Torture and Other Inhumane Treatment

Chapter 3, 2010 Annual Report

43-year-old Mr. Zhu Hongbing

43-year-old Mr. Zhu Hongbing

The use of torture against Falun Gong practitioners remains commonplace and continued on a large scale throughout 2009. Amnesty International published several urgent actions on behalf of adherents at risk of torture during the year. The most common forms of torture include shocking with electric batons and deprivation of food and sleep. At least one prison was known to have engaged in systematically starving Falun Gong prisoners of conscience during 2009. The use of psychiatric torture and instruments reminiscent of medieval times also remains prevalent.

In a report on his 2005 mission to China, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, stated that 66 percent of the reports of torture in China that his office received had Falun Gong practitioners as victims. The widespread use of torture against Falun Gong practitioners remains routine and continued throughout 2009, as noted by Chinese attorney Jiang Tianyong in media interviews during a visit to Washington D.C. in October:

I defended more than 20 cases involving Falun Gong practitioners. Physical torture was quite common. After their arrest, they were often beaten to the point of being paralyzed or [dying]. [1]

Used for decades by Chinese Communist Party police to extort confessions from suspects and targets of political campaigns, torture is used against Falun Gong practitioners primarily with the aim of forcing them to renounce their faith. In other instances, adherents are tortured to extract information about other practitioners in their geographical area, to punish them for practicing the Falun Gong exercises in custody, or simply because perpetrators know they will receive no retribution given the culture of impunity—and sometimes rewards for torture—that surround the persecution against Falun Gong. Chinese Human Rights Defenders addressed such widespread impunity in its 2008 submission to the United Nations Committee against Torture:

In theory, Falun Gong practitioners can petition its Letters and Visits Office or sue Office 610 for torture. In practice, even these limited complaint mechanisms are closed to Falun Gong practitioners because they are treated as a ‘special category’ and their complaints are not accepted by government offices. Falun Gong practitioners rarely lodge official complaints for fear of being subjected to even worse persecution due to their membership in [Falun Gong]. [2]

Photographic evidence from inside China, statements of former prisoners of conscience, investigations by Chinese human rights lawyers, and testimonies from former security personnel indicate the widespread use of torture against Falun Gong adherents. The most commonly used torture methods include beatings, electric baton shocks, injections with psychotropic drugs, forced-feeding, and rape and other forms of sexual abuse. As detailed in Chapter X, nearly 100 adherents died during 2009, many as a result of injuries incurred from abuse in custody. Amnesty International published several urgent actions on behalf of adherents at risk of torture during the year. [3]

Shocking with Electric Batons

In 2009, Falun Gong practitioners continued to be routinely shocked with electric batons at detention centers, RTL camps, or prison camps. The shocks are known to cause severe pain, blistering, scarring, permanent physical or neurological damage, and in some cases, death. The prevalence of this form of abuse was particularly evident from the small sample of 109 cases of adherents who died in 2009—among them, 18 (or approximately 1 in 6) were reportedly shocked with electric batons, either during their most recent or previous detentions.

In several such cases, family members reported seeing the marks from the baton shocks on their loved one’s body. In the case of Yang Guiquan (cited in Chapter 3), who died in custody in Liaoning’s Fuxin city on July 5, 2009, his family was able to view his body five hours after his death at Fuxin City Mining General Hospital. Among other visible signs of abuse, Yang’s inner thighs reportedly showed marks from electric baton shocks. [4] Following a pattern documented by Gao Zhisheng in 2005, cases continue to be reported of practitioners—male and female—being shocked with electric batons in their genitals and for women, on their breasts. Electric baton shocks are administered by personnel at the camp, by fellow inmates instigated to torture adherents, and in some instances, by high-ranking personnel at the facility.

