Photos Smuggled from China Show Bloated Falun Gong Practitioner Shortly Before Death

NEW YORK—A retired steel worker from Hebei province  died on September 6, 2010, just over six months after being released from a prison camp where he had  been tortured and forced to do hard labor for practicing Falun Gong, the Falun Dafa Information Center recently learned.

Photos of Mr. Zhang Yunping (???) taken days before his death and smuggled out of China show the 58-year-old’s emaciated chest and bloated stomach. 

A significant majority of Falun Gong adherents report that the practice has brought relief from health problems. Denied the right to practice in custody and subject to physical abuse, some practitioners experience a recurrence of old diseases or contraction of new ones. They are then routinely denied the necessary medical attention, often until they are so close to death that treatment would be ineffective. Nearly 1 out of 5 Falun Gong deaths documented in 2009 were the result of, in addition to torture, such denial of the right to health. (report)

Zhang was a former employee of the Tangshan Steel Group Service Company. Following the launch of the Communist Party’s campaign against Falun Gong, the firm’s management and security personnel actively participated in persecuting him. At the end of 2000, the company suspended him from his position and turned him over to a “brainwashing” center located at the Tangshan Textile and Garment School. During the two months that Zhang was held at the center, he was subjected to endless doses of anti-Falun Gong propaganda, relentless efforts to force him to renounce his faith, and his company deducted 2,500 yuan from his annual salary.

After retiring in 2001, Zhang fled home to escape consistent harassment from the firm’s management. In 2002, an agent from the company’s police unit abducted and threatened Zhang’s wife in a bid to discover his whereabouts. The following year, his pension was suspended, leaving the entire family in a difficult economic situation.

It is common across China for businesses and schools to, under direct pressure from Party officials, send employees who do not renounce their Falun Gong practice to brainwashing centers to be forcibly “transformed.” When that proves ineffective, many fire employees or cut off pensions to retirees.

After searching for nearly two years, the Hebei authorities captured Zhang on March 30, 2003. Shortly afterwards, a judge at Lubei District Court “sentenced” him in a sham trial to eight years in a prison camp. In April 2004, Zhang was taken to Jidong Prison.

Due to the harsh conditions at the prison camp, his health deteriorated and he became increasingly weak, but was forced to continue to perform hard labor as late as August 2009. A wound on his finger from a nail became infected, but prison officials delayed hospital treatment until late September, at which point Mr. Zhang was also diagnosed with diabetes and tuberculosis. 

Following repeated pleas from his family, prison officials released Zhang on medical parole in February 2010. He never recovered from the injuries and diseases incurred in custody and died on September 6, 2010. A series of photos taken by acquaintances less than a week before his death and smuggled out of China show Zhang both emaciated and bloated. (photos)