Ms. Xiao Yanhong and Mr. Li Wenming met through their mutual practice of Falun Gong and were married in July 1999. But their newly-wedded joy was rapidly crushed as the Communist regime began to persecute Falun Gong that very month. Little did they know that they would not see each other after that, for 12 years and still going.
Mr. Li was arrested on the early morning of July 21st, 1999 and a series of detentions and harassment followed. Mr. Li was arrested in September 2002 due to his efforts to inform people of the facts about Falun Gong through tapping into the cable TV network. He was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment and is still being held in Lanzhou Prison.
Ms. Xiao, now 50, had been living away from home to avoid persecution by the authorities for 13 years, until she was recently arrested on December 28th, 2013, along with 30 other Falun Gong practitioners.
She has been held at the Lanzhou Gongjiawan Brainwashing Centre for over a month. Prior to her transfer to the brainwashing centre, Ms. Xiao and eight other practitioners had been incarcerated and tortured for three months at the Gangu County Detention Centre.
Ms. Xiao and the thirty practitioners who were arrested on the same day had been monitored and followed for over three months prior to the arrest. The majority of them were released after their families were forced to sign certain documents, except for Ms. Xiao and eight others including Mr. Zhang Zhiming from Xinjiang, Ms. Li Cuifang, Ms. Ma Xiaojuan, Mr. Li Yikui and Xiao Qiao. The authorities are attempting to arrange their illegal sentencing.
The Onset of the Persecution
Within 24 hours after the Communist regime officially began to persecute Falun Gong, a dozen officers from the Qilihe District Police Department in Lanzhou arrested Mr. Li at the duty office in the Lanzhou Locomotive Works at 3 a.m. on July 21st, 1999. The police officers ransacked the duty office and Mr. Li's home. They confiscated a large number of Falun Gong books and audio materials. Several other Falun Gong practitioners in the area were arrested at the same time.
Many Falun Gong practitioners went to the provincial government to appeal later that morning when they heard what had happened. They requested the authorities to release the Falun Gong practitioners who had been arrested.
In the afternoon, Ms. Xiao and several other representatives of Falun Gong practitioners were escorted to the reception room. They were guided to the back door around 20 minutes later. Each representative was taken to a vehicle by two armed police officers. They were taken to a large conference room on the top floor of a hotel and closely watched.
However, no officials showed up to talk with the representatives. Ms. Xiao was taken back by her employer to the Maternal and Child Health Services, where she worked as a nurse. A staff member said to her when she was leaving, “Practising Falun Gong is forbidden. Just do it at home.”
Ms. Xiao and several Falun Gong practitioners went to the provincial government again the next morning to appeal. More practitioners continued to show up until 10 a.m., when the entrances were placed under military control. All the Falun Gong practitioners were bused to the Qilihe Stadium and eventually sent back to their home districts.
The practitioners in the Qilihe District were taken to an elementary school, where they were videotaped. Doubting the practitioners' accounts, a staff member asked, “Who was arrested?” Ms. Xiao responded, “My husband. I witnessed it.” The man fell silent and walked away.
Persecuted for Speaking Out
Prior to July 20th, 1999, Ms. Xiao wrote a letter to the deputy secretary of the Gansu Chinese Communist Party Committee. The letter discussed the benefits of practising Falun Gong, and the harassment some practitioners encountered. Ms. Xiao hoped that the government would uphold justice and protect basic human rights.
As the letter was posted on the Minghui website, Ms. Xiao became a target for persecution by local authorities. Despite pressure from her employer and the municipal government, she said, “I'll continue to practise because I became healthy after practising Falun Gong. Falun Gong is not at all like how the TV propaganda portrays the practice.”
Although she was allowed to return to work, her relatives in Lanzhou continuously pressured her to renounce Falun Gong. After her family failed to persuade her, Ms. Xiao's employer called her parents in Xinjiang and forced Ms. Xiao's mother to leave Ms. Xiao's grandmother in the hospital and fly to Lanzhou. Sadly, her grandmother died the next day. Ms. Xiao remained steadfast in the face of the pressure and explained to her mother the facts about Falun Gong.
