It was an experience that residents of the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun described as “electrifying.” On March 12, 2002, a group of Falun Gong practitioners successfully tapped into the state-controlled cable network, broadcasting programs about the persecution of their beliefs in China.
By then, it had been more than two years since the regime had outlawed the qigong practice and sent millions of practitioners to prisons and labor camps. There, they are tortured and brainwashed in an attempt to have them renounce their beliefs.
The broadcast interception was an attempt by one small group of practitioners to push back against the maelstrom of state propaganda, and for almost an hour, it worked. Local Party officials eventually cut off electricity in some parts of the city to shut down the broadcast.
Lei Ming, 26 years old at the time, was the youngest of the practitioners who made the incident happen. Police detained and interrogated more than 5,000 people, arresting Lei three days into the campaign. Upon his arrival at a local police station, a blindfolded Lei was greeted with electric batons. In a small dark room, police began torturing him.
After nearly 24 hours of electric baton torture, Lei fainted. A friend who had also been detained at the same police station recounted what he saw: “Lei fainted, and was covered in sweat. There is no way to describe the level of suffering he had to go through. When I saw him, he was completely unable to move,” the friend recalled. The friend, who wrote anonymously because he is still in China, later wrote a detailed eyewitness account on Minghui, a Falun Gong website that features firsthand news from practitioners in China.
Six months later, Lei was put through a show trial without a lawyer. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Party officials put him in Jilin Prison, where torture methods are reported to be sinister.
Regime officials ordered the prison guards to force all Falun Gong practitioners to sign papers renouncing their beliefs. As an incentive to ensure the prison guards used the most brutal force, top officials threatened to decrease wages or enforce other forms of demotion. Every time Lei refused to sign the papers, prison guards initiated “strict management,” which meant that fellow prisoners, who were seeking early release, beat and tortured him.
Persecuted to the brink of death in November 2004, Lei was removed to Changchun hospital. At that point he was partly crippled from the treatment he suffered in custody; prison officials still tried to take him back in.
During his last days, Lei said in an interview with Minghui that he helped to break through the cable network “because under the persecution there wasn’t any way we could express ourselves.” Frail and unable to take care of himself, Lei died on Aug. 6, 2006, at the age of 30.
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