April 07, 2014 | By a Minghui correspondent from Hebei Province, China
(Minghui.org) After having been a target of the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution campaign over the past 14 years and having endured unimaginable brutality, Ms. Xu Yanxiang, a Falun Gong practitioner from Shenzhou City, Hebei Province, passed away on March 13, 2014, at the age of 50.
As the news of Ms. Xu’s death spread, people who have known her mourned, remembering her kindness and warm smiles, and the suffering she had endured for her faith in Falun Gong.
Ms. Xu Yanxiang
Persecuted Since the Onset of the Persecution
Ms. Xu was a kind and hard-working person. She practiced Falun Gong to regain her health and improve her moral character. Yet since the Chinese Communist regime banned the practice in July 1999, she and her husband, also a practitioner, became targets of the local authorities and have been repeatedly arrested, illegally sentenced, and tortured.
During Ms. Xu’s second forced labor term in 2002, she was tormented mercilessly at the Shijiazhuang and Gaoyang Forced Labor Camps. The guards deprived her of sleep, shocked her with electric batons for hours at a time, injected her with poisonous drugs, and tortured her with a vicious method called “tying with ropes.” The ruthless physical and psychological attack eventually exhausted her willpower. She renounced her belief against her will, which resulted in her feeling the most devastating and painful regret.
After her release in November 2004, Ms. Xu continued to suffer from the physical damage caused by poisonous injections and torture, and never completely recovered.
When her husband was sentenced to yet another forced labor term in the winter of 2007, Ms. Xu alone shouldered the burden of providing for her family. Her latest arrest in October 2012, followed by a month of house arrest, caused her health to decline rapidly. She eventually passed away on March 13, 2014.
Health Declined After Latest Arrest
In a large scale arrest targeting more than 40 Falun Gong practitioners in Shenzhou City in October 2012, Ms. Xu, her husband Mr. Zhang Ruifeng, and their non-practitioner daughter were arrested.
A group of police officers made the arrest after breaking into their home around midnight on October 28 and ransacked their home. The arrest was carried out by police officers of the Shenzhou City 610 Office, Shenzhou City Police Department, Hengshui City 610 Office, and Hengshui City Police Department.
Though Ms. Xu’s blood pressure was dangerously high, with readings between 260 and 280, she was still admitted to the Shenzhou City Detention Center. There, she experienced dizziness and headaches. Guards at the detention center made a daily report of her condition to the city police department and 610 Office officials. She was released on bail after a week.
Four male officers moved into her residence after her release and monitored her around the clock for an entire month. The house arrest put even more mental stress on Ms. Xu.
Her daughter was released after a month and her husband two months later. The family closed down their store and was without a source of income. After a brief reunion, Ms. Xu’s daughter left town to look for a job.
Ms. Xu’s health started to deteriorated rapidly after that. She experienced tightness in the chest, irregular heartbeat, and shortness of breath. Her health was unstable and the symptoms were up and down. Some nights, she could only sleep in a sitting position.
In late September 2013, her health declined rapidly. She experienced shortness of breath more frequently and couldn’t eat. Her body started to swell and fluid built up in her abdominal cavity. The skin on her legs and buttocks started to burst open, with yellow fluids seeping out. Her vision declined and she couldn’t see things clearly. Even speaking took too much effort. She was skin and bones toward the end, and her family and friends could hardly recognize her.
Though the family had sought treatment in different hospitals, her organs quickly failed one by one. Ms. Xu passed away on March 13, 2014, at the age of 50.
Painful Effects of Poisonous Injections After Second Forced Labor Term
Ms. Xu’s second forced labor term at the Shijiazhuang and Gaoyang Forced Labor Camps could be described at “hell on earth.” To have her renounce her belief in Falun Gong and “reform” or “transform”, the guards put her through intense brainwashing and tortured her ruthlessly.
After each torture session, the guards injected her with unknown drugs. As a result, she developed a a large, swollen, hard lump that took a full year to disappear.
After being transferred back to Shijiazhuang, the lump spread in the summer of 2004. The right side of her body became swollen within less than a day, along with severe pain in the right side of her stomach, causing her to lose sleep for two days. The entire right half of her body became so stiff that it was extremely uncomfortable to lay down on her right side.
