Math teacher and Falun Gong practitioner Zhang Yaoming died in northeastern China in early April, one year after serving a 19-year prison term for providing facts about Falun Dafa to people.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice that follows three core tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, and doing five slow-moving exercises. After it was made public in 1992 in China, the number of followers had surged to 70 million to 100 million by 1999. That year, the Chinese regime, deeming the practice’s popularity a threat, launched a nationwide persecution campaign to eradicate it.
Zhang, who was born in 1963, taught at the Xingshan Mine No. 1 Middle School in Xiangyang District, Hegang City, Heilongjiang Province, according to Minghui.org, a U.S.-based website that documents the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) campaign against Falun Gong. He used to regularly suffer from bouts of pharyngitis, sinusitis, and cholecystitis. However, all these conditions went away after he followed his wife Fan Fengzhen to practice Falun Gong.
Fan, an internist at Lingbei Mine Hospital, struggled every winter due to a recurring cough that didn’t respond to treatment. She said her health recovered after she began the practice.
Freed from the medical troubles, the couple became firm followers of Falun Gong. After the ruling CCP began persecuting the group, they decided to uphold their practice at whatever price.
On April 20, 2002, Zhang and several companions tapped into the communist regime’s TV broadcast in the city and played a video, according to Minghui.org. They successfully aired a 20-minute video revealing how state broadcaster CCTV falsely claimed in 2001 that five people who allegedly set themselves on fire on Tiananmen Square were Falun Gong practitioners.
Their rare move alarmed the local authorities, who, in every effort to block the truths from being known to the public, soon launched mass detentions in retaliation. More than 500 people were arrested, including Zhang. A court in the district of Gongnong sentenced him to 19 years in prison in October that year.
Math Teacher Imprisoned
Zhang was originally incarcerated in the No. 3 Prison in Harbin City along with other followers, according to Minghui.org. However, the authorities became alarmed after a story came to light that an adherent died after being tortured. To lessen pressure from the outside, the authorities channeled all those who were resistant to efforts to make them give up Falun Gong to prisons in the cities of Daqing, Mudanjiang, and Tailai in Heilongjiang Province.
In the Tailai Prison, Zhang continued to be tortured, including being suspended above the floor by his arms and deprived of sleep, according to Minghui. He was once released on medical parole due to severe anaemia and hemorrhoids. However, he was sent back in August 2015 and remained there until April 23, 2021. When he was eventually released, his family found him to be extremely emaciated .
His wife was taken away by police during a 2022 mass detention, according to Minghui. She experienced torture that included repeated electric shocks from an electric baton while in the Harbin Drug Addiction Treatment Center. Part of the of facility houses Falun Gong practitioners for detention and mistreatment.
Minghui.org reports suggest that the oppression of the faith group is ongoing and unchecked, with hundreds of thousands being held in prisons, detention centers, black jails, and brainwashing centers across the country.