Gao Zhisheng has been praised as “the conscience of Chinese lawyers” and “a great hero”. China’s Ministry of Justice rated him one of China’s top ten lawyers in 2001. He has earned a reputation for courage in standing up against human rights abuses and is one of only a handful of lawyers in China who will defend those persecuted for their religious or spiritual beliefs. He wrote two letters to President Hu Jintao in which he describes his extensive research and calls to stop prosecuting people who believe in freedom. From then on, Gao and his family have been watched 24 hours a day by hordes of police officers. He was threatened and his law firm was illegally closed. Here is an excerpt from Gao's third letter.
We must immediately stop the brutality that suffocates our nation’s conscience and morality
Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, and all other conscientious fellow Chinese citizens:
I, Gao Zhisheng, send you my greetings from Changchun City. I would first like to convey my deepest mourning for the innocent fellow Chinese citizens killed by the Guangdong government, and my condolences and support for the family members of the victims. At the same time, I would like to express my strongest protest against the brutality of slaughtering our kind countrymen. I strongly urge that the highest authorities follow the basic principles recognised by civil societies, punish the murderers and those responsible for these acts, and comfort and compensate the families of the victims.
Winter in Changchun is extremely cold. Although in “hiding” in a room that doesn’t have water most of the time, my blood is boiling hot. The reason isn’t because I am again writing an open letter to Hu and Wen. Instead, simply being able to work for the future of one of the greatest peoples in the world is enough to make any ordinary citizen’s blood boil.
On October 18th, also with red-hot enthusiasm, I wrote an open letter to Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, two fellow countrymen of mine, urgently calling on their government to Stop Persecuting Believers in Freedom and Mend Your Ties with the Chinese People". The next day, I received blatant threats over the phone at home. Starting on the third day, at least 10 cars and 20 plainclothes police officers began circling, monitoring, and following my entire family every day, 24 hours a day. The 15th day after I wrote the letter, the Beijing Judicial Bureau illegally closed the law firm I ran. It is very regrettable how our country treats a citizen who openly makes suggestions.
Another strong reaction prompted by the open letter was that Falun Gong believers from various parts of China who have been persecuted have written to me and invited me to their areas to learn more about their true situation. Quite a few of these letters were from the cities of Changchun and Dalian. Beginning on November 29th, I spent almost 24 hours a day continuously travelling between Jinan City, Shandong Province; Dalian and Fuxin Cities, Liaoning Province; and Changchun City, Jilin Province to conduct another round of investigations. Unlike my usual practice of travelling solo, I was honoured to be accompanied by Professor Jiao Guobiao.
Meanwhile, flocks of plainclothes police were still hovering around my home night and day, creating an atmosphere of terror and severely suppressing my entire family. On November 29th, I escaped being followed and encircled by more than 20 plainclothes police and spent 15 days investigating the truth in my own way. I especially would like to say here that we try our best to tell the truth of how this nation is being continually and brutally persecuted, especially at this time. This is also to remind our entire nation of the severity and urgency of the problems we are facing. It is time for our nation and each and every one of us to seriously face our problems. Any excuse or delay by any means is committing a crime against our entire nation!
In this letter, I will not avoid any of the real problems I saw, even if this means I may be immediately arrested when this letter is publicised. The 15 days of investigation again showed me the painful truth. The 6-10 Office is – or at least can be called – a gang that exists within the political power of the nation, yet is higher than the political power. It is a gang that can control and regulate all political resources. Although it is an organisation that exists outside of the Constitution and the regulations of the country’s power structure, the 6-10 Office is using many powers that are only supposed to be used by agencies of the national government, and even many powers that are beyond those of agencies of the national government. It uses powers that don’t belong and have never belonged to the nation since the beginning of mankind’s political civilisation on this earth.
We can see that the power symbolised by the number 6-10 continues to “interface” with the public through ways such as killing a person’s physical body and spirit, shackles, chains, electric shock tortures, and “tiger benches”. The nature of this power has become that of a criminal gang. It continues to torture our mothers, sisters, children, and our entire nation. Mr Hu and Mr Wen, as members of our nation in special positions at this time, and especially as individuals who are perceived by the majority of the public as being conscientious, you should face everything together with all of us.
At this moment, with a trembling heart and a trembling pen, I am writing down the tragic experiences of those who have been persecuted in the last six years. Among the true accounts of unbelievable brutality, among the records of the government’s inhuman torture of its own people, the immoral acts that shocked my soul the most were the lewd yet routine practice of attacking women’s genitals by 6-10 Office staff and the police. Almost every woman’s genitals and breasts or every man’s genitals have been sexually assaulted during the persecution in a most vulgar fashion. Almost all who have been persecuted, be they male or female, were first stripped naked before any torture. No language or words could describe or re-create our government’s vulgarity and immorality in this respect. Who with a living body could afford to stay silent when faced with such truths?
Eyewitness – mother and son
At 4:20 p.m. on October 28th, 2005, Ms Wang Shouhui (mother) and Mr Liu Boyang (son) from Changchun City were followed by 6-10 Office staff and were illegally arrested. The two were brutally tortured by the police. At about 8 p.m., 28-year-old Liu Boyang died from the torture. About 10 days later, his mother was also tortured to death. The bodies of the unfortunate duo are still in the hands of the 6-10 Office officials. It took the 6-10 officials three days to inform Liu’s father of his death, while Ms Wang’s time of death remains unclear. Liu’s father looked for a lawyer in his city, but no one dared to accept his case. The elderly man said, “In a society like this, it is harder to live than to die. Living brings more pain. After I take care of their burials, I’ll follow them and leave, too.”
Eyewitness – Wang Yuhuan
Wang Yuhuan is a female Falun Gong practitioner that the Changchun police arrested.
“In March 2002, they tortured me three times within 17 days in that devil’s hole. Each time, the torture was more brutal. The last two times happened at midnight. Each time, seven or eight police came and took me from the cell and sent me back barely alive. One time, the police didn’t want the others to see how badly I was tortured. They dressed me in thick clothing. However, blood still seeped out. Then the police dressed me with more clothing but the blood soaked the clothing again. Practitioners there couldn’t go to sleep because of the horror and concern over fellow practitioners.
They handcuffed my hands behind my back and put a cloth bag over my head. They used a rope to tighten the bag on my neck so that I couldn’t see anything and I could hardly breathe. Then they tied me up using ropes and put me in the boot of a police car. They drove to a mountain where they brutally tortured Falun Dafa practitioners at will. Many fellow practitioners were tortured to death in this place. Mr Liu Haibo was stripped of all his clothes and forced to kneel down. Police pushed the longest electric baton they could find into his bottom and gave his organs electric shocks. Liu died immediately on the spot. Liu Haibo was a college graduate.
Liu Yi, a doctor from the Luuyuan District Hospital, was in his thirties when he was tortured to death in this devil’s hole. Twenty-three practitioners were tortured to death there. I knew many of them. The police simply buried their bodies in a hole. Xiang Min, a pretty Dafa practitioner, was carried back after a round of torture. She told me that the police sexually harassed her by touching her bottom while giving her electric shocks. Close to 30 practitioners were tortured to death in that round of arrests.
I went on a hunger strike to protest. On the 50th day, a prison doctor cut open my vein and placed an IV needle in it. My blood seeped out and stained the bed and floor. Already accustomed to the bloody persecution, the police and prison doctors were not at all disturbed by my excessive bleeding. Each day, they administered 10 bottles of unidentified thick fluid to me. They left me to urinate and defecate on the bed – I lay in a pool of urine and faeces for over 50 days. The full extent of my misery is beyond description. My veins collapsed due to the hunger strike, so the thick fluid could not pass through. The head surgeon just shook the bottle and squeezed the fluid into my vein. I passed out many times because of the excruciating pain.”
Eyewitness – Chang Xuexia
Dalian practitioner, Chang Xuexia, is a graceful and quiet girl. She lowered her head in shame while recounting her painful and humiliating experience in a labour camp:
"In January 2003, the authorities again tried to force me to renounce Falun Gong. They locked me in a small metal cage and brought in a variety of instruments of torture.
The swarm of inmates struck and kicked me from every side. I passed out. They dropped me on the floor and forcefully stepped on my face and arm to see if I was faking. When I woke up, I could not move my left arm, for my elbow was dislocated.
I still refused to renounce Falun Dafa. They stripped me naked, and several inmates began pinching my breasts, plucking my pubic hair, and stabbing my vagina. They used a brush that usually cleaned the water tank. They then put a basin under my lower body to see if I was bleeding. Since no blood came out, the inmates switched to a larger brush and repeatedly stabbed my vagina with it.
