My name is Zhang Yuwei, I have a medical Ph.D. from Zhejiang University in China, and I am currently engaged in medical research in the U.S. I would like to talk about my personal experience of being forcefully brainwashed before I left China.
The summer of 1999 will forever be unforgettable to me. In just one night my whole life changed: from being a first prize scholarship candidate at Zhejiang University, I suddenly became a person that everyone despised, criticized, and shunned. The reason was because I wanted to tell the truth to people, that Falun Gong is good and that I still wanted to practice it.
Numerous different organizations and different levels sent people to criticize me, I felt like I was back in the days of the Cultural Revolution and was a target to be criticized and denounced, the only difference being that I was not tied up in ropes.
My house used to be swarm with visitors, but after this happened, visitors became few and far in between. Occasionally a few Falun Gong students would come to visit me, but they were taken away and interrogated by the spotter.
On campus there was even more discriminatory treatment and backstabbing. Some even used the opportunity to make a profit by spying, and even more people retreated in a hurry for fear of being seen with me, afraid if would affect them in some way.
My classmate, who is also a colleague of my husband and who used to copy my answers on exams, told us: “Don't contact me now, I am preparing to go abroad. The political records examination official have asked me if I knew any Falun Gong people.”
These kinds of once-warm relationships now turned cold with people I once thought were my friends only made me aware of what turned out to be just a superficial and small aspect of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) deeper and cruel persecution. Its repeated imprisonment of innocent people revealed it as a dictatorship. The CCP claim that its soft and gentle approach to teaching and assisting is like the spring shower brought to my mind the old Chinese saying about “saying all fine words, but doing all bad things.”
A few people at our university used to be seriously ill, but after practicing Falun Gong they got better. After July 20, 1999, they were all repeatedly forced to abandon the practice. Under the long term pressure, one of the students who had recovered from breast cancer after practicing Falun Gong became extremely weak and metastasis cancer appeared over her whole body. Her life was at an end.
Another student who had recovered from systematic lupus was again admitted to the hospital in critical condition. Despite her condition, the party secretary declared: “We still want them to make a final declaration of their views,” and requested that they write assurance statements that they would abandon Falun Gong, and this, even in the critical condition ward.
As for me, I used to have serious backaches, but I regained good health and a happy disposition. I earned a Ph.D. and was highly efficient in my work, and because of that the Party wanted to set me up as their model for denouncing Falun Gong. They initially asked me to come out and say Falun Gong was not good. This is completely against my conscience, and it is something that a person who has benefited will absolutely refuse to say. And so I was jailed over and over again.
While I was in prison, many prisoners were impressed by Falun Gong practitioners' principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance and they learned Falun Gong. The prisoners who were released contacted my family by telephone asking to learn Falun Gong. The prison authorities transferred me to another prison for house arrest. All the people who are sent there are the ones who have committed economic crimes and all of them said that they would learn Falun Gong when they got out.
They then locked me in a small side room with two iron gates in a male prison building, I was forced to use the same toilet as the male prisoners and I had to ask for permission to use it. As they realized I was still unwilling to give up Falun Gong, I was finally dragged and pulled by several people into a car and sent to a brainwashing center on Dongming Mountain. On the outside, it is a beautiful park with clusters of flowers, but to prisoners like us it was hell on earth.
During this so-called best time for human rights, it was here that innocent Falun Gong practitioners were subjected to brainwashing. This brainwashing class had been in operation since 2001, and numerous people have been persecuted there.
'I Now Know What Fear Is'
I now know what fear is. I was put in isolation in a small house, accompanied by two so-called “teaching assistants” who stayed by my side 24 hours a day. The “teaching assistants” were politically examined before being chosen to participate in this method of brainwashing. They were specially trained to convert Falun Gong practitioners. Beside these people, there were other “teaching assistants” drafted from various organizations, prisons, labor camps, and re-education institutions who took turns to talk to me, asking me to do so-called assignments, the assignment being to attack Falun Gong in writing.
Their first job was mainly to persistently torment you to do the assignment and on the top of that, I was asked to talk about my understanding. I was forced to watch programs full of fabricated falsehoods, and that were filled with murder, suicide, frantic bloody scenes that stayed in my mind when I closed my eyes.
Actually, I did not get much of a chance to close my eyes; I was subjected to sleep deprivation. During the day I was forced to watch those deceitful programs and with the endless talks and scolding in the evening, I got very tired and if I shut my eyes for a moment, the “teaching assistant” would yell at me nonstop.
In one case, after forcing me to watch a so-called “Falun Gong Murder Case,” it was already late in the evening, the head of the brainwashing class asked me what my understanding. I said, this man is mentally ill and has nothing to do with Falun Gong. A teaching assistant from Zhejiang University threw open my blanket and said: “Your brain has problems! You have not understood well tonight so you cannot sleep.”
