Chinese Entrepreneur Risks Life to Expose Persecution in China
February 27, 2019 Updated: February 27, 2019
Facing injustice in his home of China, the successful businessman Yu Ming has sought to tell the world about what he has seen.
To expose the torture that was part of China’s preparations for the Olympic Games, he orchestrated an escape attempt from a labor camp that sounds like something from Hollywood; he wrote articles about how prisoners were used to help publish pirated books, stealing the authors’ intellectual property; he worked with China’s fledgling human rights lawyers to appeal through China’s courts for redress; and having fled to the United States, he now tells his story.
In early August 2008, while the world was amazed by the grand, breath-taking opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, 35-year-old entrepreneur Yu Ming was bedridden in a hospital affiliated with the notorious Masanjia Forced Labor Camp after having suffered long-term, severe torture.
He had been shocked by high-voltage electric batons. For three months he was locked inside a special iron cage, in which he could neither stand nor sleep. Once he was dragged downstairs with his face facing down and his head knocking bitterly on each of the steps.
This was his third time being imprisoned for practicing the spiritual discipline Falun Gong, which has been persecuted in China since July 1999.
Yu started practicing Falun Gong in 1996, through the introduction of a customer. The customer had given a copy of Falun Gong’s main text, Zhuan Falun, to his wife.
At that time Yu was already a successful entrepreneur in Shenyang City, the capital of Liaoning Province in northeast China. His fashion business would later hire over 100 employees, and provide jobs to another 1000 workers in six state-owned suppliers.
So both his customer and his wife thought he wasn’t the type of person who would be interested in a spiritual practice, and they didn’t show him the book. However, the more they wanted to “hide” the book from him, the more Yu wanted to find out what it was about.
So he grabbed the book from his wife and finished reading six of the book’s nine lectures in one night. The next morning, he began searching for a Falun Gong practice site in the park, where he could learn the practice’s exercises.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, consists of five meditative, slow motion exercises and teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Its adherents have reported often extraordinary improvements in health, along with less stress, better relations with family and colleagues, and a better sense of the purpose of their lives.
In 1992, Mr. Li Hongzhi began teaching Falun Gong publicly—previously this ancient practice had only been passed down from one master to one disciple—and it immediately began spreading throughout China by word of mouth.
By 1999, Western media were reporting 100 million people in China had taken up the practice. The then-dictator, Jiang Zemin feared the large number of people who had begun doing something outside of the control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and he feared the Chinese people might find its traditional moral teachings more attractive than communist ideology, which is based on materialism, atheism, and class struggle.
In July 1999, Jiang turned all of the resources of the party-state against Falun Gong, which led, among other things, to Yu being in his hospital bed in 2008.
A Successful But Failed Escape
With the approach of the Beijing Olympics, Yu saw more and more people arriving at the camp, sentenced for “planning to commit robbery” or “preparing to steal.”
According to an Epoch Times report, in order to ensure the “safety” of Beijing before the Olympics in 2008, over three million people were driven out of the capital city, more than 60,000 houses were demolished, and over one million people were taken to labor camps.
Inside the camp, the torture and terror were accelerating in order to “transform” the Falun Gong practitioners—forcing them to renounce their beliefs, name others who practiced Falun Gong, and profess loyalty to the Communist Party.
Yu couldn’t bear to see innocent people tortured so terribly. Plus, he believed that the outside world should know what had happened in China after Beijing was granted the right to host the Olympics: Instead of improving its human rights as expected by the international community, the Communist regime was persecuting and even killing people because of the Olympics.
Yu decided to expose this.
But how? He made a plan.
According to his plan, two fellow Falun Gong practitioners would escape from the camp, and then try to get in touch with foreign journalists who were in Beijing to cover the Olympics, in a hope that the situation in the camp could draw some attention.
Due to the less tight security in the hospital, Yu somehow managed to get hold of cell phones, some cash and, most importantly, a saw blade.
As many labor camp inmates would often be sent to the hospital and then taken back to the camp, through painstaking communications and complicated calculations, Yu was able to coordinate this escape from the hospital.
He found people outside the camp to come to these two escapees’ aid after they fled the camp, and he found another person to rent a place for them to hide while the police would be madly searching for them.
And there was another thing to consider: after the two practitioners escaped, the on-duty police guards and 22 fellow inmates from the same cell would definitely be implicated and severely punished.
As somebody who followed the teachings of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance, Yu didn’t want that to happen. He wanted to treat these innocent bystanders with compassion.
So he managed to scrape together some sleeping pills. He told the doctor that he couldn’t sleep. When given sleeping pills, he pretended to swallow them down in front of the nurse, but in fact hid them in his other hand.
In this way he saved bit by bit enough pills to put all the inmates and guards in his cell to sleep on the day of the escape. If they were put to sleep when the escape happened, they wouldn’t be held responsible for not preventing it.
On Aug. 11, 2008, the plan was carried out. The iron bars of a window of the cell were cut and broken, the two practitioners climbed down from the third floor of the building using a rope made out of quilt.
Everything went smoothly. They were picked up at the right time, right place by the right people, until…The second person who rented the place for them to stay didn’t show up.
Nobody knew what had gone wrong. Yu had to arrange to have his wife Ma Li pick up these two escapees and hide them at his own home, knowing very well that this was too risky.
Sure enough, three days later, hundreds of policemen, some armed with guns, surrounded the entire residential area of Yu’s home, and took away the two escapees, as well as Ma Li.
This almost successful escape during the Beijing Olympics from the “model” labor camp drove the highest leaders of communist regime mad. The escape was classified as a “major incident”; at least 7 police officers were fired, and two deputy directors of the camp were punished.
