Dai Ying was tortured, force fed and subjected to medical exams which she suspects to have been a precursor to forced organ harvesting
Dai Ying, a Falun Gong practitioner from Shenzhen, was arrested and imprisoned twice: first in a women’s prison, then in a labour camp. During her imprisonment Dai was tortured, force fed and subjected to medical exams which she suspects to have been a precursor to forced organ harvesting. HEQ speaks to Dai, who has now found asylum in Norway, about her experiences.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what your life was like before you were arrested?
My husband and I worked at a large state-owned enterprise, then we started our own business making bedding products, which became very successful. I began to practise Falun Gong in October 1997, when I was 41.
In my 30s I was in poor health and suffered from a lot of diseases like atrophic gastritis, which carries a high risk of gastric cancer; and I sweated a lot when I walked, so even though my family environment was good – I was from a wealthy background because my father was in the army – I couldn’t go shopping, because I was so weak. I tried Tai Chi to improve my health, but it didn’t help [so I turned to Falun Gong].
Before I began practising Falun Gong my husband and I had a lot of conflicts and we were on the brink of divorce, but after practising I follow the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance and know how to be a better person, so the family environment has been greatly improved. I myself also benefited from Falun Gong: I felt more peaceful and my health conditions improved.
What is Falun Gong’s history within China? When and why did the persecution of the Falun Gong practitioners begin?
Falun Gong was introduced to the public in 1992 in Changchun, a city in Northeastern China. After some people practised it they felt it was really good, so they passed it on to their relatives and friends, and those friends and relatives practised and benefited themselves and so they passed it over to their own friends and family. By 1999, just before the persecution began, the number of practitioners exceeded 100 million.
The Chinese Communist Party officials said that they wanted to crack down on Falun Gong on 20 July 1999, but before that, they already took some [preliminary] actions and people were saying the government wanted to persecute Falun Gong.
The Communist Party has lost different movements against the people and wanted to crack down on traditional Chinese culture – Falun Gong is a kind of culture which is rooted deeply in China’s traditional history – because the Communist Party is atheist, they believe in no gods; so they just want to crack down on [people’s] beliefs.
When Falun Gong was still really popular and was legal to practise in China, Qiao Shi, one of the top leaders in the Chinese Communist Party, launched an investigation. His conclusion was that Falun Gong was greatly beneficial and of no harm at all to the entire country and the people, but because the number of practitioners increased so quickly, the then-leader of the Chinese government, Jiang Zemin, was scared and jailed us. We couldn’t understand the sudden crackdown on Falun Gong.
How and why were you originally arrested?
Overnight Falun Gong had become forbidden, which I couldn’t understand. I went to the government of Shenzhen, where I lived, to appeal; but the riot police welcomed us. They arrested us and we were locked in a middle school. I couldn’t understand why, I thought the Shenzhen government’s actions were absurd; so, I decided to go to Beijing to appeal to the central government.
I went to the Beijing appeals office, but when I arrived there were a lot of police cars outside the office and I couldn’t get in; so I went to Tiananmen Square and held up a banner which said ‘Falun Dafa hao’ (‘Falun Gong is good’). I saw a lot of other practitioners also holding banners. Then the police came, they ran here and there to arrest people, a lot of people were arrested.
When we were at Tiananmen Square we wanted to speak out. We wanted to let the world know what was happening in China because when I saw the police I knew another round of persecution was close. We spoke loudly, saying ‘Falun Gong is good’ because we knew that there were a lot of foreign journalists in Tiananmen Square who could hear us and they could pass our message into the outside world.
The central government didn’t want to have a conversation with us, so we were arrested and taken to a large house near Tiananmen Square. We were forced to hold up our hands and give our banners to the officers. Different cities have offices in Beijing; and the central government office asked officers from different cities’ offices to bring their people back to their city, so the next day the people from Shenzhen office brought me back to Shenzhen.
In Shenzhen, I was detained at Futian District Detention Centre. They asked me to give up my belief in Falun Gong and one prosecutor told me that if I renounce my belief I could be released immediately, but I told them I didn’t want to give up my belief: as a result, in March 2000 I was sentenced to three years in prison.
How did your family cope with your arrest? What happened to your child?
My parents were healthy, but after I was arrested they missed me so much they couldn’t eat or sleep well. Eventually, due to the mental stress, they passed away. When I was imprisoned my daughter was 14: my husband was arrested at the same time and my in-laws lived in another city in Guangdong Province, so my daughter was left on her own, and the police harassed her at school.