What followed were constant insults. When I got up to practice Falun Gong exercises at night, I found my overcoat was locked up, I questioned them and the “teaching assistant” roared: “No use making a scene, no one would hear you.”
After a few days the Falun Gong exercises were also banned; once I started practicing the teaching assistant would immediately summon a few strong security personnel to interrupt me, they would drag my head, pull at my legs and hands, and one would read a book slandering Falun Gong.
There was another Falun Gong practitioner who did not say anything to anyone but cried the whole night after coming back from a brainwashing session. Her husband found countless wounds on her legs, and became aware of what the CCP publicized as “soft and gentle teaching and assisting like spring shower” really meant.
'If I Don't Make This Known… It Will Be Someone Else Suffering Tomorrow'
As I talk about this, I think of what people often say: “Don't talk about it anymore, just look forward, and forget all about the past.” But if I don't make this known to the public, it may only be me suffering today, but it will be someone else suffering tomorrow; it may be only Falun Gong suffering today, but it will be some other innocent group tomorrow. We cannot let something so ignoble continue out of personal comfort, let us rise together to stop this evil act.
In spite of the suffering we experienced, we were forced to sing songs of praise. We frequently sang “Party, my Dear Mother.” The teaching assistant scolded me for not being willing to sing. I had no choice but to join in with tears streaming down my face, with a bleeding heart. And even in a situation like this, they were still able to shamelessly fabricate stories about it: Someone told me later they said that in the brainwashing class we were all were so moved that we couldn't help but cry.
When my spirit was on the point of collapse, they finally got the “three denouncing letters” that they wanted out of me, and had me write them over and over again. They hypocritically called my parents and said, “How come you don't care about your child? You should come see her.” My poor parents were so afraid I would be tortured; they said that they would come right away and would also bring a silk banner praising and thanking the “teaching assistant.”
It took me over a year to write the three denouncing letters. When I was released I suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorders and incontinence. I cried bitterly every day; both my body and mind were so deeply hurt. One day while I was in Shanghai on a half-hour bus ride, I had to run to the toilet three times in that half- hour. At that time I could hardly imagine driving a car for more than one hour nonstop as I can now. I did not know when the end of the darkness would come.
After my release I met up with other Falun Gong practitioners from labor camps. I was told that their torture was even harsher in the notorious Shiliping Labor Camp in Zhejiang Province. The new arrivals were hung up and they would remain hung until they denounced Falun Gong. They were not allowed to go to the toilet for several days, over 10 days, can anyone even imagine that? No wonder many of them turned gray-haired when they were released. They even spoke very softly, so soft that you could hardly hear them. Can you imagine the kind of torture that they experienced?
At that time I was very keen to go abroad, but as a Falun Gong practitioner it was very difficult to obtain permission. Many professors who knew I practiced Falun Gong were afraid to get involved; but there were a few who were willing to write recommendation letters. Whenever I turned on the computer to access the network, it would be attacked and broke down for no apparent reason, and eventually the system would collapse. But even so, I finally got my chance to go abroad.
Light After Darkness
One month after I gave birth to my daughter, I went to get the visa. When I received it, I could not stop crying. There was only the word “freedom” in my heart. Someone behind me asked me a question, but when she saw my face full of tears and how I could hardly speak, she was very surprised. I could not believe I had finally obtained a visa and I had to ask a worker in the office if it was really true. Even after getting an affirmative reply, I still could not believe it. The next day, I walked to the CITIC (China International Trust Investment Company) Industrial Bank; the workers there further confirmed that I truly had the visa.
After experiencing such a long darkness I still could not believe that freedom was finally here. I did not dare tell my friends about it. One of my friends who knew I had given birth brought me my favorite fruits, and noticed the two large bags on my back. She asked me if I had gone to Shanghai for work. I could not hide the truth from her anymore and I told her I was going abroad.
I quietly left my deeply beloved city of Hangzhou and my newborn daughter. Just before leaving I looked at my daughter sound asleep and quietly wiped off my tears.
Seeing me off at the airport, my family said, “We have been worried that the police would stop you at the airport.” I could not believe the brightness that I prayed for finally came; I could not believe I had finally arrived at this land of freedom, not until I had completed the custom procedure—then I was finally able to believe that the bitterness was over and sweetness had begun, and that I had left the CCP's evil hands.
Unfortunately there are still too many people living in fear under the CCP rule, with no thoughts in their minds to break away from the frame set by the CCP. The reasons are that the CCP engages people in fighting with each other, in petty reports, with people reporting on each other behind each other's backs, everywhere. The best way to bid goodbye to this fear is to deny and quit the CCP and break away from its clutches.