Documenting the Persecution: Videos of Torture Victims Smuggled Out of Chinese Prison
May 21, 2019 Updated: May 21, 2019
Warning: this article contains graphic images of a torture victim.
Since the persecution of Falun Gong began in 1999, astonishing accounts of torture inside Chinese labor camps, detention centers, and jails have been reported, but taking photos or video footage inside these places has never been possible, much less smuggling such material out of them.
A Falun Gong practitioner named Yu Ming changed this.
He took footage inside Masanjia labor camp and Benxi Prison, and also managed to smuggle the video out.
In Benxi Prison, Yu documented with his hidden video cameras the deaths of two practitioners due to torture. This is their story.
Benxi Prison shot with a hidden camera from inside by Yu Ming in 2017:
Hu Guojian’s Death
In 2017, Yu was detained in the hospital of Benxi Prison in Liaoning Province for practicing Falun Gong. This was his fourth imprisonment. There he would meet fellow practitioner Hu Guojian, both swept up by the persecution.
Benxi Prison shot with a hidden camera from inside by Yu Ming in 2017:
Falun Gong, also know as Falun Dafa, was first introduced to the public in China in 1992 and spread rapidly by word of mouth. A traditional spiritual practice, Falun Gong involves living according to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance and practicing five sets of meditative exercises.
The then-head of the Chinese Communist Party, Jiang Zemin, feared the popularity of Falun Gong and in particular how its traditional moral teachings might prove more attractive to the Chinese people than the CCP’s atheist and materialist ideology.
In July 1999, Jiang ordered a campaign to eradicate the practice.
A shot panning from Yu Ming to Hu Guojian in his hospital bed:
Hu Guojian, a 45 year-old Falun Gong practitioner from Fushun City in northeastern China’s Liaoning Province was arrested on July 7, 2015, five years after he was released from a ten-year imprisonment. This time he was sentenced to four years in prison.
On May 4, 2016, Hu was transferred to Benxi Prison, where he was subject to hard labor, sleep deprivation, and lack of food. When his wife visited him 19 days later on, she was alarmed to find that he had lost one-third of his weight, from more than 200 pounds to less than 110 pounds.
Footage shot in 2017 in Benxi Prison hospital showing Hu in his hospital bed:
On May 26, Hu was taken to the washroom by inmate-in-charge Wang Xingang, and inmates Yuan Dejia and Yu Changlong. They stripped off Hu’s clothing, poured icy cold water on top of his head repeatedly, then forced him to sit on a small bench and did not allow him to sleep.
At about 10:00 pm, Hu lost consciousness and fell to the ground. The inmates kicked his head and berated him harshly.
Footage shot in 2017 in Benxi Prison hospital showing Hu lying in coma:
When this did not revive him, he was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a severe brain hemorrhage that required neurosurgery.
Hu lapsed into a coma, only 22 days after his transfer to Benxi Prison. He never regained consciousness.
After eight months in the hospital, despite his vegetative state, Hu was discharged and taken back to the prison to finish his term.
Footage shot in 2016 at Benxi Central Hospital showing Hu Guojian cuffed to the bed while in coma:
It was at this stage when Yu was able to secretly shoot some footage of Hu lying in bed in a coma.
After serving his 4-year term, Yu was released on Oct. 31, 2017. He started contacting Hu’s family and tried to seek justice for Hu.
Footage shot on May 14, 2018 with a hidden camera inside Benxi Central Hospital, showing Hu’s family crying in the hospital:
Early morning on May 14, 2018, Hu’s family was suddenly notified by the prison authorities that Hu was in a critical condition, and had been sent back to Benxi Central Hospital.
It was already noontime when Hu’s family reached the hospital, together with Yu. Yu started to secretly shoot footage as soon as they arrived. He understood the importance of video-documenting everything.
There were more than a dozen policemen at the scene. Eventually they found out that Yu was video recording.
They were angry and immediately wanted to confiscate Yu’s hidden camera. As Yu tried hard to hold on the camera, his hands started bleeding as the grabbing and holding on became too fierce. In the end he had to let go.
