The authorities continued to pursue a systematic, nationwide, often violent campaign against the Falun Gong, a spiritual group banned since 1999 as a “heretical cult”. The government was in the second year of a three-year campaign to increase the “transformation” rates of Falun Gong practitioners, a process through which individuals were pressured, often through mental and physical torture, to renounce their belief in and practice of Falun Gong. Practitioners who refused to renounce their faith were at risk of escalating levels of torture and other illtreatment. The authorities operated illegal detention centres, informally referred to as “brainwashing centres”, for this process. Falun Gong sources reported that one practitioner died every three days while in official custody or shortly after release, and said that thousands remained unaccounted for. On 5 March, Zhou Xiangyang, a Falun Gong practitioner, was arrested at his home in Tangshan, Hebei province and taken to Binhai Prison in Tianjin city. He immediately went on hunger strike. He had previously spent over nine years in detention and was subjected to forced labour and torture, including sleep deprivation, electric shocks, beatings, and being stretched over a low table with his limbs anchored to the floor. The authorities continued to refuse him a lawyer. In response to an appeal written by his wife, Li Shanshan, more than 2,500 residents in and around his home town signed a petition calling for his release. She was subsequently detained in September, along with Zhou Xiangyang’s older brother and at least four others. Read the full Amnesty report.