March 13, 2014 | By Yuzheng
Euphoria in Changchun City
At 7:19 p.m. March 5, 2002, eight cable television channels in Changchun City began to broadcast the videos “Self-immolation or Hoax?” and “Falun Dafa Spreads Worldwide.” At first, viewers were shocked. Many began to call their friends and family, telling them to turn on their TVs to watch the footage about Falun Gong.
When Zhang Zhongyu, assistant editor of a local magazine Lantaineiwai , walked into a small convenience store, a group of people were gathered in front of the TV, talking excitedly. When the storeowner saw Zhang, who looked like a government official, he nervously changed the channel. But every channel he switched to was airing the same program: “Self-immolation or Hoax?”
“That’s a good program. We should see it,” Zhang affirmed to the owner. Everyone relaxed and settled in to watch.
The program’s host was analyzing a news broadcast by CCTV (China Central TV) that claimed a group of Falun Gong practitioners set themselves on fire in Tiananmen Square. The host pointed out each flaw in the CCTV program. The viewers soon understood that the so-called “news” was just staged propaganda to defame Falun Gong. And, in the process, the life of one of the “actresses” was brought to an end.
The next program was “Falun Dafa Spreads Worldwide,” which showed the thousands of proclamations and certificates issued to Falun Gong from governments and organizations around the world. The program was also evidence of how Falun Gong was embraced by over100 countries and regions.
On December 6, 2010, The Weekly Standard magazine published a long feature article titled “Into Thin Airwaves: How a Handful of Unknown Chinese Martyrs Aided the Cause of Freedom Around the World.”
The story described the event as it took place that night:
“The Falun Gong broadcast had played on eight channels for 50 minutes, garnering an audience of over one million people, the ratings building as word spread, people calling each other, saying they should turn on their TV immediately. In some neighborhoods, local party officials grew desperate and cut the power, plunging streets into darkness.
“In others, such as those near Cultural Square, people spilled into the streets to celebrate. The ban is over! Falun Gong is rehabilitated! A few practitioners emerged from factories and hideouts, openly handing out literature. Neighbors, children, random strangers, even the old ladies with the red armbands approached them, everyone talking at once, bubbling over, laughing, slapping them playfully, congratulating them.
“A few suspected it had not been a government broadcast, but still they smiled broadly and whispered: ‘How did you do it? You Falun Gong are so amazing!’ And it was almost beginning to seem as if they had been rehabilitated after all, and the euphoria and laughter did not cease, not even at 10 p.m., … ”
The people in Changchun learned the truth, sided with Falun Gong, and cursed the authorities for framing good people.
In a small food outlet inside a building, a woman asked the storeowner: “Did you watch the Falun Gong program last night?” He said he did. She sighed: “I didn’t watch TV last night. Such a pity!”
A resident of Changchun City, Mr. Wei Lisheng, said: “On the morning of March 6, as soon as I entered the office, my boss said to me: ‘Falun Gong is so powerful. Everyone is discussing the staged Tiananmen Square Self-immolation now. Falun Gong said on TV that it was fabricated by the communist party to frame Falun Gong, and that Falun Gong is popular all over the world.’”
A Regime in Panic
The regime’s propaganda deliberately filtered out the joy of the general public and focused on the roughly 2,000 phone calls made to the local police stations, alerting them of the broadcast.
Given the city’s population—in the millions— and the tens of thousands of communist party members and the thousands of on- and off-duty police officers who saw the primetime broadcast, the number of phone calls that tipped the authorities was, in fact, a very small percentage.
And the relatively low number of phone calls is telling: Most of the communist party members, government cadres, and police officers were simply watching TV instead of bothering to inform the authorities.
A trial of 10 Falun Gong practitioners who were arrested for distributing truth-clarification materials had been planned for March 6. After watching the previous night’s broadcast, thousands of civilians went to the courthouse to see how the authorities were going to cover up their lies.
A few observers outside the courthouse spoke with each other: “The fliers Falun Gong give out are simply the truth. How can it be illegal to tell the truth? What kind of sentence can they give these innocent people?” In response to the thousands of civilian observers, the authorities positioned police vehicles and the armed forces to “protect” the courthouse.
