In early June, Xinhua, the Chinese regime’s official mouthpiece, announced the arrest of 16 practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice, in the coastal city of Qingdao, for “staging pictures depicting scenes of torture.” China Central Television, the state-run television station, also seized on the occasion to attack Falun Gong—something that has become rarer in recent years.
Among the torture methods that Xinhua said was faked included the use of an otherwise innocuous instrument: the toothbrush. Qingdao public security organs, speaking through Xinhua, said that it was all “A classic case of Falun Gong personnel deliberately fabricating so-called ‘torture.’”
Now Minghui.org, the main website that Falun Gong practitioners in China use to provide first hand accounts of their experiences, has delivered a nearly 4,000 word exposition on just the use of toothbrushes as torture instruments, including interviews with survivors, pictures, and often disturbing descriptions of precisely how they are used to inflict intense pain.
“Actually,” Minghui said, “torture with toothbrushes in Chinese Communist Party prisons not only exists, but is very widely used.” It listed a number of the common names that police use to describe the tortures they allegedly invented, including the “playing the piano,” “eating a cigarette,” and “dry-fried string beans.” Each of them represents a painful and sometimes gruesome use of the toothbrush against Falun Gong practitioners and others in captivity.
Zhang Chunting, a Falun Gong practitioner from the Qili Village in Qingdao, Shandong Province, recounted the toothbrush torture that he experienced: “The guards gripped my two fingertips tightly, then inserted the toothbrush handle into the space between my fingers and twisted it with all his strength. You could hear the sound of my finger bones being twisted, and my skin was twisted open. The scars on my hands are still there.” The twisting caused the flesh to bleed heavily and fester, he said.
The article goes on to list 20 different torture methods, including “dripping water from a naked body,” where the practitioner is stripped naked during the winter and forced to use cold water to shower. The prison guards are then reported use a stiff-bristled toothbrush to brush their bodies vigorously, causing the skin to bleed. The most common form of torture involving toothbrushes, according to Minghui, is where guards forcefully shove a toothbrush, or a bundle of toothbrushes bound together with bristles facing outward, into and out of a woman’s vagina.
Another method detailed involves using a toothbrush to knock on the teeth, causing the gums to bleed and the teeth to loosen and sometimes fall out. The details of some of the techniques of torture—such as “brushing the anus,” or its ancillary, “eating a cigarette”— are too graphic to describe here.
David Ownby, a scholar of Chinese religion at the University of Montreal, wrote in his 2008 book “Falun Gong and the Future of China,” that Falun Gong human rights sources are “generally accepted as accurate” by international human rights organizations. Information on Falun Gong websites often tracks with independent interviews conducted by these agencies.
Since the Falun Gong spiritual practice was banned in China in 1999, thousands of practitioners have been detained, tortured, and imprisoned in forced labor camps, according to human rights groups. The Minghui website has collected the identities of over 3,600 Falun Gong practitioners who are understood to have died while in custody, though the full number is believed to be much greater. According to a number of reports, Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience have been killed for their organs, which are sold for organ transplantation in the black market organ trade.
“The use of toothbrushes for torture is just one of the many torture methods invented by the CCP against Falun Gong practitioners,” says Minghui.org. “If a dozen different torture methods can be created from a toothbrush, one can only imagine how many other torture methods exist.”