Can you describe your experience in the prison and the labour camp?
In Futian District Detention Centre I was severely tortured. I was beaten and the interrogations always took place at midnight so that I couldn’t sleep. I was also forced to do slave labour, processing sandals and Christmas trees which were exported to other countries like America and Australia. My fingers developed blisters and [became] deformed.
We wanted to practise Falun Gong, but when the guards saw that, they beat us and humiliated us by stripping off our clothes, so we went on a hunger strike. Then they force-fed me: they used a screwdriver to open my mouth and put a tube into my mouth. During the process, they broke two of my front teeth and all my teeth were damaged – now I have to use false teeth.
One day a prison officer told me: ‘I will give you a chance. If you say you will give up your belief then everything will be fine, [otherwise] I will put you into solitary confinement with a crazy lady who will urinate on you.’ I refused to give up my beliefs.
Late one night, while I was asleep, a guard came to me with three criminal inmates. They carried me to the basement and shocked me with an electric baton. They forced me to kneel down on the ground and choked me for a very long time. I couldn’t see anything because we were in the basement and it was late at night, I didn’t know whether my eyes could see or not; but the next morning, I found that I couldn’t see anything clearly. That incident had caused me to lose my eyesight.
Among the prisoners, Falun Gong practitioners were treated the worst. We were not allowed to buy day-to-day items to use in the bathroom; I was prevented from buying tampons. I was only allowed to buy a box of paper, which they forced me to write my reflections on after watching those videos that slandered Falun Gong. Under the pressure, I stopped menstruating after a month and my hair turned grey after three months, and my blood pressure was high.
I was in detained in Futian District Detention Centre for a year and then transferred to a women’s prison for another two years, where conditions were worse: we were forced to do more slave labour. Most of the time, we were forced to watch brainwashing videos slandering Falun Gong: this caused me more mental trauma than the forced slave labour.
Just two months after I was released from my first imprisonment, I was arrested again and sent to a labour camp for two years in 2003. The labour camp inmates had to sort the garbage which was imported from Hong Kong. If I didn’t follow orders or I couldn’t meet the quota I was allocated, my term [in the camp] would be extended.
In April 2004 all the Falun Gong practitioners in the labour camp were given medical exams; they were given injections and had their blood taken. On the day the medical exams took place a lot of policemen surrounded us, and doctors from outside came, and all the Falun Gong practitioners were dragged into a meeting room.
They said they would give us injections but we refused because we didn’t know what the injections were for. I asked one guard why only Falun Gong practitioners were given injections and he said this is a special [programme] from the government. One female practitioner who had a strong mind and didn’t want to give up her belief was forced to get the injection, but after she was given the injection she fainted, so people panicked and ran out of the meeting room.
Several days later, the Falun Gong practitioners were dragged onto a luxury bus which had all the equipment to perform medical exams installed on it. We were not told what this medical exam was for, we were just forced to go through different examinations. I had a huge vial of blood taken; I asked the guard why they were taking so much, and he said it was to be used for many different types of examinations.
They took X-rays and then we went to the clinic in the prison, where they checked my kidneys and performed an electrocardiogram. That doctor stopped for a while and asked me if I had any problem with my heart. I told them that I was severely persecuted for years and sometimes my heart would stop beating.
He asked me questions about my kidneys; I said before I began practising Falun Gong I had a disease of the kidneys. When they checked my eyes I told them that I couldn’t even see the biggest letter because I had been struck by the electric baton and lost my eyesight.
We were not informed what this medical exam was for and afterwards, we got no report from the exam; it was just weird. [I didn’t know] until 2005 when I was abroad: I learned of the organ harvesting which has happened in China for a long time; and that those medical exams might have been for the purpose of taking healthy organs away, so I was horrified.
When you were abroad, how did you find out what was going on in China?
In 2006 in Washington, I met a lady named Jenny. Her husband was a doctor in China and had performed organ harvesting. He didn’t want to do it anymore, so they escaped China and went to Canada, and now Jenny speaks out about what is happening in China in order to raise awareness.
Her husband said that in one hospital in Liaoning province in China, they kept 3,000 to 4,000 Falun Gong practitioners and used them as a donor bank – they were killed on demand. Once the doctor didn’t want to do it any more, he was blamed; so they had to escape.
Did the doctors know the practitioners were being kept in the basement and being killed for organ harvesting?
