WASHINGTON—Christmas is supposed to be a joyful time for families to reunite, but there won’t be any fond memories for the Cui family in China this year. And for one local woman, this is likewise a season of worry.
Cui Aimin, a mother and a wife, has been locked in a brainwashing center for her beliefs: as a practitioner of the Falun Gong spiritual practice, she has been declared a thought criminal by the Chinese Communist Party.
Her sister, Lucy Cui (her Chinese name is Aidong), fights from Ellicott City, near Washington DC., for her release.
Ms. Cui is now emaciated and at the mercy of Chinese communist prison guards.
“If Aimin does not cooperate with us, maybe you can’t visit her next weekend,” a guard said menacingly to Ms. Cui’s husband during a recent visit.
“Cooperate,” in the vernacular, means to reject her Falun Gong spiritual beliefs, something that the CCP makes a condition of release for detained adherents.
Cui Aimin was kidnapped by Chinese security forces after dropping her 12-year-old daughter off to school on Oct. 31 this year. The family home was ransacked (the police didn’t bother with a warrant) and Falun Gong-related materials and other items—even the computer that her daughter did her homework on—were simply stolen.
The persecution of Cui was ordered by local security officials, according to her husband, as part of a campaign to suppress Falun Gong and attack a range of other groups, including rights lawyers and petitioners, before the once-in-a-decade change in the top Party leadership that took place at the Chinese Communist Party’s 18th Congress in early November.
But now, even with the leadership changeover completed, Cui still languishes in the Liuchangshan Brainwashing Center in the concrete city of western Jinan, the large capital city of Shandong Province where the family lives. In places like these Falun Gong practitioners are tortured, deprived of sleep, and forced to renounce their faith.
Liuchangshan has a particularly grim reputation. Thousands of entries on the Falun Gong website Minghui.org talk of harrowing torture dished out by guards there.
It is unclear what violence or mistreatment Cui has been subjected to in her one and a half months in detention so far. She is unable to talk freely when her husband and daughter visit.
Amnesty International researcher Corinna-Barbara Francis, speaking to the European Parliament recently, explained that the process of persecution of Falun Gong practitioners detained by Chinese security forces is institutionalized and deliberate.
“They are made to write a guarantee, and if they do not, then the level of ill-treatment escalates,” Francis said. “This is a policy-driven process. The policies come from the higher-level authorities.”
Leading cadres in the security apparatus up and down the system, prison guards, prison directors, and even fellow inmates are all involved in the process of attempting to force Falun Gong practitioners to “renounce their religion,” Francis says.
Guards “can be promoted in their job if they do a good job of achieving these quotas,” while inmates may have their sentences reduced if they assist to torture or pressure Falun Gong adherents.
“This torture is not just random, rogue policemen who are imposing this,” Francis said. “This is a policy-driven process, it’s systematic, it’s institutionalized and it occurs on a very wide basis.”
If Ms. Cui is not released, she faces a formal sentence to either a prison or a labor camp, where the efforts to have her renounce her faith will intensify.
Guards in such institutions often boast of their experience and efficacy in inflicting pain upon victims, and they have developed an array of agonizing techniques and instruments in the attempt to crush Falun Gong practitioners through pain, including “tiger benches,” stress positions, and acts such as attacking the genitalia with tools.
Alternatively or additionally, prisoners may be forced to do slave labor in harsh conditions.
“Our family is on an urgent rescue mission,” writes Lucy Cui, the sister, in a letter publicizing her sister’s plight. “We have been visiting representatives’ offices, contacting media, writing to the State Department—anything we think could help. I hope our leaders can stand up for my family in this difficult time.”
She has not received a response from the State Department; some Senators and Congressmen have expressed outrage at the treatment. She believes that letters from U.S. politicians and the American public will have a tangible impact.
Now is the critical time to get her out, according to Cui. It will be more difficult
“My sister has been doing the right thing by not giving up what she really believes,” Cui, the sister, states. “We can, too, do the right thing by saying “stop” to the persecution.”
Cui Aimin is detained at:
Jinan Law Training Center (Jinan Liuchangshan Brainwashing Center)
24 LiuChangShan Road,
Jinan, Shandong, P. R. China
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