Profiles : Yuzhi Wang, Canada

A successful businesswoman from northeastern China, Yuzhi Wang was severely tortured in the notoriously brutal Wanjia Labor Camp before her extraordinary resolve won her freedom

From Rags to Riches to Torture in a Chinese Labour Camp

One Woman’s Personal Account of China’s Notorious Wanjia Labour Camp

The Early Years

My family came from the city of Harbin. I was 15 when the Great Cultural Revolution swept through China. My father was jailed for being an “anti-revolutionist” — Maoist jargon for anyone with an education, owning lands, or holding traditional values — and my mother was left to take care of eight children, with no source of income. Fortunately, two of my brothers were able to earn enough money washing cloth by the banks of the Songhua River to keep the family fed. My mother was too depressed and sick to cook, so I took over the cooking for the family.

I used to take meals to my father in prison, and can still remember seeing him behind bars — dark and gaunt, but always passionate and positive. In spite of the extreme difficulties in my life, I was always encouraged by my father’s attitude.

In 1976 the “Gang of Four” was removed from power and life began to change. My father was released from prison, and my two older brothers were admitted to university, along with my younger sister. I was left to provide for the rest of the family, including my sick parents. I got a job making towel tassels, and was so efficient at my work that I could earn 200-300 Yuan a month. This was enough money to provide food for the whole family, and tuition for my younger brothers and sister.

My Life Improves

In 1979, life slowly started to change for me. I was working in an electronics company, and the company decided to send me to university. After I graduated, I went back to the factory to work as an engineer. In 1989 the company went bankrupt and so my husband (whom I’d met at university) and I started up our own business importing office supplies. The business went so well that the company profits continually doubled. My hardships were finally over — I had a house, a car, a great business, and a happy marriage.

I also had a beautiful son.

By this time, my family was doing well financially. My father had started his own factory and went on to become one of China’s first millionaires. Two of my brothers left China — one went to Philadelphia, and the other to the Middle East. My mother moved to the United Arab Emirates with my two younger sisters. All my brothers and sisters had prosperous businesses.

Financially, life was good.

My life underwent another incredible change in 1998 when one of my customers handed me a copy of China Falun Gong — the introductory text of Falun Gong. When I first took the book, I had no idea how dramatically it would change my life.

I began practicing Falun Gong and started to notice huge changes in my life. For years I had suffered from a debilitating illness that would occasionally cause me to suddenly lose control in my legs, and make walking impossible. I had visited countless doctors, both Chinese and Western, but none of them could pinpoint the cause of the illness. Three months after starting Falun Gong, my illness totally disappeared.

I began diligently studying the Falun Gong books, and did the Falun Gong exercises with friends at a local park. In the process of practicing Falun Gong I felt cleansed of many negative thoughts and emotions that I had collected throughout my life. I felt my body and soul gradually become healthy and harmonious like never before. My tiring life became happier and I was finally at peace. I felt so lucky to be able to learn a Chinese exercise and meditation practice that originated in the ancient traditions of my country. In Chinese history every dynasty was built on and governed by virtue and morality. The main focus in life was to think of others first and always look inside to see where you could do better. The main goal in life was to strengthen the spirit, to enlighten to truth, and return the body and mind to the original true essence. The profound principles in Falun Gong empowered me to make purer choices in my life and helped me to bring the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance into my family. I feel I have truly found the meaning of my life and the answers to life’s mysteries by practicing Falun Gong. For me, it brought together all of the pieces of the puzzle.

Crackdown on Falun Gong

Falun Gong spread rapidly in China, and by 1999 statistics from China’s Physical Education Bureau showed that there were over 70 million people practicing Falun Gong. Jiang Zemin, the leader of the Communist Party at that time, was threatened by both the sheer numbers of people and their allegiance to something other than Communist Party ideology. On July 20, 1999 he ordered a brutal crackdown on Falun Gong. Overnight, those 70 million people, including me, became the “enemy of the people” and “followers of an evil religion”.

My life was about to take another dramatic turn — full of incredible hardships that I could never have imagined.

As the crackdown on Falun Gong continued, the media was saturated with lies and propaganda. In order to justify the persecution, all kinds of bloody crimes (immolation, suicide, homicide) were used to frame up Falun Gong practitioners. The sensational propaganda demonizing Falun Gong permeated the entire country. It was like reliving the Great Cultural Revolution — only worse.

Arrested three times

The sudden persecution of Falun Gong stunned me and all my friends, and so I went to the local Appeals Office — following the legal rights guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution to register appeals with the government. But I quickly found out that these rights no longer applied to Falun Gong practitioners. Ironically, the Appeals Office became the detention centre, where all practitioners who went to appeal against the vicious persecution were arrested instead. I was arrested three times. The first time was in January 2000 in Beijing — I was ordered to sign a pledge promising not to return to Beijing to organize support for Falun Gong. I refused to sign it, so the guards ordered other inmates to beat me. The second arrest was in July 2000, for photocopying Falun Gong flyers. The police officers beat me repeatedly, trying to find out whom the flyers were for. In spite of the vicious slander against Falun Gong, I stood firmly by my beliefs and decided to help reveal the facts of the persecution to people who had been deceived by the government’s propaganda.

