Beijing Women’s Prison is shrouded in secrecy. Its location won’t show up on a navigation system. The prison has been locked down since the COVID-19 outbreak affected many Chinese prisons early this year. Prisoners and guards have been kept silent to prevent any information from leaking out. Inside sources have described the prison as “hell on earth.”
No Show in Navigation System
In Daxing district, in the south of Beijing, there are buildings surrounded by security fencing and barbed wires along the river known as Tiantang—this is Beijing Women’s Prison. It is not easy to find its location on a navigation system. There are thousands of adult female inmates and around 400 security guards and workers.
Earlier this year, Beijing Women’s Prison was locked down to curb the spread of the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. On Feb. 21, a total of 505 inmates from prisons in three different provinces across China were infected with the virus. As of Feb. 29, Chinese media reported that the number of confirmed cases among inmates had risen to 806 in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the CCP virus first emerged. No additional details were made public about CCP virus infections in the prison system afterwards.
Death Incident Concealed
An insider source told The Epoch Times that around noon on March 19, 2003, Falun Gong adherent Dong Cuifang was dragged into an isolated unit in Beijing Women’s Prison that did not have any surveillance cameras. There was a watchtower near the building with armed guards patrolling the premises.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual and meditation practice that was banned in July 1999 on orders of then-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Jiang Zemin.
Dong, who was 29 years old at the time, was a former doctor at Shunyi Health Care Hospital for Women, Children and the Aged in Beijing. She was illegally abducted by the police for practicing Falun Gong, and sentenced to seven years in prison. She died on the eighth day after she was imprisoned.
The autopsy records indicated that Dong died from pulmonary thrombosis, and the wounds were “self-inflicted.”
However, evidence suggests that Dong was severely beaten by the prison guards before she was sent to the hospital. Dong’s mother noticed that her legs and arms were swollen and covered with bruises, and her right shoulder was dislocated.
The prison threatened Dong’s parents not to appeal nor contact any Falun Gong practitioners about the incident. Dong’s parents received less than 80,000 yuan ($11,426) as compensation and were told not to disclose any information about their daughter’s death.
Beijing Women’s Prison claims to have “zero abnormal death” of inmates since it was built in 1999.
In 2004, information of Dong’s death was leaked out after an inmate mentioned the incident during a family visitation. As a result, prison authorities imposed harsh rules on the entire prison section (referred to as “section three”) where Dong was detained. For instance, inmates were forbidden to talk to each other in their prison cell.
Prison Condition Kept Secret
Any information about Beijing Women’s Prison is strictly prohibited from being disclosed, and it is the prison management’s responsibility to ensure that information doesn’t leak out. Prisoners are under surveillance at all times, and they monitor one another—three inmates are assigned to monitor one. Every inmate must keep a diary for introspection and report their own thoughts to the prison guards.
The prison guards are also under strict control and must abide by a set of rules and regulations—their behavior and thoughts are closely monitored.
The guards are equipped with cell phones. But the cell phone cannot be brought into the prison area and must be left in the dressing room. At one point, the prison guards were required to use transparent plastic bags for security purposes.
Outside information is censored. Any leaflets, letters, and other literature obtained by the guards must be handed over to the prison. The only news source is the state-run media outlet CCTV (China Central Television).
All telephones in the prison are monitored, including the internet. Social media app WeChat is banned. Prison guards are also banned from posting or commenting on WeChat or Weibo.
Topics that are deemed sensitive by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), such as the CCP virus pandemic and Falun Gong, are taboo. The prison staff are being watched very closely and they are careful not to bypass the Great Firewall, the regime’s sophisticated online censorship mechanism, to search for censored information.
Every Prison Guard has Two Birthdays
There are 400 prison guards in Beijing Women’s Prison and 74 percent are members of the Communist Party. Xing Mei, the current director of the prison, believes that each party member has two birthdays—one is the date of birth and the other is the “political birthday” (the day the individual became a party member, according to the insider source.
On their political birthday, they must renew and strengthen their vows to the party. In other words, they pledge their loyalty to the CCP.
The party branch secretary of the prison’s “section three” is Zhang Haina who claims to be “pro-party with no regret,” the insider source said. Most of the guards in section three are party members. At present, section three holds all Falun Gong practitioners and Christians abducted from Beijing.
Insider sources revealed that the inmates in “section three” are subjected to brainwashing, physical abuse, and forced labor. The forms of punishment are inhumane.
For instance, Zhao Liuji, a 66-year-old Falun Gong practitioner, was beaten while she was unconscious, and her thighs were severely bruised. Zhang Yinying, a Falun Gong practitioner in her 70s, was detained in a cell with other criminals who would secretly bully her by stuffing her shorts with notes written with words that slandered Falun Gong.
Falun Gong practitioners are not allowed to talk to others. If they broke that rule, they would be punished with writing a “self-correction” essay of no less than three pages long for two weeks. If the essay is less than three pages, all the inmates in that section would not be allowed to sleep.
Falun Gong practitioners are not allowed to make eye contact, otherwise they would be verbally attacked by the inmates and forced to copy “Xi Jinping Thought”—the Chinese leader’s communist ideology.
In the past two years, Beijing Women’s Prison has focused on brainwashing the inmates with communist political ideology. Inmates and guards are forced to accept and express their views on “the advantages of a socialist system with Chinese characteristics.” The inmates are re-educated to take an oath of allegiance to the Communist Party. The television programs only show CCTV news, communist political education, and singing performances that honor the party. Before each meal, the inmates must sing songs that praise the CCP.
During the CCP virus pandemic, the inmates stopped doing forced labor. Instead, they had to listen to prison authorities preach about the regime’s propaganda about handling the pandemic. Beijing has ramped up disinformation campaigns targeting the United States in order to bolster its image, in an effort to shift international attention away from its botched handling of the pandemic. According to the insider source, some inmates said: “It is better to work than being brainwashed every day!”
Guards Have No Freedom
The insider source said the guards also complain amongst themselves. They said they feel like they are also prisoners due to the long work hours, the lack of freedom, and the fear of being punished for violating rules, such as talking about sensitive issues, including the pandemic.
During the pandemic, many prison guards worked continuously for two months without taking a break. During this period, they couldn’t contact their family through WeChat. They could only use the prison’s phone to talk to their family. The guards who were off duty were not allowed to leave their homes. When they returned to work, they had to self-quarantine in the prison dormitory for 14 days before entering the prison area.
Now that the second wave of the pandemic is in Daxing, the city has become a high-risk area in Beijing. Most of the prison guards live in Daxing, according to insider sources. When the guards return home, they are required to report their whereabouts to the prison every day, which encroaches on their freedom.