  • Ms. Cao Shuangmei, 52, Shanxi: Prior to her last detention, Ms. Cao had been taken into custody at least twice before, during which time she was tortured and then released after several days of going on hunger strike. On January 20, 2008, several officers from Jinxiu County Police Department abducted Ms. Cao from her home. They held her for six months without informing her family. She was “sentenced” to a prison camp and taken to Shanxi Women’s Prison in May 2008. Because she refused to renounce her faith in Falun Gong, the warden Lei Runxiang reportedly placed her in solitary confinement, encouraged other inmates to beat her, and placed her in a cell with “collaborators” (former adherents who had been forced to renounce their beliefs).

On March 16, 2009, after Ms. Cao had recited “Falun Dafa is good,” Lei herself shocked Cao with an electric baton for an extended period of time, especially on her face and neck. Cao became emaciated, her health deteriorated, and she died in custody on July 19, 2009.

  • Mr. Huang Lizhong, 48, Liaoning: On February 25, 2008, Mr. Huang was abducted from his home by officers from the local police station and Domestic Security Division. He was initially held at Huludao Detention Center. On May 12, 2008, Judge Wei Aijun of Lianshan District Court “sentenced” Mr. Huang to ten years in a prison camp; there was reportedly no court hearing, but rather, the judge went to the detention center and informed Huang of the verdict; his family was not informed and to date, has not received sentencing documents. Huang appealed to the intermediate court, but on June 12, 2008, the original “sentence” was upheld. His family visited him in the detention center that day and reported finding him emaciated with little strength to even speak.

Huang was subsequently transferred to Panjin prison, where he was subjected in April 2009 to severe shocks with electric batons. His family was repeatedly prevented from visiting him. On October 20, 2009, his wife was finally allowed to see him and reported that two other inmates had to help him stand, he was emaciated, his teeth were crooked, he had difficulty speaking, and he trembled. In that meeting, Huang told her that about the April 20 torture session, stating: “They shocked me with electric batons until I almost died.” Five days later, on October 25, 2009, a prison official called Huang’s son to inform him that his father had passed away.

Cases continue to be reported of Falun Gong practitioners being subjected to torture sessions in which they are shocked simultaneously with multiple electric batons, sometimes leading to death.

  • Mr. Lu Guanglin, 50, Liaoning: On March 15, 2005, ten police officers from the First Division of the Fushun City Police Department broke into a practitioner’s home that Mr. Lu and his wife were visiting and abducted them. Lu was subsequently “sentenced” to 13 years in a prison camp following a sham trial. Initially, he was detained at Yingkou Prison and was then transferred to Panjin Prison.

In April 2008, Lu was among one of 13 practitioners subjected to a particularly intensive torture session in which they were shocked simultaneously with multiple electric batons on the head, neck, chest, back, hands, feet, and inner thighs. Lu became disoriented and although the prison authorities sought to release him to avoid liability for his death in custody, the local 6-10 Office and Political-legal committee ordered them to keep him. He died in custody in February 2009.

Deprivation of food and sleep

Throughout the year, deprivation of food and sleep continued to be among the most commonly reported torture methods used on Falun Gong practitioners. The deprivation of sleep, in particular, is used both to impose physical pain on adherents, as well as to induce a state in which the individual lacks mental clarity and is therefore more vulnerable to pressure to renounce his or her faith. Adherents and their families regularly reported that individuals released from prisons or RTL camps are emaciated.

In a February 2009 report by the Chinese Human Rights Defenders, petitioners detained in RTL camps reported that the quality of the food in most camps, in which they were detained alongside Falun Gong practitioners, was meager and of poor quality. One petitioner detained at a Beijing RTL camp stated:

‘Eating’ in the camp really can’t be called eating; it was more like pouring food into one’s stomach. The entire meal time lasted five minutes. The quality of food was extremely poor. In the morning there was only thin gruel and a steamed bun, for lunch and dinner usually there were two steamed buns and a bowl of cabbage soup with some oil floating in it. In seven months I only ate meat once. [5]

In another case, the petitioner described how a Falun Gong practitioner in Heizuizi RTL camp in Jilin province was intentionally tied into a position that would prevent her from sleeping:

I even met a Falun Gong practitioner in the camp who went on a hunger strike to resist reform. In the end, she was repeatedly thrashed and tortured. One night, […] she hit her head on the radiator; she broke her head as a result and was given 14 stitches. During the following nights, her head was tied with a rope so that she couldn’t sleep: every time she nodded off to sleep her head wounds would be stretched, causing unbearable pain.

After being tortured like this for several days, that person completely did not resemble a human being anymore. I don’t know where she was taken to after that. [6]

Daqing Prison: Systematic Starvation of Falun Gong Prisoners of Conscience

In some instances, systematic deprivation of food has been used to punish practitioners, particularly those who resist “transformation.” The situation in Daqing prison—where 65 adherents were being held as of August—was a particularly stark case of this practice that emerged in 2009. [7] At least two adherents died at the prison during the year due to this and other forms of abuse.

According to multiple reports from inside China, on July 8, 2009, the newly-promoted Deputy Warden of Daqing Prison Li Weilong ordered that all divisions holding Falun Gong practitioners forbid them from going to the canteen and that no one be permitted to bring them food. Li—who eyewitnesses say has himself been known to beat Falun Gong detainees—gave further orders on July 12 to force feed certain practitioners gruel mixed from raw corn flour, water, and large amounts of salt. Such forced-feedings are routinely conducted by guards with no medical training and as a form of torture rather than nourishment. It is unknown whether any non-Falun Gong detainees at the prison were subject to similar restrictions.

The following three individuals were among those detained at the prison in 2009, whose conditions testified to the systematic abuses meted out against practitioners held at the facility.

Mr. Sun Dianbin

Mr. Sun Dianbin

  • In March 2009, the mother of imprisoned practitioner Mr. Sun Dianbin, 38, visited him and found his hands shaking. When she asked him why, he reportedly said that it was due to starvation as he had been denied food for several days.
  • On May 23, 2009, 51-year-old Mr. Li Min died within days of his release from the prison after being tortured and denied medical care when he suffered the symptoms of a stroke. Li had been abducted from his workplace in 2005 and subsequently “sentenced” in a sham trial to eight years in prison for practicing Falun Gong. He was sent to the 7th ward of Daqing prison where he was reportedly tortured by guards and his health deteriorated dramatically, causing him to suffer the symptoms of a stroke.

When his son visited him during the Chinese New Year in February 2009, Li was unable to walk on his own, but rather had to be carried into the visitation room. He also had difficulty breathing and talking. Despite his weak condition and his family’s appeals in April 2009 for him to be released on medical parole, the prison authorities insisted on keeping him in custody. In mid-May 2009, Li was transferred to Daqing Hospital. He passed away at 8 p.m. on May 23, 2009. [8]

  • On June 18, 2009, 43-year-old Mr. Zhu Hongbing died at his home, almost six months after his release from Daqing prison, where he had been held for seven years following a show trial. A photo of Zhu taken after his release from prison and obtained by the Center shows his emaciated body. Among the range of abuses suffered by Zhu at Daqing prison was deprivation of food. On one occasion, after five days of denying him food, sleep, and use of the restroom, the prison authorities reportedly forced a feeding tube in through Mr. Zhu’s nose, down his throat and into his stomach. On another occasion, a guard forced a bowl of milk powder down a tube and into Zhu’s lungs, causing ulceration in his lungs.

Psychiatric Torture

Since 1999, torture at psychiatric hospitals has been a well-documented feature of the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign to force Falun Gong practitioners to renounce their belief. It is an extension of a practice that has been used for decades against those who hold views that do not accord with those of the Party. In particular, it is widely used by Chinese security forces on practitioners who resist “transformation,” the psychological “reprogramming” aimed at forcing them to denounce Falun Gong.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented the psychiatric abuse of Falun Gong practitioners in China in recent years. Much groundbreaking work in exposing such abuses has also been carried out by Robin Munro drawing on hospitals’ own documentation of cases. In his 2006 book, China’s Psychiatric Inquisition: Dissent, Psychiatry and the Law in Post-1949 China, Munro dedicates a chapter to the issue of the psychiatric persecution of the Falun Gong in China. More recently, in March 2010, the San Diego-based Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group (FGHRWG) submitted a detailed compilation of 1,089 incidents of Falun Gong practitioners being subjected to psychiatric abuse to several United Nations Special Rapporteurs. [9]

Such practices continued in 2009, as evident from the following case:

  • Ms. Chen Chujun, 40, Hunan: A former accountant at the local railroad company, Ms. Chen was arrested on May 10, 2008, in Huaihua city by agents of the 6-10 Office. She was walking to a bus stop on her way home when she was detained. Chen was one of dozens of Falun Gong practitioners arbitrarily detained that month in Hunan, as part of a crackdown by local officials ahead of the passage of the Olympic Torch relay through the province from June 1–3, 2008.

In recent years, numerous reports have emerged of staff at Huaihua’s psychiatric hospital, under pressure from the local 6-10 Office, participating in persecuting Falun Gong practitioners, including injecting them with nerve-damaging drugs. Chen herself had been wrongfully injected with a psychotropic drug during a previous detention in the city. During her previous detention at Baimalong camp, Ms. Chen was injected with the psychotropic drug Thorazine, causing her to suffer severe cognitive dysfunction, a known effect of the drug, particularly when administered to those not suffering from psychological disorders.

In May 2008, Chen was initially detained at Zhijiang County Detention Center, where other inmates—primarily drug offenders—beat her at the instigation of the guards, causing injuries to her head. She was subsequently transferred to Baimalong Women’s Forced Labor camp and then Huaihua City Brainwashing Center, where she was forced to undergo sessions at which authorities sought to force her to renounce her beliefs. She was then transferred to Huaihua Psychiatric hospital. Chen died in March 2009 at Huaihua Psychiatric Hospital (a.k.a. Huaihua No. 4 People’s Hospital). [10]

In addition to adherents being subjected to such torture in psychiatric hospitals, psychotropic drugs are often administered to Falun Gong practitioners in non-medical facilities such as labor camps and prisons. Such treatments have been known to cause traumatic hallucinations, permanent damage to the nervous system, or death. In addition, psychiatric abuse is a form of torture with particularly noticeable long-term effects, in some instances causing death several years after the victim’s release from custody, as occurred in 2009.

  • Mr. Quan Xueying, 39, Sichuan: Mr. Quan had previously been imprisoned for one year from April 2000 to 2001 and again from later in 2001 to 2003. In November 2004, officers from the 6-10 Office detained him again and he was then “sentenced” to three years in a prison camp following a sham trial. During the interrogation, he was badly beaten causing his body to be covered with bruises. Towards the end of his term at the prison, a guard reportedly injected Mr. Quan with an unknown substance. Although he was released in 2007, he never recovered and died on March 8, 2009.
  • Mr. Xu Dawei, 34, Liaoning: Police detained Xu in January 2001 for printing Falun Gong-related materials. The following month, Heping District Court “sentenced” the then 26-year-old to eight years in prison following a sham trial. During his time being held at four different prison camps, he was repeatedly tortured, including being shackled for long periods of time, brutally beaten, force-fed, stabbed with a needle, and shocked with electric batons. For two years prior to his death, upon his transfer to Dongling Prison, his family was denied the ability to visit him, although they attempted once a month.
Mr. Xu Dawei, before and after pyschiatric torture

Mr. Xu Dawei, before and after psychiatric torture

Upon the date set for the completion of his sentence, February 3, 2009, Xu’s family members came to pick him up and were shocked by his condition. The 34-year-old’s hair had become gray, he was extremely emaciated, and he was mentally disoriented, unable to recognize his family members. According to his family, his chest, abdomen, and back exhibited multiple scars left by being shocked with electric batons; his hands and feet suffered from edema and had turned dark purple. During a brief period of lucidity prior to his death, Xu reported being injected with psychotropic drugs at the prison camp. He died less than two weeks after his release, on February 16, 2009.