In October 2000 a few other practitioners and I prepared over 100,000 leaflets explaining the truth about Falun Gong. With the help of other practitioners, we distributed the leaflets throughout the entire Province. People who had previously believed the propaganda suddenly understood the facts of the persecution. Revealing the facts was what the authorities feared most, particularly Luo Gan (the highest leader in the central government in charge of the “610 Office”, a Gestapo-like government entity in charge of persecuting Falun Gong). I was placed on the “most wanted list”, and my name and photo were posted everywhere with a reward of 50,000 Yuan offered for information leading to my arrest.

On July 16, 2001 I went to the bank to withdraw my money and was arrested for the third time. The police confiscated US$50,000 of my savings and froze my bank accounts. Memories of my father’s time in prison came back to me like a bad dream. Here I was, 46 years old, being jailed for my beliefs, just as he had been.

Wanjia Forced Labour Camp

In November 2001, I was transferred from the Second Detention Centre to the Wanjia Forced Labour Camp of Harbin — infamous for its brutality towards Falun Gong practitioners. All practitioners detained in the detention centre or the forced labour camp had to endure brainwashing. Every day, we had to sit in one position and watch anti-Falun Gong propaganda on TV or listen to the guards for over eight hours. No one was allowed to move. Sometimes, a brainwashing session would last for days and we weren’t allowed to sleep the entire time. Often, we were not even allowed to use the toilet. In addition to the intense brainwashing and sleep deprivation, Falun Gong practitioners were routinely beaten or whipped, tied with ropes and hanged from the ceiling, given electric shocks, forced to sit naked on iron chairs, or raped by male criminals.

Most Falun Gong practitioners refused to give up their beliefs. Some of them, including me, went on hunger strikes to protest our unlawful arrests and the inhumane torture and persecution.

Brutal Force-Feedings

I vividly remember my first hunger strike at the Harbin City Detention Centre. In order to force-feed me, the doctors at the Harbin City Detention Centre used a metal clamp to pry open my teeth and then pushed a thick rubber tube down to my stomach. My mouth was filled with blood and my body was covered in bruises after every force-feeding. Several people were there to beat and subdue me for these force-feedings. They would pour two big bowls of cold water mixed with corn flour into me, saying that it was for “stretching the stomach”. When I screamed, the police were afraid of others hearing me. They ordered inmates to gag and beat me even more.

The force-feeding at the Wanjia Forced Labour Camp was even more violent and cruel. The doctors there used force-feeding as a torture method and didn’t care whether practitioners survived it or not.

Before force-feeding me for the first time, I saw them grab a female Falun Gong practitioner named Shang by the hair and knock her head against the wall and floor. When she was finally unconscious, they forced the tube into her nose to force-feed her. There was no sterilization — they simply brushed the tube around in a basin then forced it through her nose and down into her stomach. Then they injected ground corn grain mixed with cold water.

After they’d finished with her, the two prison doctors turned around and looked at me. They stood there with their forceps and tools in their hands and said, “You see that? You’re next.” After that, I was subjected to this kind of force-feeding every day in jail.

They would beat us to the point where we were almost unconscious before tying our arms and legs down and forcing the tubes through our noses and down into our stomachs. We were tied up to prevent us from pulling the tubes out because of the excruciating pain.

On one occasion I witnessed a female practitioner named Minxia Guo being force-fed. The nurses grabbed Minxia’s hair and pinched her face and body. She was black and blue everywhere. Her whole body began to twitch. When I condemned the guards and doctors for what they were doing, they turned on me and beat me up as well.

One day I heard the desperate cry of a man in the woman’s ward. It was the husband of a Falun Gong practitioner named Yanhong Ding. He had begged to be able to visit her, and when he finally was allowed to come in, they force-fed her right in front of him. This man cried terribly while his wife struggled in pain.

I always knew that if I would simply write a letter denouncing Falun Gong, denouncing its teachings, and promise to never practice again, I would be released immediately. But if it is wrong to believe in ‘Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance’, what hope does humanity have? This persecution was forcing people to choose between their lives and their conscience. I knew that I was being forced to make that choice, and I chose my conscience because I knew that when good men and women renounce good, wholesome beliefs under pressure from a dictatorship, something much greater than us dies.

Torture at the Labour Camp Hospital

Due to the filthy conditions in the labour camp, many practitioners developed purulent scabies. They had pus cysts and blood all over their skin. The worst ones were as big as a peach. During the day the sores were continually discharging pus and mucus. During the night they became so itchy that it was impossible to fall asleep.

Every practitioner that developed scabies would be sent to the hospital run by the forced labour camp — but it wasn’t for medical treatment. When practitioners arrived at the hospital, they were dragged into a small closed room, and forced onto the ground. The doctors would violently remove their clothes, and use sharp steel knives or metal spoons to scratch the pus cysts. They would scrape the spoons back and forth through the flesh and blood, while the practitioner on the ground would be screaming in pain. When they finished with the digging, they would force the practitioner to stand against the wall so that they could clean the blood from their bodies. The water from the faucets was not normal tap water; it was filthy, freezing cold, and full of rust.

