The lives of 65 Falun Gong practitioners held in a prison in Northeast China are in danger due to a policy of starvation being carried out by prison authorities, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center in New York.
In early July, Li Weilong, the new deputy warden of Daqing Prison in Heilongjiang province, ordered that all divisions holding Falun Gong practitioners bar them from going to the canteen and that no one be permitted to bring them food, FDIC says in a statement.
Li gave further orders on July 12 to force feed certain practitioners a mixture of raw corn flour, water, and large amounts of salt.
FDIC spokesperson Erping Zhang says this is done to keep the starving practitioners alive so that they may be “transformed”—a process by which they are forced to recant their faith and a key component of the Chinese regime’s campaign against Falun Gong.
“They want to torture them but they don’t want them to die,” says Zhang.
“One of the aims is to break the will of practitioners and force them to denounce Falun Gong through torture or brainwashing and other means such as starvation. If they can convert the practitioner they probably get an award.”
Such force-feedings are routinely conducted by prison guards with no medical training and are used as a form of torture rather than to nourish, according to FDIC’s statement.
They are a leading cause of death among Falun Gong practitioners who have been killed in custody since the Chinese Communist Party launched its persecution against the spiritual discipline in 1999.
A shocking photo of 43-year-old Zhu Hongbin who died from starvation in mid-June highlights the dire situation facing the 65 practitioners held at Daqing, Zhang says.
Horribly emaciated, Zhu died in his home on June 18, almost six months after his release from Daqing where he had been held for seven years following a show trial.
On one occasion, after five days of denying him food, sleep, and use of the restroom, the prison authorities reportedly forced a feeding tube into Zhu's nose, down his throat and into his stomach. On another occasion, a guard forced a bowl of milk powder down a tube and into Zhu's lungs, causing ulceration of his lungs.
“Mr. Zhu’s tragic and premature death highlights the very real and immediate danger facing every Falun Gong practitioner detained in Daqing Prison or anywhere else in China,” Zhang says.
“The systematic use of starvation and torture against a population of religious prisoners is an atrocity. The international community must take action to end it immediately.”
Zhu’s death reinforces Heilongjiang’s infamous record as the deadliest province for Falun Gong practitioners, at least 413 of whom are documented to have died there from abuse since the regime launched its campaign of persecution.
“Since the persecution started in 1999 the local authorities did all sorts of weird, cruel things. If they fail to convert you they’ll do whatever. In China it’s not like here in the West where there’s a rule of law, something to follow. They do anything they want,” Zhang says.
Daqing Prison is notorious as a venue for “systematic and brutal torture,” says FDIC. Fifty one-year-old Li Min died on May 23 after being tortured and denied medical care when he suffered the symptoms of a stroke.
It is unknown whether any non-Falun Gong detainees at the prison have also been subject to the new deputy warden’s feeding restrictions. According to FDIC, eyewitness accounts say Li has also been known to beat Falun Gong practitioners in the prison.
FDIC is urging people to contact their elected representatives, particularly those in Daqing’s sister cities—Calgary, Canada and Chungju, South Korea—to write to prison and local authorities to “demand the unconditional restoration of detained practitioners’ right to eat and their immediate release.”
The centre is also calling on international media and human rights groups to investigate and publicize the plight of the Falun Gong practitioners subjected to starvation and torture at Daqing Prison.
In addition, FDIC is asking people around the world to “adopt” one of the imprisoned practitioners listed on its website and call the prison or write to its guards urging that individual’s release. For more information visit www.faluninfo.net.