Imprisoned Teacher Dies for His Faith

Photo of Mr. Shi Jianwei before he was detained.

Photo of Mr. Shi Jianwei before he was detained.

Mr. Shi Jianwei died at Yunnan Province No. 1 Prison while serving a 6.5-year term for his faith in Falun Gong. The prison claimed that Mr. Shi died of liver cancer. However, his family suspects he was tortured to death, given the bruising on his back and that there was no sign of liver cancer in his medical record. His body was cremated against his family’s will, a practice that is commonplace in what is believed to be an attempt to cover up evidence of torture and other abuses such as forced organ harvesting.

Mr. Shi and his wife, both teachers, worked at Binchuan County No.1 Middle School in Yunnan Province. After the persecution of Falun Gong began in 1999, both were barred from teaching for upholding their faith. They were arrested multiple times and held in detention centers, forced labor camps and brainwashing centers. When they were first detained, their daughter Shi Jia, then a second grader, was left alone at home and relied on the care of local Falun Gong practitioners.

Latest Arrest and Sentence

The family of three was arrested at home on September 7, 2015, for filing a criminal complaint against Jiang Zemin, the former leader of the Chinese communist regime who ordered the persecution of Falun Gong.

The police interrogated the family and tried to force the daughter to report her parents’ lawsuit against Jiang by threatening to imprison her if she didn’t comply. She refused to do so and the police released her the next day.

Mr. Shi was taken to Binchuan County Detention Center and his wife to Dalizhou Detention Center. To collect evidence against the couple, the police ransacked the homes of over ten people that they thought were in contact with them.

The Xiangyun County Court tried the couple on June 23, 2016. They each insisted they were innocent and didn’t do anything wrong in practicing their faith or speaking out against the persecution.

Mr. Shi testified that over ten officers beat him in the basement of the police department. He said that the police twisted his arm backwards, kicked him in the back and stomach, as well as stomped his head. Ms. Xiao revealed that the police threatened her with their daughter’s safety in an attempt to extract a confession from her.

The judge sentenced Mr. Shi to 6.5 years at Yunnan Province No.1 Prison and Ms. Xiao to 5 years at Yunnan Province No.2 Women’s Prison.

Deceased in the Prison

Sine 2019, the prison denied Mr. Shi his family visitation.

Two years later, on August 25, 2021, his family received a call from the prison that Mr. Shi was suspected of having liver cancer and had been taken to the prison hospital.

He had lost more than 20 pounds in recent months and was in critical condition. Yet, the prison refused to release him on medical parole and refused to allow his family to visit him or review his medical record.

A month later, on September 26, a prison guard called Mr. Shi’s family and said that he was on the verge of dying and was being resuscitated. His family asked to visit him, but the prison refused again.

Three hours later, the same guard informed the family that Mr. Shi had passed away and demanded they come to the prison to sign his cremation paperwork.

When the family saw Mr. Shi’s body, they noticed bruises on his back and fluid accumulation in his abdomen. Suspecting he was tortured, the family refused to sign the cremation agreement and demanded to see his medical record.

A week later, the prison provided three of Mr. Shi’s blood test results. In all three tests, the levels of alpha-fetoprotein, an important indicator of liver cancer, were normal.

Mr. Shi’s family requested an autopsy, but the prison guards replied that they must prepay 100,000 yuan ($15,840.58 USD) to cover the cost.

Mr. Shi’s family demanded to take his medical record and blood test results with them, but the guards rejected their request, and said the family could only look at them.

The guards cremated Mr. Shi’s body against his family’s will shortly after.

Several Others Tortured to Death at the Same Prison

According to information collected by, several other Falun Gong practitioners have been tortured to death in Yunnan Province No.1 Prison, including Mr. Fang Zhengping, Mr. Luo Jiangping and Mr. Liao Jianfu.

While details of the deaths of Mr. Fang and Mr. Liao remain to be investigated, it’s known that Mr. Luo was injected with toxic drugs, held in solitary confinement, and forced to do intensive labor in the prison. Just three months into his term, he developed advanced cirrhosis and was released on medical parole on December 23, 2013 in critical condition. He passed away five days later, at the age of 51.

Based on an original report from

English Teacher Imprisoned for His Faith Dies in Custody, Foul Play Suspected