But the civilians were unaware that the then-general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Jiang Zemin, was so angry that he gave a secret order to “kill all Falun Gong involved in the case.” Liu Jing, the top leader of 610 Office, an organization established at each government level solely to persecute Falun Gong, flew to Changchun overnight to supervise the massive rounds of searches and arrests.
Military battalions entered Changchun City that same night. All police forces were ordered to arrest any known Falun Gong practitioners in the city, and each officer was given a quota of arrests to fill. If an officer failed to reach his quota, he would lose his job.
The order from higher authorities was simple: “There is no need to follow the law to arrest Falun Gong.” One policeman once said, “Our superiors ordered us to focus on arresting Falun Gong practitioners, so don’t be bothered with murders or arson.”
In the first round of mass arrests, over 5,000 Falun Gong practitioners were detained. The interrogations and tortures began immediately to track down those involved in the cable television hijacking.
Heroes Arrested and Tortured Lei Ming
As the last one to leave the signal insertion point, Lei Ming was the first to be arrested. He was arrested around 8 p.m., shortly after the broadcast, and was detained at the Qinming Police Station. Reporters soon heard of the arrest and arrived at the police station, but they were pushed out by the officers. The same night, Mr. Lei was transported to the city police department.
Torture illustration: Tiger bench
He was beaten in the police department, but he did not waver. The authorities from higher levels soon intervened. Mr. Lei was blindfolded and moved into a basement at the Jingyuetan Hotel. The basement rooms were equipped with all kinds of torture devices: a tiger-bench, electric batons, plastic bags to cover the head, a red-hot iron rod, loudspeakers, etc. In about five hours, Mr. Lei Ming was all but dead.
But the authorities did not want him to die too quickly, so he was tortured for four days and nights. When he was transported to the Tiebei Detention Center, the warden was shocked at the sight of Mr. Lei’s grotesque and swollen body and refused to admit him, but the officers said that this was a “special case” and ordered him to.
In the detention cell the prisoners counted the iron rod burns, electric shock burns, and bruises on Mr. Lei’s body. The head prisoner said, “Before, I didn’t believe Falun Gong was persecuted that badly; today, I totally believe it. I also believe that the Chinese Communist Party is doomed.”
Mr. Lei was illegally sentenced to 17 years in prison after a show trial.
On the night of March 23, 20 police vehicles surrounded Shanhoutun Village in Qianguo County. Officers broke into Mr. Liu’s uncle’s house and took Liu’s cousin to the nearby police station for interrogation. They threatened that they would arrest his 84-year-old grandmother as well. Under pressure, the young man told them where Mr. Liu was.
At 1 a.m. March 24, seven police vehicles returned to Shanhoutun Village and surrounded the uncle’s house. Police set fire to two large piles of firewood to drive out Mr. Liu, who was hiding in the piles. They handcuffed him and began beat him with wooden clubs, while his family and other villagers looked on.
With Mr. Liu writhing on the ground, officer Li Bowu from the Songyuan City Police Department shot Mr. Liu in the leg twice and yelled, “Now show me how far can you run!”
The authorities then stuffed Mr. Liu into the trunk of a police vehicle. They also arrested his uncle and aunt.
Mr. Liu’s uncle, aunt, and cousin were detained at the Qian Guo County Detention Center for 11 days. The cousin was beaten severely, and Mr. Liu’s uncle was beaten until the muscles on his thigh disconnected from the bone.
Mr. Liu was later sentenced to 19 years in prison, where he eventually died of torture.
This is the last known photo of Liu Chengjun. In the photo, his left arm was not in his sleeve. He could no longer sit up by himself and had to lean against the wall.
Massacre in Changchun City
Over 5,000 Falun Gong practitioners were arrested in the city’s mass arrest, and at least 6 of them died from torture within a month. The overwhelming majority of the 5,000 practitioners had no involvement in the cable television broadcast.
Ms. Li Rong, 35, worked at the Jilin Province Pharmaceutical Research Institute and was a graduate of Jilin University. The authorities said she died after jumping from a building to avoid arrest, but the true cause of her death remains under investigation.