Yu and the two practitioners who had escaped were tortured ferociously.
Yu was hung to a door, with his arms stretched up, and his feet hardly touching the ground. He was hung in this position for over a month, day and night. Sometimes he could be released when he needed to relieve himself; sometimes the police wouldn’t release him even when he needed to relieve himself. So he took as little as possible of the food or water that was pushed into his mouth.
He nearly died because of this.
The other two were tortured worse, Yu said. The labor camp was given two “death quotas” after this incident, which means, the labor camp could torture two persons to death without being held responsible.
As a matter of fact, Yu had been about to be released on Sept. 2. If he had not planned the escape, he could have been released in only about 20 days.
After the successful and then failed escape, apart from being tortured nearly to death, each of the three people involved was given another year in the camp.
Asked whether the attempt was worthwhile, especially given that it didn’t succeed, Yu replied without any hesitation: “Yes, it was. We had to do it. More than ten fellow Falun Gong practitioners around me had already been tortured to death during the persecution. How could you measure the value of lives? I never regret risking my life to prevent more killings.”
Pirated Copies of Harry Potter Books
China’s labor camps exist to force prisoners of conscience to betray their beliefs, but they are also money-making enterprises. They are a source of cost-free labor.
Yu remembers how he and many others were forced to make pirated copies of the Harry Potter books in the labor camp.
“That was towards the end 2001, shortly after China joined the World Trade Organization. I was detained at Beijing Tuanhe Forced Labor Camp. We were forced to cut, fold, sort, and bind the sheets of Harry Potter and other books, in both English and Chinese, as well as several other languages. The books were printed somewhere else. After we finished binding them, they were then taken away.”
Yu and all the inmates in Brigade 6 worked over three months on the books.
Yu remembers piles of printed sheets about a meter high could be seen everywhere in the hall and corridors of the floor where Brigade No. 6 was located. Brigade 3 and 5 were working on the books as well.
The whole enterprise had a dreary feel to it. People delivered the printed sheets to the forced labor camp furtively, and the vehicles used to carry the sheets looked pretty worn out. The print quality was extremely poor: The paper looked yellowish and had misprints and marks everywhere.
In order to get more books ready before the Chinese New Year and to sell them to students during the winter holidays, the police forced detainees to work for very long hours, sometimes all night, without giving them any pay.
Yu estimated that they could have made hundreds of thousands of these pirated copies in those few months.
Yu said he actually exposed this in a series of articles as early as 2004, in a hope that J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, or the authorized publishers of the books, could be alerted so that an investigation could be conducted to protect both the rights and interests of the author and publishers, as well as that of the detainees.
Yu Gains Freedom While His Lawyers Are Jailed
Since 2009, after being released for the third time, Yu began working with some lawyers who later became well-known as leading figures among China’s rights defense lawyers, to try to defend jailed Falun Gong practitioners. Among them were Wang Quanzhang, Wang Yu, Dong Qianyong, Jiang Tianyong, and others.
On Aug. 29, 2013, while attending his nephew’s wedding, Yu was arrested for the fourth time. Over a dozen other Falun Gong practitioners in Shenyang City were arrested too.
CCP leader Xi Jinping was going to visit the city on the following day, and Yu and other practitioners were arrested as a “precaution,” so that they couldn’t stage any protests or appeals during Xi’s visit.
After learning about Yu’s arrest, several lawyers who used to work with him started to work on his case too, but he was sentenced to four years all the same.
In addition, his lawyers, Wang Quanzhang, Wang Yu, and Dong Qianyong were all arrested during an infamous crackdown on July 9, 2015, in which more than 200 Chinese lawyers and human rights activists were arrested.
After serving his four years in jail, Yu was released in 2017.
At the end of 2018, he managed to escape to Thailand, where he was able to obtain a visa to the United States. His wife had already gained refugee status from the American government.
On Jan 27, 2019, after spending nearly 12 years in labor camps and jails, Yu finally joined his wife, daughter and son in San Francisco.
However, on the same day that Yu gained freedon, his lawyer Wang Quanzhang, after being secretly detained for more than three years, was sentenced to 4 years and a half in prison.
Yu Wensheng, a 52 lawyer who defended Wang Quanzhang, is also currently detained at Xuzhou Detention Center.
Twisting the Facts, in the US and China
Yu said the public had no way to know what actually happened at this fourth trial, on April 22, 2015. China Central TV (CCTV) edited and twisted the video and in particular defamed his lawyer, Wang Yu.
Li Dongxu, a female Falun Gong practitioner, was tried together with Yu. She tried to speak about her case, but guards harshly knocked her down and pressed her into her seat.
Li’s 84-year-old mother couldn’t endure seeing her daughter treated like this, and stood up to protest.
With the police guards apparently about to use force against the 84-year-old woman, the lawyer Wang Yu left her seat to stop them. After she angrily condemned the police for their violence, Wang was dragged out of the court.
However, CCTV’s broadcasts told an entirely different story. After careful re-editing and manipulating of the video of the trial, the CCTV was able to produce serval “news” pieces showing Wang repeatedly leaving her seat to create “trouble” and make quite a scene in the court.
“People can hardly image how base CCTV is,” Yu said. “What saddens me is, although I have only stayed in Thailand and the United States for a very short period of time, I have bumped into CCTV’s programs a number of times at different places. However, I’ve never seen any U.S. or Thailand TV programs in China.
“I think President Trump is very correct to insist on ‘reciprocity’ in the trade talks. I hope the same principle can be applied to the media sectors too.”