Ms. Xu remembered being afraid of falling asleep during that time, fearing that she would never wake up. She didn’t want to go to sleep even if she was extremely tired. And if she dozed off, she felt as if she had died and was falling into a dark hole.
When she woke up, it took her a while to regain consciousness. She had to focus hard to realize where she was and what was going on. Then, she slowly regained control of her body and started to move her limbs. However, the right side of her body would remain completely numb.
The high volume of work at the Shijiazhuang Forced Labor Camp caused her to sweat a lot, which in turn irritated the skin on the bump. Once in the bathroom, a piece of skin from her lower back peeled off, and fluids continuously seeped out. The open wound did not heal until after her release in November 2004.
Ongoing Effects of Torture After Release from Labor Camp
One day after her release, she examined the wound in the mirror and found that her right side of the body was still swollen. Her sister, who worked at a laboratory at a hospital, asked for the name of the drug Ms. Xu was injected with. Such a simple question brought her to tears—how was her sister to know that the injections were given forcibly and she was not told what drug it was.
Though her health slowly improved after resuming practicing Falun Gong after her release, Ms. Xu continued to experience episodes of headaches, numbness in the body, and pain in her lower back and legs. Her teeth fell out and her face collapsed, a condition that occurs after one loses too many teeth.
In the winter of 2007, her husband was again arrested and sentenced to forced labor. Not having yet completely recovered, Ms. Xu faced an immediate need to make a living and provide for the family. She opened a small retail business and tried to make ends meet. She also was the sole caregiver for her elderly in-laws.
While Ms. Xu’s husband was incarcerated, her father-in-law’s health declined rapidly and he passed away in the summer of 2010. Ms. Xu tried to contact the forced labor camp and hoped that her husband could come home for the funeral, but was refused. The guards didn’t even give the news of his father’s death to Mr. Zhang. Ms. Xu took care of the funeral while under tremendous mental and financial pressure.
When Mr. Zhang’s term ended on November 15, 2010, he was picked up by the local 610 Office officials before Ms. Xu arrived at the forced labor camp, and taken to the Shenzhou City Brainwashing Center. Though he managed to get away later that day, Ms. Xu and her daughter were harassed multiple times during the following two weeks.
The family of three finally reunited. They made a living running a small business. Though Ms. Xu had not recovered completely, the family enjoyed their peaceful life together, until the three of them were arrested in October 2012.
Survived “Hell on Earth” at Shijiazhuang and Gaoyang Forced Labor Camps
As Ms. Xu walked out of the Shijiazhuang Forced Labor Camp in November 2004 after her second term ended, the escorting guard said to her, “Xu Yanxiang, you got our of here alive and didn’t go crazy, lucky you.”
She survived just barely. The three years of hell on earth had left wounds and scars all over her body and painful effects she continued to suffer until her death.
1. “Attack Division” of the Shijiazhuang Forced Labor Camp
Ms. Xu was arrested in the summer of 2002 and taken to a local detention center. She recalled it being dark and damp in the cells. Many inmates were infected with scabies. The unbearable itch and the summer heat made their nights restless. Every day, there was at least one person that suffered a heatstroke during the hottest days.
Ms. Xu was detained there for the rest of the summer until on September 6, 2002, when the police sentenced her to three years of forced labor and transferred her to the No. 4 Division at the Shijiazhuang Forced Labor Camp, the “Attack Division.”
The “Attack Division” is where all the newly arrived practitioners go through intense brainwashing. The division director Liu Junling and her team of guards put each practitioner in a small cell and assigned collaborators to monitor them around the clock. Ms. Xu was deprived of sleep since the second day she got there.
As ordered by Liu, the collaborators teamed up to bombard Ms. Xu with lies, slandering Falun Gong in an attempt to force her to transform and renounce her belief. Once, she was attacked by twenty collaborators.
The guards verbally insulted her and put many paper slips with messages slandering Falun Gong and its founder all over her body. She was made to stand inside a small circle the guards had drawn on the ground.
On the sixth night that she was there, the collaborators were given an order by Liu to “get her!” After midnight, Li Xinqiao and other collaborators took turns slapping Ms. Xu. Her face was so swollen that she couldn’t open her eyes the next day.
After that night, she was only allowed to sleep 2 to 3 hours each day. She had not been assigned a bed at the time, so she could only get a little bit of sleep by sitting on a tall stool. Ms. Xu’s had swelling in her legs and feet. The guards restricted her use of the bathroom and verbally and physically abused her.
