Married Couple Sentenced to 15.5 Years Total for Their Faith

A couple in Daqing City, Heilongjiang Province, were both sentenced for their faith in Falun Gong. Mr. Guan Xintao was given eight years, and his 59-year-old wife, Ms. Wu Yanhua was sentenced to seven and a half years. Guan is now in Hulan Prison and his wife, Wu, is in Heilongjiang Women’s Prison. Prior to the latest sentence, Guan had served 10 years in Tailai Prison.

The article below detail Guan and Wu’s arrest, as well as the torture and slave labor Wu is currently experiencing in the notorious ‘Devil’s Division’ of Heilongjiang Women’s Prison. Recent updates have reported that Wu is forced to make false eyelashes for 18 to 19 hours a day on average.

Arrests and Sentencing

Wu was arrested at around 8 a.m. on November 9, 2018, when she went to pay her homeowners association fee. When she did not return, Guan went to look for his wife and was arrested on his way home.

Six officers knocked on the couple’s door at around 3 p.m. and before Wu’s mother could open it, the police barged in. They raided the house and confiscated the couple’s Falun Gong books and computers. Wu’s elderly mother is in her 80’s and was horribly shaken after witnessing the police raid. Once Guan’s mother found out about his arrest, she suffered a heart attack and stroke.

The couple was detained in the police department for two days and sent to the No. 1 and No. 2 Detention in Daqing City on November 11, 2018. When their family members went to the police department to ask for their release, the officers threatened them and turned them away.

Guan was sentenced to eight years in prison and Wu to seven and a half years on September 29, 2019, after being detained for more than a year. They appealed to the Daqing City Intermediate Court but the verdicts were upheld.

Guan was admitted to Hulan Prison on January 14, 2020, and Wu was admitted to Heilongjiang Women’s Prison on January 7, 2020. Both were denied family visits.

Tortured in the ‘Devil’s Division’

Wu was brutally tortured in Division 8, Team 19— Division 8 is known as the devil’s division. Everyone tasked to work in this division is prioritized with forcing Falun Gong practitioners to renounce their faith. Prison guards and criminal inmates work together to torture prisoners of conscience for their belief in Falun Gong. Practitioners in Division 8 are also regularly forced to write guarantee statements and thought reports.

The division is less than 30 square meters but sometimes held up to 28 people. The small area is used for both working and sleeping quarters with mattresses being laid out at night.

The head inmate, Zhang Yang, who is in her 40s, has been persecuting Falun Gong practitioners during her imprisonment. Ms. Liu Shuyun, in her 60s, was beaten by Zhang; another inmate was also beaten by Zhang and suffered a heart attack. Zhang’s position gives her the final say in deciding which inmates will monitor which practitioners, the workload for each individual, and the meting out of punishments (such as throwing away inmates’ clothes or prohibiting them from making phone calls, going to the grocery store in the prison, going to the restroom, or sleeping).

Four inmates are assigned to monitor one practitioner— If the practitioner did the Falun Gong exercises, talked to other practitioners, or refused to cooperate, all five of them and the head inmate would be punished. The punishments include doing labor work and not being allowed term reductions. The guard in charge would also be penalized with their bonus withheld and be passed up for promotions or pay raises.

Falun Gong practitioners are confined to a small area in the cell and are not allowed to talk to other practitioners. When they leave the cell to go to the restroom, other inmates follow them closely. Practitioners are also not allowed to look at each other. 

Inmates and guards are rewarded if they successfully “transform” a practitioner— If they can assault, berate, mentally incapacitate, or torture a practitioner into giving up their faith in Falun Gong, they are rewarded handsomely. The reward could include term reductions, promotions, or bonus points for good behavior.

As a result, the inmates use cruel methods and any means necessary to “transform” Falun Gong practitioners. Some torture methods include isolation, sleep deprivation, no food, denied use of the restroom, beatings, exposure to the elements, and forcing practitioners to squat, wear a straitjacket, or sit on a metal chair or small stool.

