A Prison Chief With a Dark Past Purged in Chinese Regime’s Anti-Corruption Campaign

The latest sacking of a top Chinese official reveals human rights abuses that are part of China’s politics
December 4, 2017 Updated: December 4, 2017

A provincial official responsible for persecuting the spiritual practice of Falun Gong was taken down last week.

On Dec. 1, the Hubei Province anti-corruption watchdog agency announced that Cheng Ying, deputy director of the Social and Legal Affairs Committee within Hubei’s Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), was given “shuanggui,” an abusive interrogation of Party members that resulted in his being stripped of his position and Party membership. Having been purged, his case is being referred for prosecution in China’s judicial system.

Most of the crimes that the watchdog agency accused him of committing were during his time as director of the province’s Prison Management Bureau: accepting bribes and failing to stop repeated violations of Party discipline within the prison system.

Cheng’s downfall may appear to be a routine part of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign to root out bad apples. However, while punishing Cheng, the Chinese authorities failed to address some of Cheng’s more serious crimes: his responsibility for the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners incarcerated at Hubei prisons who remained true to their faith.

Cheng had a long political career in Hubei, located in northeastern China. He got his start in Xianyang City in Hubei Province, working as a deputy party office director in 1985. In December 2008, he began working for the Hubei provincial authorities, where, aside from being the prison chief, he was also the deputy party secretary and deputy director of the province’s Department of Justice.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is an ancient Chinese spiritual discipline with meditative exercises and moral teachings. The practice quickly grew in popularity during the 1990s. In 1999 an official estimate put the number of adherents at 70 million, while Falun Gong practitioners say 100 million had taken up the practice.

Then-Chinese Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin feared that the teachings of Falun Gong were proving more attractive than the Party’s own ideology. He ordered a nationwide persecution of the group beginning on July 20, 1999. Since then, millions of adherents have been subjected to torture, detention, brainwashing, and forced labor, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center. Researchers have found that Falun Gong practitioners are the principal source of organs for China’s extensive transplantation establishment.

The World Organization to Investigation the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG), a New York-based non-profit organization, has called out Cheng for his role in the persecution.

WOIPFG’s investigation has reported that the Fanjiatai Prison in Shayang County of west-central Hubei Province was a concentration camp for holding Falun Gong adherents. Since the prison’s establishment in 2002, it has illegally imprisoned over 200 adherents who often faced torture and brainwashing, while some were forcefully injected with unknown drugs.

According to Minghui.org, a U.S.-based website that monitors the persecution in China, Falun Gong practitioner Li Yuankai was severely beaten and locked up in an isolation room in March 2012. Later that month, prison guards used electric batons to beat and shock practitioner Cheng Zipeng. He was thrown into an isolation room for two months.

At another Hubei prison, the Hongshan Prison, Kang Youyuan, 65, also a Falun Gong practitioner, is currently serving his three-year sentence since October 2014, after he was found guilty of possessing Chinese cash with the words “Falun Dafa is Good” written on them.

In September 2009, Zheng Yuling, 57, a practitioner who worked at the business bureau of the Chibi (a city within Hubei) municipal government, died at the Hubei Women’s Labor Camp after being subjected to brainwashing and physical torture for a month. According to Minghui.org, her husband said her nose was disfigured and there were multiple needle marks on her hands.

Cheng’s right-hand man, Wu Shunfa, was the deputy director of the Prison Management Bureau. Wu was also given “shuanggui” in July, according to the Central Commission of Discipline and Inspection (CCDI), China’s central anti-corruption watchdog agency. Among his litany of crimes, he was found guilty of accepting bribes from a criminal to assist him in obtaining parole sooner than allowed.

Wu also has connections to the persecution of Falun Gong. Chu Yuan Groups, a conglomerate established by Hubei’s Prison Management Bureau, according to the bureau’s official website, listed Wu as the company’s general manager beginning in May 2012. Minghui.org found that the company, which does business in diverse sectors such as cotton oil, construction design, and labor services, has hired prisoners in Hubei for labor, including Falun Gong adherents who were forced to work long hours, without pay, to polish jade jewelry and make disposable chopsticks.

The handling of Cheng’s case follows a pattern that has developed in Xi’s anti-corruption campaign: those responsible for persecuting Falun Gong are taken down for other crimes. For instance, former head of the security apparatus Zhou Yongkang, a driving force behind the nationwide persecution, was sentenced for bribery, abuse of power and leaking state secrets. Li Dongsheng, the former head of the Gestapo-like 610 Office, formed for the purpose of eradicating Falun Gong, was sentenced for bribery.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer