Torture Survivor Recalls Harrowing Experience at the International Religious Freedom Summit
On July 13, 2021, Falun Gong practitioner Wang Weiyu spoke about his harrowing experiences of surviving nearly a decade of persecution in custody during a panel at the International Religions Freedom Summit (IRF Summit) in Washington D.C.
Wang began practicing Falun Gong in 1997, when he was a Ph.D. candidate pursuing optical engineering at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijiing. Wang remembered being so captivated by the moral teachings in the introductory text Falun Gong, that he finished the book within hours.
At the time Wang began practicing, Falun Gong was very popular at the school, boasting eleven group exercise sites for Falun Gong on the university, attended by more than 500 students and teachers.
Early Incidents at Tsinghua University
After the persecution began in 1999, Wang was pressured to give up his faith.
Wang recalled an astonishing incident at the school, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Deputy Secretary at Tsinghua made his classmates condemn him for over two hours.
“I was suddenly brought to stand before dozens of them, defenseless, and forced to listen. I still cannot forget the face of my close friend, who stood up and threatened me, ‘If you keep your belief in Falun Gong, I will stab you to death.’”
The threat from Wang’s college friend exemplifies the pervasive impact of propaganda on Chinese society. In an article published on Minghui.org, a long-time friend wrote of Wang as being diligent, upright, and outstanding academically. Wang was known for his sincerity, compassion, selflessness and tolerance, and people liked to be with him.
Wang was suspended twice by his school during this time and ultimately forced to give up his doctorate degree in 2002.
Abduction and Subsequent Torture
In August 2002, Wang was abducted.
A group of plainclothes police officers attacked him as he walked down the street, knocking his glasses off his face and stomping on his head, before throwing him into a police car.
He was then sent to a facility officially called a “legal training center,” notoriously made to detain Falun Gong practitioners.
On the first day there, four or five “trainers” would electrocute him from 6pm in the evening to 5am the next day. One of the guards, a man who stood at 6 feet 5 inches, would press the baton at one spot continuously until it ran out of power. When the baton ran out of power, it was plugged into an outlet and the shocking was continued.
They shocked all parts of his body, including his fingertips. They also pressed two electrodes into his back.
Wang was then locked in solitary confinement for six months. During the confinement, Wang was forbidden from talking, knowing the date or time, and restricted from using the restroom. Going to the restroom required an application, and nearly all requests were denied.
For the next six months, he was put in a single cell where he was tightly monitored. By day, he was forced to sit motionless on a narrow bar stool.
The experience was etched into his memory:
“The severe conditions caused my body to autrophy. I fell asleep to the sharp sound of whiplashes and the horrible shrieks of women being tortured. During this period, my parents were not allowed to know my location or condition and these horrible days were not even regarded as a term of detention by the CCP government.”
Wang was later held in detention centers and jails. He recalled of the Fengtai and Chaoyang detention centers in Beijing:
“These [detention] centers kept Falun Gong practitioners on the edge of starvation. Even the jailors would say, ‘there’s no human rights here’ but the court judges would just shrug those complaints off and reply, ‘these judgements were not made by me and I’m just following orders.’”
At the Chaoyang Detention Center in Beijing, Wang once overheard doctors discussing the torture method of force-feeding—a procedure often used on inmates on hunger strike in which a tube was inserted through a person’s nose to the stomach. A nurse, who appeared to be in her 20s, asked a doctor how to insert a tube to inflict more pain on practitioners.
Wang also noticed that some wardens at the center were studying books about mental illness patients, except that their goal wasn’t to cure the detainees, but to contrive ways to “drive you to insanity,” he said.
While incarcerated at the Tianjing Prison, all inmates were forced to do labor. They planted radishes, wrapped candies, made paper muffin cups, and athletic balls. Wang’s friend, when sewing the panels of an athletic ball, accidentally pierced his eye and permanently lost his vision.
Wang said detainees were essentially “modern-day slaves.” However, the warden boasted, “If any international groups come, what they can see is a beautiful prison and what they can hear is only praise.”
During a rare inspection tour, a female inspector tried to approach Wang, but one jailer brusquely ran toward them and cut her off.
Escape and Immigration to the U.S.
Wang escaped from China in 2011 and immigrated to the U.S. in 2013. He now resides in Michigan with his family and works as a software engineer.
Outside of China, Wang sees a chance to make a difference.
“[While detained,] One of the wardens told me, “Tell your friends overseas, don’t write letters to me again”. [I then had the revelation,] They’re afraid of something after all: voices of justice. So your voice really matters. Darkness is always afraid of being exposed to the light.”