The city of Benxi in China’s Liaoning Province boasts a unique tourist attraction: the smallest lake in the world, measuring just 15 square meters. But there’s another aspect to Benxi that is nothing to be proud of—it is home to one of the most brutal prisons in the country, especially for Falun Gong adherents.
Not long after the Chinese Communist Party launched its far-reaching campaign of persecution against Falun Gong adherents in 1999, all the prisons in the province were instructed to initiate a “special project” to “transform” imprisoned adherents—in other words, force them to renounce the ancient spiritual discipline and quit practicing it.
Benxi Prison was at the forefront of this project, and over the years has employed numerous torture methods in order to force Falun Gong adherents to give up their belief and achieve the goal of a 100 percent “transformation” rate.
According to Minghui.org, which compiles information and statistics on the Falun Gong persecution campaign, the prison was designated by the authorities as a “Model Prison” for other prisons to follow.
Benxi adopted the approach of using inmates, usually felons, to manage other inmates. These inmates-in-charge were above the rules and regulations and allowed to use any force to subdue detainees and make them give in. If they ran into resistance, they would report to prison guards, who backed them up by subjecting dissenting inmates to even worse abuse.
In this way, Falun Gong prisoners of conscience held at Benxi are often subjected to relentless torture and abuse, with nobody held accountable.
The following are four cases documented by Minghui, which it says are only the tip of the iceberg.
Brain Hemorrhage and Coma
Hu Guojian’s was first arrested in 2000 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for practicing Falun Gong. During that time, he was subjected to ongoing torture, but he survived and was released at the end of his term.
Hu was again arrested in 2015 and sentenced to four years. He was transferred to Benxi Prison in May 2016, where he was forced to do hard labor, deprived of sleep, and given very little to eat. When his wife visited him five days into his term, she was alarmed to find that he had lost one-third of his weight.
Hu was punished if he was unable to finish his assignment or meet his labor quota. He was stripped of his clothing, doused with cold water, forced to sit on a small bench, and not allowed to sleep.
One night, after he lost consciousness and fell off the bench, the inmates kicked him in the head and berated him. When this failed to revive him, he was taken to hospital, where he was diagnosed with a severe brain hemorrhage and required surgery.
Twenty-two days after his transfer to Benxi Prison, Hu lapsed into a coma and never regained consciousness. After eight months in hospital, despite his vegetative state, he was taken back to the prison to finish his term, with hired medical personnel looking after him.
He remained in a coma until he passed away two years later.
Solitary Confinement, Force Feeding
In September 2010, Liang Yuncheng, a former city court judge in Liaoning Province, was sentenced to three years in prison for refusing to give up his belief in Falun Gong.
After Liang wrote a letter of complaint about his treatment, it ended up in the hands of the prison management, who gave orders for him to be tortured further.
He was put in solitary confinement, here he was tortured nonstop for 60 days. His arms were stretched out and his hands were fastened to handcuffs at the ends of a bed headboard. His legs were straightened and tied to a ring on the bed. A high-voltage light bulb was directed into his eyes.
In protest, Liang went on a hunger strike and was subjected to brutal force-feeding, according to Minghui. Guards inserted a feeding tube through a nostril to his stomach and fed him a high-concentration salt solution. They usually left the tube in his stomach for four days before taking it out for minimal cleaning. Once in a while, the prison doctor would coat the tube with chemicals to irritate Liang’s nose and esophagus.
In Chinese prisons, force-feeding has become a method to inflict harm on or even kill Falun Gong practitioners who undertake a hunger strike to fight for their human rights and dignity.
Savage Torture by Guards and Inmates
Meng Xianguang was first arrested in 2001 and served four years in prison. He was again arrested in March 2014 and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in Benxi Prison, where he was severely tortured, according to Minghui.
In one example, prison guards ordered inmates to stuff socks in Meng’s mouth, cover his head with a plastic bag, and tie his arms and legs to a chair. Then a guard ripped open his shirt and poured cold water on his head before beating him. Another guard shocked Meng until the electric baton ran out of charge.
Hours later, Meng was moved to a different room. There, the inmates held his arms while two guards took turns whipping him on the back with a rubber tube. He was then returned to his cell, stripped naked, and tied to a chair. The inmates took turns watching him to prevent him from falling asleep.
The next morning, a guard ordered one of the inmates to touch Meng’s skin with an exposed wire, then he connected the other end of the wire to an electric baton. At one point, the guard touched Mr. Meng’s penis with the exposed wire and said, “I’m going to make you unable to have any kids.” Meng convulsed from the electric shock, only to have the guards laugh at him.
That afternoon, three guards taped books to Meng’s thighs, then began to hit the books with plastic tubes. The idea was to cause injury but show no bruising on the surface. The beating lasted for over two hours, only ending because the guards were exhausted.
Death from Torture Two Months After Release
In June 2015, Lu Yuanfeng was given a three-year prison sentence because he practiced Falun Gong. He was later transferred to Benxi Prison.
Lu’s family was only allowed to see him twice during the three years of his imprisonment, according to Minghui. He told his loved ones that guards at the prison beat him, shocked him with electric batons, and forced him to squat for long periods of time.
Lu had a stroke two months before his scheduled release, but the prison refused to provide proper medical attention. Nor would they grant family visits or medical parole. During the last two months of his imprisonment, inmates were ordered to wheel him to the prison workshop every day to do hard labor.
When Lu was released in November 2017, his speech was slurred, he was paralyzed, and his leg was fractured. He fell into a coma 21 days after his release and passed away. He was 63.
According to the Falun Dafa Info Center, every prison in Liaoning Province is required to tally how many adherents they have “transformed” during the year, so prisons often launch an intensive round of abuse at the end of every year in hopes of forcing more practitioners to give up their belief.