Her family was never notified of her forced labor sentence. After going through many troubles, the family eventually found out where she was held. It was already winter time when her two sisters visited her in Shijiazhuang, and Ms. Xu was still wearing the clothes she had on when she was arrested during summer. Her sisters were told that she was not allowed to have visitors since she had not renounced Falun Gong.
The guards also claimed that the staff were well trained police officers who would take care of their family member like their own. Little did they know that their sister was tortured and abused on a daily basis.
Ms. Xu couldn’t take it anymore after five months and finally renounced Falun Gong. After being transformed against her will, she was forced to watch the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda programs slandering Falun Gong. Ms. Xu and many other practitioners who were transformed cried at night when nobody was watching. In addition to the mental pressure, they were also forced to do intense labor.
Ms. Xu just couldn’t bring herself to publicly slander the practice as required by the camp authorities. Because she couldn’t make a show to prove that she had completely transformed, the guards forced her to write daily reports on her thought process.
One day, she said to a guard, “I think Falun Gong is wonderful. I don’t want to be transformed anymore.” Thus, she went straight back to the list of unyielding practitioners and was transferred to the Gaoyang Forced Labor Camp, a place that’s notorious for transforming practitioners through torture.
2. The “Exhibition Room” and the First Torture Session
A week after she arrived at the Gaoyang Forced Labor Camp, a guard woke Ms. Xu up at around 9 p.m. and told her that the division director wanted to see her. They went downstairs, where many guards were already waiting. In the first room of the first floor, division director Yang Zemin started to lecture and curse at her. Yang stopped after ten minutes and said, “Take her to the exhibition room.” Ms. Xu was taken to the room across the hallway.
As soon as she walked in, Ms. Xu felt as if her head was going to explode. Her hair stood up and her heart was pounding. The room was completely blocked off and had cushioned walls and floor. The entire room was covered with paintings of giant snakes, monsters, and ghosts with long ears, big tongues, red eyes, and big, sharp teeth. The dimmed blue light rendered the drawings so vividly and gave the illusion of hell.
Five male guards came in with electric batons in their hands. They handcuffed her and one of them removed her shoes. It was a hot day in early August. Ms. Xu was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. A female guard brought over paper and a pen, and asked her to write the “four statements (similar to the Three Statements).” She said, “If you write the statements right now, you will be fine. If you don’t, you will do it later anyway.”
As soon as Ms. Xu said no, the guards started to shock her with electric batons. They pushed her to the ground and while standing on her leg, a female guard shocked her feet. She was beaten and shocked on the legs, hands, and her back. The guard who removed her shoes pressed the electric baton into her lower back so forcefully that she twisted her body and cried out loud—the pain was excruciating.
The guards stopped after a while and asked Ms. Xu if she regretted her decision. They again offered her a pen and paper and asked her to write the statements. When she refused, they resumed the torture session.
Hours passed before they finally stopped, recognizing that she was at the verge of collapse. Two female guards came in and tried to persuade her, saying, “You need to recognize the situation and write the statements.” Ms. Xu refused. Political director Ye Suzhen, who was in charge of the female inmates, said, “Even if you don’t transform right away, you have to think along the lines of transforming.”
Division director Yang came in with a few male guards after a little while. They tied her arms behind her back, pulled them upward over her head, and dragged her around the room. She felt tightness in the chest when they finally stopped. Two female guards shook her arms after she was untied and said, “If we don’t shake them, you will be crippled.” Repeatedly, the guards tortured her with the “tying with ropes” method.
Ms. Xu was later taken to another room and a few female guards who did not participate in the torture session tried to sweet talk her into transforming. They gave up after ten minutes and gave her unknown drugs. Exasperated, Ye brought her back to the exhibition room for another round of shocking.
The night seemed never ending. The shocking and beating lasted for four hours before the guards finally gave up. They injected Ms. Xu with an unknown drug and took her back to her cell.
Torture Re-enactment: Injection of poisonous drugs
After that night, Ms. Xu was monitored around the clock by two criminal inmates and not allowed to talk to anyone.
3. More Torture Sessions and Injections of Poisonous Drugs
A week later, just when Ms. Xu’s wounds had barely started to scab, the second torture session began. After an internal meeting had been held, the camp guards formed several teams and each was assigned to take one “unyielding” practitioner and transform them. Ms. Xu was assigned to the team led by Yang Zemin and Zhao Yuan.
