New York—A middle-aged doctor detained in Tianjin during the Olympics died on December 4, only 22 days after her release from Banqiao “Re-education through labor” (RTL) camp. Ms. Gong Hui (宫辉), had been detained by police on August 13, 2008 and then sentenced by fiat to the camp, where she was beaten, tortured, and kept in solitary confinement. She was 57 years old when she died.
Gong was one of 15 Tianjin adherents whose sentencing to Banqiao RTL and risk of torture at the camp the Falun Dafa Information Center reported on last February (news). She is also among over 80 Falun Gong practitioners whose deaths the Center documented during 2009. In the run-up to and during the Olympics, over 8,000 Falun Gong practitioners were detained by the authorities, many of whom have since been sentenced to RTL or prison camps.
“This woman’s tragic death once again highlights the very real danger to life and limb facing every Falun Gong practitioner pulled off the street and sentenced to one of China’s 300 plus gulags," said Falun Dafa Information Center spokesperson Gail Rachlin.
Local police and security bureau officers detained Gong without a warrant on August 13, 2008, during the period of the Beijing Olympics. She was initially held at Nankai District Detention Center for 35 days, located in a portion of the city not far from Tianjin's Olympics Stadium. She was then taken to Banqiao RTL Camp in the more suburban Dagang District on September 17, 2008.
In an effort to force her to renounce her faith in Falun Gong, guards at the camp placed Gong in solitary confinement for extended periods of time, deprived her of food and sleep, and forced her to stand for hours at a time. The guards also instigated non-practitioner inmates to beat her.
On November 9, 2008, Gong was reportedly subjected to a particularly harsh session of torture, lasting from 9:00am until 11:00pm and resulting in her near physical collapse. Within three months of being detained at the camp, Ms. Gong had become emaciated, sickly, and had difficulty speaking.
Such violence against Falun Gong practitioners is commonplace in the RTL system, where adherents comprise a significant percentage of detainees. Following his visit to China in 2005, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture reported on the use of solitary confinement on Falun Gong practitioners at Beijing Women’s RTL camp.
“The ‘Intensive Training’ section … houses 10 small solitary confinement cells. Detainees stated that Falun Gong practitioners who had not renounced their beliefs after six months in detention were placed in the Intensive Training section until they were ‘reformed,’” says the report (link). “Falun Gong practitioners formerly detained at this facility mentioned that they would refer to this section as the ‘Intensive Torture Section’.”
A February 2009 study by the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders found: “More than half of our 13 interviewees [all petitioners] remarked on the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in RTL camps. They said Falun Gong practitioners make up one of the largest groups of detainees in the camp, and that they are often persecuted because of their faith.” (link)
Despite calls for Gong’s release by family members, the camp continued to detain her despite her deteriorating condition. She was finally allowed to return home after completing the 15-month sentence she had originally been given. Unable to recover from the torture suffered in custody, Gong died on December 4, 2009, slightly more than three weeks after her release.
The Falun Dafa Information Center urges human rights groups and foreign media in China to investigate the full circumstances surrounding Gong’s death.
A selection of relevant phone numbers at Banqiao RTL Camp:
Hao Demin, director: 86-22-63252201, 86-22-63252203 (Office), 86-13803060179 (Cell)
Liu Yuxia, head of the Supervision Section: 86-22-63251069
Liu Jinying and Xiao Chunli, heads of Second Ward: 86-22-63251423 (Office)
Zhang, head of Second Section: 86-22-63251410, 86-22-63251415