NEW YORK—An elderly man from northeast China who police abducted in September to force him to renounce Falun Gong died in custody on October 30, 2010.
As 61-year-old Mr. Zhang Qingjun (张庆君) sought to resist the forced conversion efforts, he was quickly sent from the informal brainwashing facility to a labor camp in Jilin province. According to sources inside China, he died just eight days after arriving there.
Zhang’s detention and death are tied to a reinvigorated three-year, multi-billion dollar campaign initiated in 2010 to target Falun Gong practitioners across China for intensified “transformation” efforts. The campaign was revealed in a series of internal Communist Party documents, some of them posted online, released by the Falun Dafa Information Center last month (news).
The Songlin Nursing Home operates as a "brainwashing center" using torture and coercion to force Falun Gong practitioners to renounce their faith.
On September 10, Zhang and his wife were abducted by two officers from Shixian police station. The couple was immediately sent to a brainwashing facility located at Songlin Nursing Home. Over the following days, dozens of agents from the local Tumen City 6-10 Office, Communist Party, police, and neighborhood committee used various methods to force Zhang to “transform.”
Transformation—a euphemism for forcing practitioners to renounce Falun Gong and pledge allegiance to the Communist Party—has been at the core of the anti-Falun Gong campaign since its inception. As part of the transformation process, individuals are typically subjected to physical and psychological torture, often at specially-dedicated facilities housed in non-state institutions such as schools and companies.
After nine days of refusing to renounce his faith, Zhang was transferred to Anshan Detention Center and then sent to Yinmahe Re-education Through Labor Camp (九台饮马河劳教所) for a one-year term on October 22. Eight days later, on October 30, 2010, camp personnel called his family to notify them that he had died of a sudden heart attack.
Given the history of Falun Gong practitioners being tortured to death at the camp, his family is convinced Zhang died because of mistreatment and abuse. Former detainees from the camp speak of routine torture (eyewitness account). At least 11 Falun Gong practitioners are documented to have been killed due to abuse at this particular facility, though the actual death toll is likely much higher given the small percentage of cases whose details leak out of China.
Both Mr. Zhang and his wife had been detained, sent to labor camps, and subjected to torture multiple times since 1999 because of their identity as Falun Gong practitioners. Most recently, the elderly couple was abducted in April 2008 by Shixian police officers, beaten and kicked in custody, and held at Anshan Detention Center for over two weeks. They were eventually released on May 9, 2008, but continued to repeatedly be harassed in their home.
Mr. Zhang’s wife was reportedly released from custody in late September or early October 2010.
"Stories like Zhang's death reiterate the danger facing all Falun Gong practitioners and the pervasiveness of the persecution in Chinese society," says Falun Dafa Information Center spokesperson Gail Rachlin. "We urge President Obama, in his upcoming meeting with Hu Jintao, to reiterate the U.S. government's stance that all Falun Gong prisoners of conscience should be released immediately."