Driven into Hiding by Relentless Abuse
Ms. Xiao later went to Beijing to appeal for the right to practise Falun Gong. Due to pressure from the municipal government, her employer suspended her salary and assigned someone to look for her in Beijing.
Ms. Xiao and another Falun Gong practitioner were arrested on the street in Lanzhou in early November 1999 by officers from the Qilihe District Police Department. They were taken to Xiguoyuan Detention Centre after being held in the Yangjiaqiao Police Station for a week.
The detention centre was small, packed and dirty. The air was suffocating because eating and using the toilet had to be done in the cell. Rats were everywhere. Ms. Xiao got body lice.
Ms. Xiao was forced to pick a large quantity of plant seeds every day. The guards beat and tortured her if she failed to meet her quota.
Ms. Xiao was one of the first three Falun Gong practitioners known to have been sent to a forced labour camp. She was transferred to the Pingantai Labour Camp at the end of January in 2000. At the labor camp, Falun Gong practitioners were searched thoroughly. They couldn't talk to each other. They were watched by designated inmates when they ate, slept and went to the washroom.
After the labour camp term, Ms. Xiao was not released, but transferred directly to a brainwashing centre.
Ms. Xiao had a statement published on Minghui.org in early March 2001 declaring that the statements she had been forced to sign renouncing her belief in Falun Gong were null and void, and that she would continue to practise Falun Gong. She was thus sent from the brainwashing centre to the Xiguoyuan Detention Centre.
Due to the long-term physical and mental abuse, her health deteriorated. She was sent to the Dashaping Hospital on September 12th, 2001. A few days later, she was released to her parents' care. However, her father's employer assigned someone to monitor Ms. Xiao at their home.
The authorities with Gansu Provincial Maternal and Child Health Services often called her at her parents' home to harass her. To escape the relentless abuse, she finally had to leave her parents' home and go into hiding. Officers from the Lanzhou Police Department went to her parents' home twice looking for her after she left.
Mr. Li returned home in November 2001, but his employer detained him in the workplace and assigned someone to watch him. Mr. Li thus went on a hunger strike. When Ms. Xiao heard about her husband's situation, she called his employer and said, “It is illegal if you continue to keep him in custody.” But the authorities at the Lanzhou Locomotive Works said that they were under orders and had no choice. Mr. Li was soon taken to the Hualinping Brainwashing Centre.
Mr. Li escaped from the brainwashing centre in February 2002. The police department put posters at the exits of Lanzhou City and offered a reward of 10,000 yuan1 to arrest Mr. Li. He was arrested the fourth time in early September 2002. During the interrogation, he was tortured so severely that he was left in critical condition. He was later sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment and held in Lanzhou Prison.
Mr. Li was put in confinement for a month from September to October 2002. It is a 3 square meter room with a 2 square meter isolated yard. In the confinement room, there is a bed made of bricks and a pit at the foot of the bed which is used for a toilet. There is no heat in the room, nor is there any bedding. Up to four people are put in each room.
In addition, no eating utensils are provided to detainees in the confinement room, so they have to eat with their hands. The guards often beat and tortured Falun Gong practitioners. The practitioners were often handcuffed and shackled. The guards also bound the handcuffs and shackles together with wire to intensify the torture.
Mr. Li is an orphan, and no one is allowed visit him in the prison because there is a rule that only relatives can visit the prisoners.
Individuals Involved in the Persecution
Ma Xiangxian (马湘贤), director of Gansu Provincial 610 Office: 86-139-09318007 (Mobile)
Yun Yucheng (韵玉成), Yan Yongsheng (剡永生) and Qi Ruijun (祈瑞军), staff of the Gongjiawan Brainwashing Centre.
Lei Ming (雷鸣), deputy mayor of Tianshui City: +86-938-8213323 (Office), +86-139-93860000 (Mobile)
1. "Yuan" is the Chinese currency; 500 yuan is equal to the average monthly income of an urban worker in China.
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