The six-day exhibition showcasing the works of renowned calligrapher Liu Xitong was a well-received success. Thousands of people visited the exhibit, held in the Publishing Art Hall in Qingdao City, and the media widely reported on it.
But Liu made a worrisome observation: throughout the exhibition, several plainclothes policemen were loitering about, mingling with the crowd.
A few days after the exhibition ended, Liu was arrested. The home he shared with his wife was ransacked and many of his calligraphy works were confiscated.
This was just one of the more than 20 times over 16 years that Liu was arrested and detained for practicing Falun Gong, a meditation practice handed down from ancient China that teaches living by the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. The Chinese Communist Party initiated a persecution campaign against the practice in 1999 that continues today and has resulted in widespread illegal imprisonment, torture, and death of adherents.
Liu was given a three-year sentence at a forced labor camp in 2003, and a four-year term at the No.1 Shandong Provincial Prison in 2008, according to Minghui.org.
What he went through in those years defies imagination.
Horror in Shandong Prison
In the labor camp, the torture meted out on Liu included being tied up with a rope for 80 days and deprived of sleep for over 10 days. He lost consciousness more than 50 times from beatings and electric shocks.
But that paled in comparison to his treatment at Shandong Prison.
Prison authorities encouraged inmates to torture Falun Gong adherents held at the prison in order to “transform” them—force them to renounce their belief and give up practicing. Inmates were rewarded with reduced sentences if they successfully forced practitioners to write statements renouncing Falun Gong, so they put a lot of effort into it.
According to a criminal complaint Liu filed in 2015 against former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin for ordering the persecution campaign, an inmate said to Liu: “We are a dedicated team trained to ‘transform’ you Falun Gong practitioners. … You’d better write the statement, otherwise we have enough torture methods to torment you to death. And we won’t be held accountable for it.”
On his first day at the prison, the inmates scraped his armpits with a rough brush, beat him with a plastic slipper or with their bare hands, verbally abused him, struck his joints with a wooden stick, and pulled a toothbrush back and forth between his fingers.
The inmates used a wide variety of methods to torture Liu, including pouring salt water on his wounds and then rubbing the wounds with a brush, inserting a burning cigarette into his nose, burning his skin with a lighter, pricking his fingers and toes with a needle, wiping chemicals in his eyes, or force-feeding him with filthy water from the bathroom.
“They pinched my skin and twisted it back and forth, like tightening and loosening a screw. They used all their strength to torture me like this. When I screamed because of the pain, they laughed at me and continued the torture. My skin festered the next day,” Liu wrote in his complaint, according to Minghui.
“The inmates didn’t allow me to sleep. They forced me into a half-squat position, with my hands placed on my knees. I was so weak that I fainted several times. But the inmates woke me up by beating and verbally abusing me.”
‘Tying up Torture’
The inmates once tied up Liu with his head buried between his legs, and his hands touching his feet. The blood drained from his face and his heart beat violently. He almost lost consciousness.
Another time, they tied him up in a spread-eagle position and placed a glaring lightbulb in front of his face around the clock. This torture lasted for 20 days. Liu’s wrists and ankles were injured by from being tied so tightly. His body shook uncontrollably, and his limbs became numb.
In another variation of the “tying up torture,” the inmates put a rope around Liu’s neck and tightened it until he could hardly breathe. Then they placed a metal bucket on his head and struck it repeatedly, the resulting noise sounding unbearably loud to Liu.
The inmates starved Liu and then sometimes tormented him by suspending a steamed bun in front of him and forcing him to grip it with his mouth.
They sexually assaulted him with a stick and humiliated him further by forcing the stick into his mouth.
Both his legs were broken. The beatings left him deaf in his left ear and all his teeth became loose; a concussion led to vertigo.
At one stage, Liu developed an infection in his lungs and was on the verge of death.
“I was severely injured. The mental trauma is even harder to recover from,” Liu wrote in his complaint. “The inmates were given the power to torture me however they liked. It’s really hard for most people to imagine how cruel the torture was, if they didn’t witness it themselves.”
Liu’s family also suffered.
“The persecution was also a disaster to my family,” he wrote. “When I was in prison, the police constantly came to our home to harass my wife and two daughters. My wife’s health deteriorated; she almost died last year. My brother-in-law was so traumatized by the persecution that he passed away during the second year of my arrest. My elderly mom also passed away, longing for her imprisoned son.”
According to Minghui, Jiang Zemin is directly responsible for the inception and continuation of the persecution campaign. Between the end of May and July 23, 2015, more than 103,000 people filed criminal complaints against the former head of the Chinese Communist Party.
The complaints charge Jiang with unlawful imprisonment, depriving citizens of their constitutional right to freedom of belief, abuse of power, and many other crimes, and urge that he be brought to justice.