I remember a new prison doctor who came — a university graduate. Whenever he treated a practitioner, he would follow the correct medical procedure to prick open and wash each of the vesicles. When the chief of the Wanjia Hospital saw what he was doing, he pushed the doctor aside, picked up a steel spoon, and started using the spoon to dig into the pus cysts.

This kind of murderous “medical treatment” would be repeated every few days along with daily beatings and force-feeding through the nose.

Any Practitioner Tortured to Death will be Counted as a Suicide

After enduring such torture, many practitioners ended up on the verge of death. I know of at least eight Falun Gong practitioners who have been tortured to death in Wanjia Forced Labour Camp since the persecution began. The guards told all the practitioners that if they were beaten to death, it would be counted as a suicide and their bodies would be cremated immediately — before informing the families, so there would be no evidence of any torture.

Although I lived in this extreme horror every day, I was determined to survive without compromising my beliefs.

A Struggle to Let the Outside World Know About the Persecution

My husband and children cried and begged the guards to be allowed to visit me on many occasions, but to no avail. Family members of Falun Gong practitioners were not allowed any visitation rights.

On one occasion during my hunger strike, I was lying in bed in the labour camp hospital. Through the window by the side of the street, I could see my relatives standing at the door, begging the guards to be allowed in.

On another occasion, my two younger sisters came from overseas to visit me. They stood at the door, crying and begging to be let in, and they refused to leave. Suddenly it started raining. They covered their faces with their raincoats and went straight past the security guard, and quickly ran inside the hospital. By then I had been on hunger strike for over 50 days.

When I saw them I somehow found the strength to get out of bed. I got outside the door and grabbed the guardrail in the corridor with all my strength. I stared at my two younger sisters. When my sisters saw how emaciated I was, they began crying loudly in the corridor. I was crying too. I told them, “You need to contact international organizations and let the world know what is happening to me!”

In March 2002, I started writing letters on tissue paper within the labour camp to the Harbin Justice Bureau, the Harbin Public Security Department, and to the Province’s Public Security Ministry. The letters I wrote were each five feet long. On several occasions they were almost taken away by the warden.

The day after I finished the letters some people from the Justice Bureau came to inspect the labour camp. When they came to my ward I personally handed the letters to them.

Finally Released

After nine months in prison, my health had deteriorated so much that I couldn’t even stand up. My eyes and nose were festering with blood and pus from the force-feedings and my eyesight was almost gone. My hunger strike lasted more than 100 days. Towards the end of it, my nose was so swollen that the doctors could no longer force a tube into it. I was on the verge of death, and the doctors knew it. They called my relatives and gave them the responsibility of nursing me back to health.

When I was finally released in May 2002, I had been in jail for nine months. Nine months that seemed like an eternity… I felt as though I had just emerged from hell.

After my release, I immediately began practicing the Falun Gong exercises again. My body and eyes quickly recovered. When the police realized I was healthy once again, they wanted to send me back to the labour camp.

In June 2002, to avoid further persecution, I went to visit my family in the United Arab Emirates. On the way, I used every opportunity to tell the Chinese people at the airports the truth about the persecution. Eventually, someone from the Chinese Embassy saw me and persuaded the local police to arrest me, telling them that I was a dangerous criminal. The Chinese Embassy asked the United Arab Emirates to deport me back to China. Miraculously, through around-the-clock efforts by Canadian Falun Gong practitioners and the Canadian government, I was given special permission to move to Vancouver, Canada in November 2002, to be with my son.

The Canadians’ rescue efforts probably saved my life.

What I have been through in the past three years is a nightmare. Although the nightmare is over for me, there are still hundreds of thousands of bloody nightmares like mine ongoing in China. I hope that by publishing my story, I can help end these nightmares as well.

I attribute my ability to survive the horrific torture to the principles of Falun Gong: ‘Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance’ exist deep in my heart, far beyond the reach of any electric baton, far beyond the reach of a prison guard’s fist. Lies and slanderous propaganda dissolve when faced with the truth. Brutality and torture are no match for compassion. Violence and hatred cannot penetrate tolerance.

For nine months, they tried to make me believe these principles are not true.

They failed.

I feel real freedom is not obtained externally, but internally within the realm of ‘Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance’. Even when faced with extreme torture and persecution, true Falun Gong practitioners can withstand the unimaginable — even to the ends of their lives — in order to defend a common good greater than ourselves: the universal principles of ‘Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance’.

Yuzhi Wang is currently living with her son in Vancouver with a Minister’s Permit for Canada. She spends her time letting people know about the persecution of Falun Gong in China.

At the time of Ms. Wang’s release from Wanjia Labour Camp in May 2002, the Falun Dafa Information Center had verified reports of eight Falun Gong practitioners who had died inside the labour camp from severe torture. Since her release, six more have been reported dead inside Wanjia Labour Camp.



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