Ms. Shen Jianli, 34, was a math professor at Jilin University, department of Applied Mathematics. She was arrested on March 6 and died after being tortured in late April. Her husband, Mr. Zheng Weidong, who is also a Falun Gong practitioner, was detained as well.
An unidentified male Falun Gong practitioner, about 30 years old, was beaten to death on March 16 while in custody under the Criminal Investigation Brigade of the Jincheng Police Station at the Changchun City Police Department. His body was covered with multiple injuries, and his internal organs were damaged.
Liu Yi, 34, was arrested on March 18 and died while in the custody of the Criminal Police Division of the Luyuan Police Station.
Ms. Li Shuqin, 54, was arrested by the Changjiu Road Police Department and died in the Third Detention Center of Changchun.
Mr. Liu Haibo, who knew Liang Zhengxing in a forced labor camp, was a radiologist at the Chuncheng Hospital. Mr. Liu was arrested on the night of March 10 and died at 1 a.m. the following morning while in police custody. Based on the account of a former police officer, the authorities inserted an electric baton into Liu’s rectum to shock his internal organs. Mr. Liu died in a few minutes, but the authorities said he died of a heart attack. They cremated his body in secret.
Liu Haibo and his wife
Many more Falun Gong practitioners barely survived the torture.
One female practitioner wrote to the Minghui website in a letter: “At first the authorities suspected that I was involved in the broadcast and labeled me as an ‘important person.’ I was abducted while leaving my office and detained at the Luyuan Police Station. I was beaten by seven or eight policemen.
“Later, in the Criminal Police Division, I was handcuffed and suspended up high with two of my toes barely touching the floor. The nerves in my arms were damaged, and I had no feeling in either of my arms for over 40 days.
“In the end, they moved me to the basement of the Jingyuetan Hotel, where each room had many torture devices such as the tiger bench. Two policemen there–Gao Peng and Zhang Hang–were extremely evil. They liked to shock female practitioners on their nipples and private parts. Zhang and another policeman, Jiang Zhong, shocked me everywhere from my throat to my feet. They deliberately pushed and held the baton onto my skin longer and longer to make the burn as deep as they could. And they repeatedly wrapped my head in a black plastic bag until I passed out.
“I met Wang Yuhuan and Chen Yanmei in the detention center. Ms. Wang told me that when she was interrogated, the authorities shocked her with long electric batons. In one torture, she was bundled with ropes like a big log, and two policemen swung her repeatedly into a tree. She felt she had nearly died.”
On April 1, 2002, Chinese news agencies reported that 18 people were involved in the March 5 cable TV broadcasts in Songyuan City and Changchun City. But when the trial began, there were only 15 people on the defendants’ list. Based on the six known cases of death-in-custody after the mass arrests and interrogations, we believe the other three died while in custody.
One of them was Hou Mingkai. He was arrested on August 20, 2002, with three other practitioners. One of them later recounted the interrogations that night:
“The authorities from the Jilin City 610 Office and the Domestic Security Division arrested Hou Mingkai, two other practitioners, and myself. I was handcuffed to a pipe connected to the heater. The heater in the room was turned off and the door was open. I heard the noise of beatings from the room across the corridor. When the officers grew tired from the beatings, they came to the room I was in to drink water.
“One of them said, ‘That guy can really take a lot.’ The policewoman said, ‘How come the tear gas has not affected him? I was nearly in tears myself. That guy is tough.’
“About half an hour later, I heard the policemen in the other room start to panic and yell something like, ‘Hou Mingkai is not responding. He is dead.’ I think they tried to cover it up later by having one policeman come into my room and say, ‘Hou Mingkai tried to escape. He jumped out the window.’ We were on sixth floor and there many police in that room. Hou Mingkai couldn’t have jumped from the window. I knew they had beaten him to death.”
A photo of Hou Mingkai’s wife and daughter was among his mementos.
On September 18, 2002, the Changchun Intermediate Court tried the 15 defendants and sentenced them each to up to 20 years in prison. At the time, these sentences were the longest jail terms handed down to Falun Gong practitioners since the persecution began in July 1999.
(To be continued)
Category: Personal Accounts of Early Days