Ms. Wang Fang, an elementary school teacher from Suihua City, Heilongjiang Province, died on December 31, 2020, at the age of 54. Ms. Wang only returned home in October after completing a two-year prison term for distributing materials about Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa), a spiritual practice that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
Ms. Wang was arrested on October 3, 2018, with four other Falun Gong practitioners. She was first detained at Lanxi Detention Center, where she was punished for refusing to give the police her name. Then she was transferred to Anda City Detention Center, where she was forced to wear heavy shackles around the clock for over a month. After she was transferred to the Heilongjiang Women's Prison, Ms. Wang was subjected to physical and mental abuse. She suffered from headaches, numbness in her hands, dementia, fainting, and high blood pressure as a result.
Ms. Wang returned home in early October, only to find that she had been fired by the Shangzhi Elementary School after having taught there for 30 years and been known as a well respected and loved teacher.
Only two weeks after she started tutoring at a private agency to resolve her financial hardships, she passed out at home on December 30 and was taken to a hospital. She was diagnosed with brain stem hemorrhage and passed away the next day.
Arrested in Lanxi County
Ms. Wang was arrested in Lanxi County with Ms. Zhao Tingting, Mr. Yang Chuanhou, Ms. Bai Xia, and Ms. Wang Fuhua on October 3, 2018. The five Falun Gong practitioners were interrogated at the Beian Town Police Station. When Ms. Wang refused to give them her name, a police officer cuffed her hands behind her back and forced her to stand facing a wall. He kept cursing her and pinching her face viciously.
Another police officer threatened to spray her with pepper water. A third officer hit her several times.
Later the police obtained the five practitioners' personal information using facial recognition technology. Ms. Wang still refused to answer any of their questions during the interrogation.
Financial Extortion at Lanxi Detention Center
Lanxi Detention Center devised many ways to extort money from detainees and their families. When Ms. Wang's son came to visit her, he was asked to pay 1,000 yuan at the gate and to purchase overpriced items at the convenience store owned and operated by guard Lu Feifei.
Detainees often had their personal items or food taken and eaten by guards. The standard meals provided by the detention center are very poor. To get better food, one had to pay extra. For the 12 days Ms. Wang was held at Lanxi Detention Center, her son paid a total of 1,400 yuan while others paid only 500 yuan.
Tortured in Anda City Detention Center
As soon as Ms. Wang and the other four practitioners were taken to Anda City Detention Center, they were strip-searched. They were given prison uniforms to wear. The uniform included a shirt, a pair of pants, and a vest labeled with the detention center name. Ms. Wang refused to wear the vest because of the label. For one month, the guards didn’t give her warm clothes despite the cold weather.
There were three wards in the detention center. The guards instigated the chief inmate of each ward to torment Falun Gong practitioners. Ms. Wang witnessed another practitioner Ms. Song Hongwei being tormented by the chief inmate of another ward. On her first day in the detention center, Ms. Song refused to let the guards take her photo. The chief inmate and other inmates dragged her to the restroom and doused her with cold water. They also beat and kicked her for a long time. The same thing happened the next day.
Although Ms. Wang was not beaten, she was often humiliated and ridiculed by the chief inmate and other inmates. When Ms. Wang refused to bribe them, she was made to clean the restroom for a month. Guards and other inmates mocked and humiliated her whenever they were displeased with her.
One day in June 2019, Ms. Wang and another practitioner were seen doing Falun Gong exercises in their cell. Guards put shackles that weighed almost 20 pounds on Ms. Wang as a punishment. She had to wear them at all times, even while sleeping. With shackles on, she could only move in small steps and could not walk with her back straight. Her legs, thighs, back, and waist were all in pain. She needed several people to help her undress when taking a shower.
After two weeks, a guard told her that she would take the shackles off if Ms. Wang agreed not to do Falun Gong exercises anymore. Ms. Wang refused and said that she did not do anything wrong. Other inmates were very impressed by Ms. Wang, and one encouraged her by telling her in secret, “Falun Dafa is good.” The guards finally took her shackles off after 35 days, when a provincial inspection team was about to visit.
Afterward, a prisoner in the same cell told Ms. Wang, “I really admire you Falun Gong practitioners. You have maintained the dignity of Falun Gong with your actions without losing your principles. Falun Gong is amazing!”
Experience at Heilongjiang Women's Prison
Ms. Wang was sentenced to two years in prison in May 2019. After her appeal was denied, she was transferred to Heilongjiang Women's Prison on October 20, 2019. There are over 300 Falun Gong practitioners imprisoned there for their faith.
Falun Gong practitioners were only allowed to wear the prison-provided uniform. Even in cold weather, they were not allowed to put on heavier clothes. Because Ms. Wang refused to renounce Falun Gong, she was forced to sit up straight motionlessly on a small stool for more than 18 hours at a time, from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. The stool was narrow and low (only about 25 centimeters high), and it had an uneven surface. When she could not keep sitting on it anymore, an inmate stood in front of her and kept her legs together while another stood behind her and used her knee to keep Ms. Wang’s back straight. The pressure made her feel that her back was broken.
The inmates then took Ms. Wang to a place in the prison where there were no surveillance cameras. They punched her, slapped her, and pinched her face and legs until evening. The next morning, Ms. Wang was woken up early to sit on the stool again. By noontime, she felt light-headed. When she tried to move, she fell over. The inmate who was monitoring her accused her of faking illness. Then Ms. Wang lost control of her hands and feet in the restroom and fell over.
Ms. Wang was taken to the prison hospital on a stretcher. Her blood pressure was dangerously high. She was given medicine to lower her blood pressure. Although Ms. Wang was still ridiculed by inmates and guards, they no longer forced her to sit on the small stool or work anymore.
Around May 2020, as the pandemic eased, the prison again started to require inmates to write weekly, monthly, and yearly thought reports on their “transformation.” Ms. Wang refused to write any. When inmates threatened Ms. Wang with solitary confinement, she replied, “We are good people, and we are being persecuted.” When an inmate kicked her for not sitting in a required position, Ms. Wang told her seriously, “It’s against the rules to hit someone.” She refused to follow the unreasonable demands from guards and inmates that were assigned to monitor her.
One day when inmates were ordered to read prison regulations aloud, Ms. Wang again refused. She was told to sit on a small stool in the corner, but this time she refused to comply. Ms. Wang explained to the team lead the persecution of Falun Gong and that practitioners were not criminals. The team lead agreed that Falun Gong practitioners were innocent.
Ms. Wang finally returned home on October 2, 2020. She passed away two months later.
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