The doctor knew. He was responsible for cornea transplants, and he knew that the people whose corneas he was using were alive. And he also knew they were just there [so the hospital could] take their cornea and conduct transplants to make money.
How old was the youngest prisoner you saw in the camp and how old was the eldest?
The youngest was about five or six years old. When those children’s mothers were arrested for practising Falun Gong, those kids would just follow their mum and so they were also locked up. If their mothers were sentenced to a long imprisonment, then the kids would be picked up by other relatives. I also knew some young girls in their early 20s. They were still college or university students, and they were sentenced to the labour camp.
The oldest prisoners were in their 60s or 70s. They were all tortured: there was an order from the central government saying every prison must make the Falun Gong practitioners give up their belief, which they call the transformation; and the transformation rate of every prison should be at least 90%. If they didn’t reach that rate, the prison officers would be punished themselves.
The prison would get a bonus for every transformation; so, under the pressure of transformation targets and the lure of money, torture was used. One of the guards said that the upper authorities had told them they wouldn’t have to shoulder any legal responsibility if they beat a Falun Gong practitioner to death.
What effects did your time in prison have on your medical health? How have you coped since your release?
Because my teeth were so badly damaged [when I was force fed], I now have to use false teeth. I went blind in my left eye, and the eyesight in my right eye was also damaged. My memory was affected – I couldn’t remember how to write many Chinese characters – and my body became deformed; I dared not look at my reflection in the mirror. The humiliation that I experienced in prison and in the labour camp caused huge trauma to my mind. For a long time after I was released, I didn’t want to speak and I wasn’t willing to go out.
After I was released in 2004 I was still under the strict control of the Chinese Communist Party: I couldn’t live normally and I couldn’t practise Falun Gong normally. Wherever I went, police cars would pull me over – they were afraid that I would speak the truth and tell people about my persecution, so I was still tightly controlled.
We decided to escape from China in 2005: first, we escaped to Thailand, where we went to the United Nations’ office; then the Norwegian government accepted us to be refugees, so we went to Norway. There we lived peacefully, and I was free from those high pressures, so I restarted practising Falun Gong and my health improved quickly.
The Norwegian government was very caring for Falun Gong refugees: they couldn’t imagine there what we had experienced in China. They allocated us a place to live, they provided welfare funding and they provided a language course over several years.
My husband is also a practitioner – we escaped together – so we helped each other. We encourage each other to learn Norwegian: because we are in our 60s it’s a bit difficult to pick up the language. Because of my bad my eyesight, my husband takes care of me a lot in our daily lives: he goes shopping and cook’s dinner for me.
Are you still in contact with any Falun Gong practitioners back in China? Do you know if the situation is the same for them?
I wanted to, but I couldn’t. The Chinese authorities’ monitoring grows tighter and tighter day after day, not only of phones but also the internet; so I can’t contact anyone, because if the government finds that Falun Gong practitioners in China have contact with somebody overseas then they will be persecuted.
I happened to happen to meet one practitioner from Shenzhen online through Skype; she told me that she couldn’t live normally in Shenzhen anymore because of the government’s harassment, so she went back to her old hometown to live.
I scan a website called Minghui every day: it has the most updated information about the persecution happening in China. I pay special attention to the persecution happening in Shenzhen, where I lived; and I know that the persecution there is still severe – because Shenzhen is one of the most developed cities and attracts tourists, the government has invested a lot in the city; so they pay it a lot of attention and want to exert control.
I know from the Minghui website that the persecution in mainland China is still severe: I read an article which said that in one city, 70 people were arrested at one time; and in another city, 50 people were arrested at one time.
Is there anything else that you think our readers should know?
Please don’t go to China for organ transplantation. In the US and other Western countries, you need to wait maybe for years for a matching organ; but in China, you only wait for one or two weeks – that is abnormal, and people are killed. They kill innocent people like the practitioners of Falun Gong and Tibetans and other minorities for their organs: this is an evil action which should be stopped.
A lot of organisations around the world now pay attention to live organ harvesting – the independent tribunal in London recently came to the conclusion that forced organ harvesting is happening in China after listening to the testimonies of 50 witnesses – so please don’t go to China to do transplantation.
Please tell the Chinese people that live organ harvesting really takes place in China and it continues now. Most Chinese people just don’t know the truth because of the internet block in China and the monitoring: the Chinese Communist Party controls everything, they control the information which they want people to know. I hope that more and more people can stand up and help to stop the brutal persecution in China.
Please note, this article will appear in issue 12 of Health Europa Quarterly, which is available to read now.