Footage shot on May 14, 2018 with a hidden camera inside Benxi Central Hospital, showing Hu Guojian’s family crying:
What the police didn’t find out though, was that Yu actually had two hidden cameras on him. The police found and took away the one clipped on his shirt; but failed to notice another one on his waist.
Hours after his family’s arrival at the hospital, Hu died, at the age of 48 years old.
To this day his body is still frozen and stored in the mortuary. His family has refused to cremate the body, believing that this should be kept as evidence to show that his death was caused by the beating in Benxi Prison. They want to seek justice.
The authorities once offered to pay Hu’s family 100,000 yuan ($14,866) to “settle” this matter and have Hu’s body cremated. But his family declined.
Yu said that Hu’s family has been suffering tremendously since Hu’s death. His mother was so upset that her cerebrovascular disease became worse, and she became paraplegic. His son is studying in university. His wife doesn’t have a full-time job, and has had a very difficult time supporting the entire family.
Hu’s mother had to be sent to a nursing home, and often wanted to commit suicide, as she didn’t want to be such a burden to Hu’s wife.
Lu Yuanfeng’s Death
Yu also documented the torture-induced death of Lu Yuanfeng.
Yu met Lu, a 62-year-old farmer from Daxing Village in Shenyang City, Liaoning Province, also at the hospital of Benxi Prison towards the end of 2016.
Lu had just been tortured very severely, including being shocked for 45 minutes with high-voltage electric shock clubs and being placed in solitary confinement. After the doctor found that he had dangerously high blood pressure, he was sent to the hospital.
After learning about Lu’s situation, Yu suggested that Lu write down the process of his torture, and make a formal complaint against his torturers, which he did.
ID card, Handwritten Letter, and a photo of Lu Yuanfeng:
In his hand written complaint against Jia Changhai (police ID number: 2151227), head of the Education and Discipline Brigade of No. 2 Ward of Benxi Prison, Lu wrote:
“At 10:00 am on Nov. 9, 2016, Defendant Jia Changhai ordered inmate Wang Kebin to bring me to the Education and Discipline Office of the No. 2 Ward. After I entered the office, Jia Changhai asked me whether I still believed in Falun Gong. I said yes. Then Jia Changhai and another police guard, Niu Dai, cuffed my hands behind my back, pressed me down on the ground, and shocked my back, chest, head and hands for more than ten minutes until the battery ran out. I suffered from continuous heartache; my back was hurt. During the whole process, Niu had been stepping on my head.”
After writing the complaint letter, Lu broke the ballpoint pen, shook out its ink, pressed his thumb onto the ink and then fingerprinted the letter so that it was “legally” and officially signed, according to Chinese tradition.
As a matter of fact, Lu was shocked for another 35 minutes until the battery wore down on the third baton on that day. After he finally agreed to renounce Falun Gong, Jia stopped the torture. Niu never lifted his foot from Lu’s head during the entire 45-minute ordeal.
Lu stayed in the prison hospital for only 10 days before he was taken back and continued to be tortured and forced to do hard labor.
On Aug. 26, 2017, Lu had a stroke and fell, breaking his legs. The prison sent him to an outside hospital for an x-ray but took him back without seeking any further medical treatment.
When Lu was released on Nov. 19, 2017, his condition was so bad that he was virtually paralyzed with broken legs and dull-looking eyesight. Also, he could no longer speak properly.
21 days later, Lu died at home, at the age of 63.
Benxi Prison shot with a hidden camera by Yu Ming:
Yu managed to have Lu’s complaint letter smuggled out of the jail while still in prison, as it was not safe to keep the letter there. After Yu was released, 20 days prior to Lu’s release, he managed to get back Lu’s letter from where it had been hidden. Then he started trying to contact Lu’s family, to see if anything could be done regarding bringing to justice the police guards who tortured Lu.
As he did not have Lu’s contact information, it took him quite a while to find out Lu’s address.
However, he arrived at Lu’s home only to find that Lu had just died.
“I can hardly describe how I felt then,” Yu said. “Apart from these two deaths that I had managed to document with videos, there were more than a dozen Falun Gong practitioners around me who had been tortured to death during the persecution. How many more lives do we have to lose before the killing is stopped?”
Story in Print: