Efforts of Falun Gong practitioners cause one prison to stop abuse
Since July 1999, when the persecution of Falun Gong began in China, the practitioners of this spiritual discipline have sought through a campaign of civil disobedience to change the attitudes of those who would persecute them. From Fushun City in Northeastern China comes an example of how the practitioners’ efforts have made a difference.
The Southern Garden Prison in Fushun was not exactly a garden spot. Mr. Jing Suo was sent there in October 2004 for printing Falun Gong books.
Jing remembers seeing practitioners being severely beaten when they refused to renounce their beliefs. One practitioner, Wang Wenju, died after being force-fed on April 23, 2005. One of Wang’s friends posted the news on an overseas website.
The prison was then inundated with materials telling about the abuse of Falun Gong practitioners, Jing said.
“Many guards who participated in beating Wang received phone calls and text messages for months,” said Jing. “The management was quite worried.”
Many of those who worked in the prison started to reflect on the way they treated Falun Gong practitioners, Jing said.
Jing recalled a team leader at the prison telling him that ordinarily if a normal inmate was sent to the prison, the prison had to pay between 500 to 2,000 yuan (US$79–US$316; the average household income in 2010 was US$3,309) for the labor that the inmate would do in prison. The exact amount was determined according to the length of the inmate’s term and the state of the inmate’s health.
But when a Falun Gong practitioner was received, rather than the prison paying, the local Communist Party would pay a bonus of 5,000 yuan (US$790) to encourage the prison to exert extra effort forcing the practitioner to give up his or her beliefs, Jing was told.
Even so, because of the publicity over how practitioners were being abused in the Southern Garden Prison, things changed.
“They said to me, ‘Even if the upper level will give us money, we won’t take more Falun Gong practitioners,’” said Jing. For the next six months, Falun Gong practitioners were not tortured or forced to participate in hard labor.
But six months later, the management of the prison changed and a new team leader took the position.
“They put a tube in my nose and took it in and out, and blocked the blood coming from my nose with tons of toilet paper. The tube injured my nose, throat, esophagus and stomach,” said Jing. “They force-fed me with salt water while slapping my face and telling me not to close my eyes.”
Again, phone calls and flyers found their way into the prison, the local court, and the city government. Somehow, the sufferings happening behind the walls of the Southern Garden Prison were put into a flyer that was distributed quietly to many Fushun City residents.
One day, Jing was called back to the team leader’s office.
“I was drunk the other day. Don’t be mad at me,” the team leader said. “Can you put the public opinion to rest? The prison and I are having a hard time.”
Around mid-2006, the prison changed again. It did not force Falun Gong practitioners to renounce their beliefs. They also did not have to wear uniforms or participate in hard labor.
“Until June 11, 2008, when my term was over, I was the only Falun Gong practitioner left in the prison. The prison did not accept Falun Gong practitioners anymore,” said Jing.
Millions of Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) practitioners have been sent to labor camps and prisons since 1999, and they remain the world’s biggest group of prisoners of conscience, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center.
While detained, Falun Gong practitioners face cruel treatment such as brainwashing, sleep deprivation, and torture.
More than 3,500 have been confirmed dead as a result of torture and abuse, with the true figure believed to be in the tens of thousands, according to the information center. In addition, tens of thousands of practitioners are believed to have been killed by the forced harvesting of their organs, according to investigators.