First, Ms. Xu was deprived of sleep for two days and two nights. Then on the third night, a group of male guards joined in. The group of guards first went to another practitioner’s cell. Ms. Xu could barely hear the cracklings of the electric batons and shouting from the end of the hallway. About an hour later, that practitioner was taken to the exhibition room.
The exhibition room was soundproof. The night was quiet as if nothing was happening. Around midnight, the other practitioner was taken out of the exhibition room and it was Ms. Xu’s turn to enter the room. The room was filled with the smell of burnt flesh, and she could see hair on the floor.
Seven guards with electric batons shocked her continuously for five hours and stopped only to apply, three times, the torture method of “tying with ropes.” Seeing that Ms. Xu was not going to give in, they gave her an injection at dawn and quit for the time being.
The five hour torture session added new wounds on top of the old ones that had not completely healed. Ms. Xu’s arms were badly bruised and her body was aching all over. She couldn’t hold anything due to swollen hands. The physical torture caused long-term injury to her right arm. She couldn’t bend her arm back or raise her right hand to brush her hair. It took her over two years to recover.
The beatings, shocking, and sleep deprivation caused her to lose appetite and she become even weaker. The guards gave her IV fluids so the sessions could continue.
A male guard in his 30’s showed up after dinner one day. With an electric baton in hand, he asked Ms. Xu, “I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of me. I am Fang Bao, known as the ‘Deadly Ghost.’ This is your last chance. Are you going to transform or not?” Ms. Xu didn’t say anything. Fang shocked her while shouting, “You will die today!”
As Ms. Xu backed into the corner trying to avoid being shocked, Fang took out a stack of 100 yuan bills and slapped her in the face. The shocking and slapping lasted a while before the lights were turned off. Several guards including Fang and Zhao pushed Ms. Xu out of the cell and said they would bury her alive.
4. “Buried Alive” and Injections of Poisonous Drugs
A few female guards dragged her out of the gate and headed toward north. The darkness of the night seemed endless to Ms. Xu as she walked. When they heard dog barking in the distance, the guards threatened to feed her to the dogs. Once closer, Ms. Xu looked into the many pairs of eyes of the dogs in the dark and thought to herself, “The dogs would not bite a good person” and so they didn’t.
Then the guards dragged Xu Yanxiang across a vegetable field to a high metal tower. The guards handcuffed her to the rings attached to the ground at the base of the tower. Fang took his belt off and beat her on the head for a while, before Yang came with a gang of 30 to 40 guards. Almost all the team leads were there.
Yang said, “Everyone else has transformed. You’re the only one left. Whether you want to or not, you’ll have to ‘transform’ tonight. Write the statements now, or you will be buried alive right here!” When Ms. Xu refused, Yang said, “Show her so-and-so’s statements. He wrote them right here last night.” The guards brought the statements and cursed at her.
About 7 or 8 fully charged electrical batons were used simultaneously to shock her on her legs, feet, chest, back, arms, and hands. She fell backward when shocked in the front, and fell forward when shocked in the back. As Ms. Xu twisted her torso to avoid the batons and writhed from pain, she was not aware that the handcuffs had cut into her wrists.
She wore a short-sleeve shirt and shorts that day. The guards shocked her back continuously with two electric batons and one baton was inserted through her collar and left there for the entire night. Ms. Xu gritted her teeth and endured the pain. She thought to herself, “I will die if I die. I will live if I live.”
The guards stopped and tried again to force her to write the statements. Yanxiang ignored them. They yelled and cursed, and resumed shocking her again. The session lasted for seven hours. Ms. Xu bit down so hard that her teeth chipped off and shattered. Her teeth later fell out and caused her facial structure to collapse.
It started to drizzle at dawn. The electric batons had run out of charge. The guards put her shoes back on and dragged her back to the camp, as she could not move her right leg at all. Once back, a male guard named Wang gave her some medicine and another injection. Ms. Xu curled up on the bed board she was handcuffed to. Zhao Yuan kicked her and said, “Do you need a rest? No way! You seemed pretty energetic out there in the field. Get up and squat!”
The last two torture sessions were only two days apart. Old wounds were topped with new ones and her body was covered with them. Her shirt was soaked with sweat, and she was in a great deal of pain whenever she moved. Ms. Xu couldn’t eat at all. She only asked for some water, but the guards did not even give her that.
Team lead Zhao Yuan was on duty that night. As soon as she came in, she kicked Ms. Xu a couple of times. That was the final drop in the bucket that pushed Ms. Xu over the threshold. She wrote the statements that night, stating that she would no longer practice Falun Gong. She told the guards that she did it against her will, but the guards didn’t care, as long as they had the statements to show their “accomplishment.”
Torture Re-enactment: Beatings
They finally let her rest later that night. Ms. Xu was injured everywhere and couldn’t lie down comfortably. So she got up and sat in the dark. The painful feeling was so immense that she felt as if the universe was filled with pain. Suddenly, she saw a picture slandering the teacher of Falun Gong that guards had put up in the hallway. She burst into tears, remembering that she had once vowed in front of the picture that she would not give up, yet she had just now been transformed. Tears of regret poured down her cheeks.
When the female guard on duty asked why she was crying, Ms. Xu replied, “Teacher doesn’t want anything from me and only wants the best for me. Yet, I have betrayed him.” Seeing her like that, an inmate started to cry sympathetically. The female guard murmured, “It would probably have been better if you did not transform.”
5. Another Round of Brainwashing at the Shijiazhuang Forced Labor Camp
Ms. Xu was transferred back to Shijiazhuang Forced Labor Camp No. 4 Division on September 12, 2003. Political director Liu Xiumin asked her, “What’s wrong with your skin?” The guards were all shocked to learn that it was caused by electric shocks. The wounds on her neck and arms were still purple and black. There were scars on her wrists and scabs all over her body.
Closely questioned by division director Qiao Xiaoxia, Ms. Xu finally revealed what she had endured at Gaoyang. Qiao was furious, “They are savages. These prison guards are scum. I am so ashamed for what they have done to you. It doesn’t count if you were transformed like that.”
Despite the fact that Ms. Xu was extremely weak and mentally exhausted, Qiao transferred her to the Shijiazhuang Forced Labor Camp Headquarters in November, where she was deprived of sleep for eight days straight and then another round of brainwashing.
Ms. Xu was eventually released in November 2004. Of all she had suffered, the regret of renouncing her belief under pressure was the most painful.
Falun Dafa Changed Her Life
When she was little, Ms. Xu suffered from encephalitis, an acute inflammation of the brain, which resulted in exhaustion of the central nervous system and caused her to suffer from anxiety and insomnia well into her adulthood. She also suffered from gynecological diseases so severe that the doctor had given up on her. The many illnesses made her life miserable before she was introduced to Falun Gong.
To her surprise, all of her illnesses disappeared shortly after she started to practice Falun Gong in the beginning of 1996. The regained radiant health wiped the sad look on her face and replaced it with smiles. She became a much happier person. Her life changed completely. At home, Ms. Xu respected the elderly and loved the young. At work, she was hard-working and well-respected by co-workers.
Witnessing her mental and physical changes, her husband started practicing Falun Gong as well. He lived by the principles Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance and became even more diligent at work. He was highly praised by his superiors and given many recognitions.
The couple was known as the nicest people among their co-workers at the Shenzhou Cotton Textile Company, where both of them worked. Ms. Xu, her husband, and their daughter lived a happy life.
However, since the Chinese Communist Party launched the persecution campaign in 1999, Ms. Xu and her husband were repeatedly arrested, detained, put through brainwashing, fired from their jobs, and illegally arrested for upholding their faith in Falun Gong. Mr. Zhang was sentenced once to forced labor and once to prison, and Ms. Xu twice to forced labor and suffered long term effects until her death.
Summary of Key Persecution Facts:
Name: Xu Yanxiang (许艳香)
Address: Shenzhou City, Hebei Province
Occupation: Employee of the Shenzhou Cotton Textile Company
Date of Death: March 13, 2014
Date of Most Recent Arrest: October 28, 2012
Most Recent Place of Detention: Shenzhou City Detention Center (深州市看守所)
Persecution Suffered: Electric shock, sleep deprivation, forced labor, brainwashing, illegal sentencing, forced injections/drug administration, beatings, solitary confinement, torture, fired from workplace, home ransacked, detention, denial of restroom use