsible all who were involved.”

After Gao’s escape, Shenyang City Police Department (State Security Division) began tapping the phone lines of all Falun Gong practitioners in the region, hoping to discover who had helped publicize Gao’s case and secure her escape. A manhunt ensued, as all individuals believed to have facilitated Gao’s hospital escape were ordered rounded up. One such individual who was abducted, Mr. Feng Gang had to be admitted to Masanjia Hospital after thirteen days of hunger strike protesting his unlawful abduction. Another individual, Mr. Sun Shiyou, is reported to have been severely tortured by authorities, including having his genitals shocked by electric batons. Mr. Sun’s family members were also abducted.

Sources in China report that on March 6 Gao was located by police and again abducted. Neither her location nor her condition were revealed to family members until June 12; they learned she was being held at Masanjia Hospital. According to Gao’s family, by the time they reached the hospital on June 12, Gao had lost consciousness, her organs were atrophying, and she was hooked up to a respirator. They say she was little more than “skin and bones.”

Gao was then transferred to China Medical University Hospital where she died four days later, on June 16.

FDI has yet to verify the details and specifics of what torture and other forms of abuse Gao was subjected to in the period of captivity between March 6 and June 12, and is asking for any witnesses or others with information to please notify the Information Center immediately.