Forced stool sitting is a common torture method— Nearly all practitioners have been subjected to this torture method. The stool is very short and measures 19 centimeters (7.5 inches) by 23 centimeters (9.1 inches). Practitioners have to sit upright with their hands on their knees and look straight ahead.

They are not allowed to move or close their eyes. If they move, the inmates pull their hair and swear at or beat them. Some practitioners are forced to eat while sitting on a stool. Many practitioners’ buttocks have become bruised and festered after sitting on the stool for long periods of time. Wu was also subjected to this torture method.

Torture re-enactment: Sitting on a small stool

Labor Work

Though Wu is nearly 60 years old, she was nonetheless ordered to do the same amount and type of work as younger inmates. She had to pull the weeds, sweep the yard, carry large, heavy stainless-steel barrels, load and unload groceries, and do labor work such as picking coffee stirrers, rubbing cotton swabs, and making false eyelashes.

Forced to make false eyelashes for 18 hours straight— The making of synthetic eyelashes is a particularly labor-intensive task. The materials for making the eyelashes are simple: a small roll of eye hair, a palm-sized push plate, and tweezers. The sellers of these false eyelashes have high requirements and use high-power magnifiers to check the finished products. Inspection of the goods is done every day and the work quota is measured in the number of eyelashes one has completed. The task is very harmful to the eyes and the spine as one has to sit for 18 to 19 hours, or even longer to make these. People in their 30s have had to wear reading glasses as a result of doing this kind of labor. Nearly everyone has problems with their eyes, spine, and legs.

Wu has to wear reading glasses now and spends her days making eyelashes. Other practitioners in their 70s or 80s are also forced to do the same task. Those who cannot make the eyelashes will handle other tasks related to the production of eyelashes. With the labor cost of the eyelashes being low and the price of the handmade eyelashes being high, businesses make a tidy profit off of the prisons. The prison accepts any work that can earn profits, regardless of the works’ difficulty or how harmful it is to the inmate’s body.

With limited space, the production of these eyelashes often takes place in cells. Over 20 people are crowded in a small cell and the room is filled with raw materials and tables. In the summertime, fans cannot be turned on so as to prevent the eyelashes from flying away, and many people have breathing difficulties due to the heat. In addition, they have to work through the night every day. This slave labor practice brings in millions of yuan in revenue annually for the CCP officials who preside over Divisions 8 and 9.

By law, forced labor is not allowed to be done in the cell but this has not stopped prison authorities. Whenever higher-ups come to inspect the prison, the inmates hide evidence of their work and then continue after the inspection is over. 

Financial Persecution

Wu’s pension was suspended shortly after she was sentenced. When her family called her former workplace to inquire about the situation, they were not given a reason for the pension suspension.

Guan was left with no income after serving his previous ten-year term. Following their latest arrest, Guan was fined 30,000 yuan and Wu was fined 20,000 yuan. The couple also had to spend money to buy daily necessities in prison, despite having no source of income.

Past Persecution

The couple obtained healthy bodies after practicing Falun Gong in 1996. Following the persecution in 1999, police ransacked their home and confiscated their Falun Gong books. Wu was detained for half a month and beaten by police after she went to Beijing to appeal the persecution in April 2000. She was arrested and taken to a brainwashing center in 2003.

Guan went to Beijing to appeal in 1999 and was arrested. He was beaten while being detained at the Chaihe Police Station. He was detained for 15 days and had to pay 4,000 yuan. The police continued to harass him for the following two years.

Torture illustration: Beatings

Guan went to Beijing in 2002 and was arrested again. His family members and police from Ning’an City took him back. He was subsequently detained at Chaihe Police Station and later sentenced to ten years in prison by the Nangang Court in Harbin. He was released on November 10, 2012.

Related reports:

Four Heilongjiang Residents Imprisoned and Denied Family Visits for Practicing Falun Gong

Targeted in a Mass Arrest, Three Falun Gong Practitioners Sentenced to Prison

Three Heilongjiang Residents Tried for Not Renouncing Their Faith

Based on an original report from