A professional engineer endured a 20-year-long persecution before passing away lonely and homeless while waiting for his former employer to reinstate his job.
His crime? He was a prisoner of faith in communist China. The abuses he suffered at the hands of the Chinese officials are bone-chilling: his head was smashed against the wall by police officers and inmates, his fingers were mangled beyond recognition with the “toothbrush torture,” his fingertips were pierced with a needle … and he was doused with 50 to 60 basins of cold water in winters.
Wei Chunyu, 56, from Changchun City, the capital of northeastern China’s Jilin Province, passed away on April 14 for refusing to give up his faith in the spiritual practice of Falun Gong. He was just one of the more than 4,000 Falun Gong practitioners (the name list) confirmed to have died as a result of the persecution.
Wei, who ended up being homeless for 18 years, died without a chance to see his son for the last time due to the outbreak of the CCP virus, reported Minghui.org, a website dedicated to reporting the persecution of Falun Gong in China.
Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline with five gentle meditative exercises and moral teachings based on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. After its introduction in China in 1992, the number of people practicing Falun Gong was estimated to be around 70 million, a figure that was more than the CCP’s membership count at that time. By the late 1990s, people from all walks of life were practicing this peaceful system owing to its much-acclaimed healing power, both spiritual and physical.
However, on July 20, 1999, the then-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Jiang Zemin banned the spiritual system and launched a persecutory campaign, which continues to this day, leading to numerous practitioners rounded up and thrown into detention centers, forced labor camps, and brainwashing centers, where they are routinely tortured and subject to inhumane abuse. Falun Gong adherents are also the main source of organs for China’s state-sanctioned for-profit transplant industry.
An Elite Engineer Forced to Homelessness
Born to farmer parents, Wei Chunyu was the youngest of five siblings. Though Wei’s father never had the chance to receive a formal education, he made sure that all his children went to school.
Wei’s four elder sisters grew up to become accountants, a teacher, and a civil servant, while he graduated from the Wuhan University of Technology and later worked at an automotive manufacturing company.
“[My father] was very smart and insisted that we all go to school,” Wei said in his own account of his life story published on Minghui.org.
“He’d hire someone to help out during the busy harvest season, rather than calling us from our desk to work in the field. Our family became a success story among locals.”
In 1992, six years after he started working, Wei was conferred to the title of a professional engineer and was even honored as a model worker. By 1997, the then-33-year-old Wei was promoted to the head of his work unit. He was the “technical elite” in his working unit.
The hard work took a toll on his health. Though Wei’s career was all-promising, his health was declining. He suffered from insomnia and had to rely on sleeping pills, which soon became ineffective for him. Gradually, as he pushed himself to work more, he developed swollen eyes and a swollen head, his mind was not as nimble as before, and he couldn’t remember what his co-workers said.
Due to his hectic work schedule, he delayed seeing a doctor for a year.
“I was in despair in early 1997 and wanted to jump down from my apartment building. I didn’t jump in the end when I thought of my wife and son,” he said.
“My body was getting worse and worse … [and] couldn’t hold on anymore. I couldn’t sleep and had no appetite,” Wei said. “My brain felt like a rock.”
Wei finally visited a hospital and was diagnosed with glaucoma, cerebral infarction, insomnia, and binocular optic nerve atrophy. His condition improved slightly after he went for an operation and regular massage and injections. Three months later, Wei went back to work; however, his illness recurred after proofreading a drawing for less than half an hour.
In January 1998, as the young engineer battled with his poor health, a retired co-worker introduced him to Falun Gong.
“Five days after I started to practice Falun Gong, all my illnesses disappeared,” Wei said. “I could resume working again. My other illnesses were also cured and my eyes stopped hurting.”
“I started to follow Falun Gong’s principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance in my life. I became more considerate of others’ difficulties and no longer asked for reimbursement at work. Following the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance to be a good person has made my life much more relaxed,” he recounted.
The 20-Year-Long Persecution
A month after the July 1999 persecutory campaign started, Wei was told to visit the local police station. However, he was taken into custody and detained for 15 days at Qichechang Detention Center.
Wei was detained a second time in October 2000 and regularly beaten by inmates at the Changchun No. 2 Detention Center.
The abuse included being doused with 50 to 60 basins of cold water, having his head smashed against the wall, sleep deprivation, and having his fingertips pierced with a needle. The inmates also hit his ankle with a clothes hanger, injuring his periosteum (dense connective tissue covering the bones) and causing a hole in his right foot.
In addition, Wei recalled that the inmates also took joy in inserting a toothbrush in between two of his fingers and rotating it forcefully, causing his fingers to be mangled beyond recognition.
A year later, on June 12, 2001, Wei was abducted from his workplace to the brainwashing center by the local police after he refused to write a “guarantee statement to renounce practicing Falun Gong” or go to the brainwashing center with them.
“I refused and told them their actions were illegal,” Wei said. “As I refused to go with them, they forced me into their car and took me to the Xinglongshan Brainwashing Center.”
At the brainwashing center, Wei was punched in his head and face by a police officer named Zhao; the officer also smashed Wei’s head against the wall.
“[H]e continued to hit me and smash my head against the wall. He stopped when he was exhausted. However, the torture didn’t stop,” Wei recounted. “The next day, I saw his hands were covered with medical tape.”
Wei said: “The brainwashing center is managed similarly as a prison … The brainwashing center forces practitioners to watch videos slandering Falun Gong every day. We were also forced to listen to a professor slandering Falun Gong. I was locked in the brainwashing center for nearly three months and the authorities threatened to send me to a labor camp if I refused to transform before National Day.”
To avoid further persecution, Wei escaped from the brainwashing center on Sept. 2, 2001, and became homeless.
A Lonely Death
Wei’s entire family suffered amid the brutal persecution.
He was fired from his job after escaping from the brainwashing center. Wei’s wife, due to the immense pressure from the Chinese authorities, divorced him as she feared for their 12-year-old son’s future. After the divorce, Wei didn’t get to see his son for more than 10 years.
“My second and fourth sisters also practice Falun Gong and were persecuted for their faith. My eldest sister was worried for us and would try to rescue us. While I was detained, my father passed away in 2001. [My mother] passed away in 2013,” Wei said.
In 2018, Wei returned to Changchun to transfer the title of his home to his son and also submit an application to his former workplace to reinstate his job. The company told Wei to wait for an update, but he never heard from them even to his death.
From 2000 to 2015, the accumulated economic loss that Wei had to suffer due to the persecution exceeded 1.5 million yuan (US$227,000).
After enduring 20 years of persecution, Wei left behind a few belongings before passing away: some of his clothes, his less-than-two-years-old ID card, a few blurred photos from 20 years ago showing evidence of his torture at Changchun No. 2 Detention Center, and two documents—an 11-page criminal complaint filed against Jiang Zemin, and his application to resume work, Minghui.org reported.