Torture Instruments

In addition to beatings, shocks with electric batons, sleep deprivation, and other forms of abuse meted out against practitioners, Chinese security officers continue to make use of a variety of specially-designed instruments whose sole purpose is to inflict pain on detainees. Throughout 2009, the Center continued to receive reports and testimony of the use of such instruments. The following are two sample personal accounts by adherents who, in addition to being subjected to the torture methods described in the previous sections of this chapter, were also tied to devices such as the “stretching bed,” “death bed,” and the “cross.” Of particular note is the effort made by the authorities in their use of the “cross” to design a form of torture that would inflict severe pain, but not leave any external marks.

Mr. Gao Dong, Panjin City, Liaoning Province, Former Employee of Liaohe Oil Field

When I passed Qian’an city [Hebei province, in May 2008], I heard that the Communist regime was arresting practitioners to keep them away from the Olympics. Some arrested practitioners’ families were trying to get their loved ones back from the authorities. I went to a police department along with some relatives, but the police officer in charge of the case refused to meet with us. Instead, the local police arrested me and took me to the Qian’an Detention Center.

A week later I was sent to the Benxi RTL Camp [Liaoning province] where I was subjected to eight months of gross abuse and mistreatment. The most notorious torture method [used] at this place was the stretching bed. My arms and legs were stretched and tied to the bed, and an inflated airbag was inserted under my hips to increase the tension on my limbs. They stripped me of all my clothes, including underwear, and at night they opened the window so mosquitoes could freely sting me. In the winter they let the cold wind freeze me. They also sprayed me with cold water, stabbed my armpits with needles, brushed my fingertips with a hard toothbrush, flicked my eyeballs with their middle fingers, hit my chest with sticks, inserted an electric baton into my mouth, shocked my naval, nipples, chin, armpits, hands, and soles of my feet. Sometime they used two batons to shock me at the same time. High voltage shocks made my body bounce violently. I could not help screaming until I no longer had any voice and lost consciousness. After two months of continuous bestial torture I could no longer walk, and my body was covered in bruises.

The last torture [session] to which I was subjected at the Benxi RTL Camp almost killed me. My heart nearly stopped, my blood pressure dropped to near zero, and I couldn’t move any part of my body. If I had given up the will to live, I would have died immediately.

After six months of abuse my weight dropped from 80 kg (176 lb.) to 40 kg (88 lb.). The long-term torture caused all kinds of illnesses. I suffered from edema and a stroke, and I looked terrible. But they still refused to release me. …[Eventually] Benxi RTL Camp officials took me to Haicheng city, Liaoning Province and dropped me off at my younger sister’s clothing shop, despite disagreement from my family members and local police.

The torture left me handicapped. I can’t walk and have lost the functioning of my left arm. When I was released from the Benxi RTL Camp, several dozen practitioners were still there. They could be killed at any time.

Handmade drawing of the “Cross” by victims of the tortureHandmade drawing of the “Cross” by victims of the torture

Ms. Li Xiufen, Weifang City, Shandong

My name is Li Xiufen. On August 1, 2009, I was arrested from my home in Weifang city. Two other practitioners were arrested at the same time as I, one of them being Ms. Gao Guizhen. Ms. Gao and I were detained at the Weifang Detention Center for a month, and were subjected to inhuman torture. We were subjected to the torture tools called the “death bed” and the “cross.” We were also force-fed and injected with unknown drugs, which caused us to be in a dazed state for a long time. During our detention, Peng, who is head of the center, and Chen, head of the No. 1 Ward, with the help of four criminal inmates, subjected Gao Guizhen and myself to the above-mentioned torture methods separately. When I was tied to the “cross,” Ms. Gao was tied to the death bed that day. The next day, we were switched. When we were tied to the cross or the death bed, a female doctor named Kang conducted brutal force-feeding and injected us with unknown drugs.

When we were tied onto the cross without our feet touching the ground, the weight of the whole body was on the two vertical pipes, which felt like they were penetrating into our flesh. The pain in the internal organs was unimaginable. In order to prevent external wounds from being seen, guards put a thin cover over the two vertical pipes. We were left tied like this from about 8:00 a.m. until about 10:00 p.m. The longest time we were tied there was 36 hours and we were not allowed to use the restroom during that time. Such a torture can cause severe internal injuries and even death, without any visible external wounds.

When we were tied to the death bed, our hands and feet were cuffed, and the handcuffs were attached to metal hoops that were 6 cm (2.4 in.) in diameter. We were not able to move even a little. If we moved a little bit up, the cuffs on the ankles would cut into the flesh and cause extreme pain. If we moved a little bit down, the same thing would happen on our wrists. My wrists were badly injured from the handcuffs cutting into my flesh. Gao Guizhen had two big bubbles on her wrists from the torture which took more than ten days to heal.


[1] Helene Franchineau, “Chinese lawyers want Obama to push for Beijing rights,” The Washington Times, October 30, 2009; http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/oct/30/chinese-lawyers-want-obama-to-push-for-beijing-rig/

[2] Chinese Human Rights Defenders, “A Civil Society Report on China’s Implementation of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” October 10, 2008; http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/docs/ngos/CHRD_China_41_new.pdf

[3] Amnesty International, “Chen Zhenping (f): China: Further Information on Fear of torture / incommunicado detention,” January 22, 2009, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA17/002/2009/en/8dc7bbb1-e8b3-11dd-9c6c-dfd5a453deaf/asa170022009eng.html; Amnesty International, “Ouyang Wen (f): Urgent Action: China: Medical concern/fear of torture or other ill-treatment,” March 2, 2009, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA17/008/2009/en/97889f9b-24c6-4a5d-9f2f-8b50d39beea6/asa170082009en.html; Amnesty International, “Yan Dongfei (f) and Qiao Yongfang (m): Urgent Action: China: Incommunicado detention/prisoners of conscience/fear of torture and ill-treatment,” June 19, 2009, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA17/029/2009/en/ceb1399b-1682-4a59-a0c1-a0b6155e4cfc/asa170292009en.html; Amnesty International, “Yan Dongfei (f) and Qiao Yongfang (m): Urgent Action: China: Ageing couple face jail for religious beliefs,” October 9, 2009, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA17/057/2009/en/03c6a832-77af-4ad7-ad82-ea588f17dadd/asa170572009en.html.

[4] Falun Dafa Information Center, “Falun Gong Practitioner Killed Within Days of Arrest,” August 7, 2009; /article/897/

[5]  Chinese Human Rights Defenders, “Re-education through Labor Abuses Continue Unabated: Overhaul Long Overdue,” February 15, 2009; http://docs.law.gwu.edu/facweb/dclarke/public/CHRD_RTL_Report.pdf (Henceforth ‘CHRD RTL report’)

[6] CHRD RTL report

[7] Falun Dafa Information Center, “Urgent Appeal: Dozens of Lives at Risk in Daqing Prison as Authorities Systematically Starve Falun Gong Prisoners of Conscience,” August 3, 2009; /article/894/

[8] Falun Dafa Information Center, “Harbin Family Suffers Second Death from Torture,” June 30, 2009; /article/890/?cid=84

[9] Falun Dafa Information Center, “Psychiatric Torture of Falun Gong Practitioners Widespread, Says UN Submission,” March 25, 2010; /article/1005/?cid=84

[10] Falun Dafa Information Center, “Falun Gong Practitioner Dies from Psychiatric Torture in Southeast China,” September 30, 2009; /article/914/.