Eyewitness – Zhang Zhikui
With a slow and gentle voice, Zhang Zhikui calmly narrated his experience of being persecuted in Changchun City:
On National Day in 2000, I went to the Culture Square in Changchun City to unfurl a banner and I was arrested. All the news media in China lied. They did not speak a truthful word for us. Therefore, we wanted to tell people the truth in this way. Police chief Liang and other policemen stripped my coat off and wrapped my head with it. They cuffed my hands from behind, dragged me down from upstairs, and then escorted me to a car. The car travelled for about two hours and I felt that it was far away from town. After we arrived at the destination, I was escorted to a house where the cloth on my head was removed. I felt terrible. There was a tiger bench in the room. I knew we were on a mountain and I heard the wind swooshing. Police Chief Liang and other policemen stripped all my clothes off and they forced me onto the tiger bench. My hands were tied behind my back to the crabstick. They inserted an iron stick at my chest, my thighs and my legs respectively. Both ends of these sticks were fixed to the tiger bench so that my whole body was tightly locked onto the tiger bench and I could not move. My feet were put in iron hoops and immobilised. Then Liang took out a sharp knife one third of a metre long and rubbed it on his trousers a couple of times. He threw the knife on to the table and ferociously said to me: ‘Zhang Zhikui, I want you to die here; today I’ll torture you to death and dig a hole and bury you. Nobody will know or find you.’ After saying that, Liang went outside. At least three policemen started to recharge the electric batons and another two policemen grasped my hands that were tied to the stick behind me, then they stretched my hands around my head from behind to front. I heard my bones cracking ceaselessly. This torture was repeated several times and the oppressive pain distressed me terribly. Later, an iron barrel was buckled onto my head; they hit the barrel violently with steel pipes. The intense tremor and harsh noise made my head feel like it was exploding. After I had suffered for a long period of time, the policemen burned my back with cigarettes and the unbearable pain made me lose consciousness. Then they poured cold water on me to wake me up. Finally they lit candles and used them to burn my back. After they scorched the flesh on my back, they poured hot wax on it. The pain made my body endlessly shiver and jump. All I could hear was the cracking of the tiger bench that was shaken by me. Because there was not any good skin remaining on my body, the policemen started to shock my private parts with electric batons and pierced them. Afterwards they used an iron stick to smash my private parts. I passed out and I did not know how much time passed before I awakened. After one night’s torture, my face was swollen to several times the original size and my whole body was drenched in blood. I looked badly mangled. I had twisted my body so much due to the pain that the skin and flesh at my ankles were cut through, with the bones and muscles exposed. However, when they saw that I was awake, they again dragged me outside. It was more than 10 degrees centigrade below zero outdoors and they poured cold water on my naked body. They abandoned me where I lay. They returned to the house. Half an hour later they came out to see if I was still alive. I did not know how much time passed before morning arrived. I was already at the brink of death. I was carried to the Changchun City police department. There were many small cells, each with a tiger bench inside. There were female Dafa practitioners on every tiger bench. Most of them had fainted, with their lower bodies naked or with only a cloth covering the body.
continuation of letter
As we listened to those who had escaped death in this persecution, one by one, we were suffocating. Some of the true stories were told by those who had escaped death from the persecution several times. Their stories would move even a devil to tears. The unprecedented and unrivalled bloody scenes, the vicious, inhuman natures, the most disastrous torture techniques – all were so vividly terrifying.
Where did our system fail? It has bred so many vicious public officials who live among us, have been supported by us, who were raised by parents like ours, and have families like ours!
Hu, Wen and all fellow Chinese countrymen: it is a time of introspection for our nation! There isn’t a people on this planet or in all of history that have suffered on such a large scale, enduring such a severe and disastrous persecution in peacetime because of their faith. This ongoing disaster has cost thousands of innocent people their valuable lives, and hundreds of thousands of people have been deprived of their freedom. The facts that we have seen showed us that all those who have been deprived of their freedom have also suffered bodily devastation and spiritual torment that is unbelievable to the civilised world. This completely inhuman persecution has caused over 100 million Falun Gong followers and their families to suffer from subpoena and threats, deprivation of employment, work opportunities and income, confiscation of assets to various extents, and a persecution that extends to various other means. How absurd, dangerous, and immoral this is! This is a continuous fight against the entire Chinese people, human civilisation, and the moral foundation of all the world’s people!
The situations with my law office and entire family are making clear the ongoing severe situation in China today: one who insists on telling the truth must pay the price. The country continually uses violent means to warn people publicly that the desire to understand and tell the truth is extremely dangerous.
In countries with civilised systems, the truth is in the hands of those who have the political power and resources. The understanding of the value of truth is the scale used for judging a regime’s civilisation and morality. But in the current Chinese society, the ability of the government to obtain the truth is completely different. I have painfully observed that living together and maturing with the political regime has been the regime’s mechanism for concealing the truth. This situation makes the regime completely unable to know the truth. The regime has completely lost the necessary moral condition for knowing the truth. It has destroyed that moral condition completely.
People like Ms Wang Yuhuan and others who suffered in labour camps personally witnessed time after time the following. When higher authorities came to inspect, all the camps had an ironclad rule: gather those who might tell the truth, like Wang Yuhuan, to a place where the inspectors cannot find them. The common rule is: the visiting leaders leave with the “truth” that they have personally “seen” and “heard.” When the iron gate closes behind the leaders, the crimes against our innocent fellow countrymen will quickly start again. The facts indicate that there is a coordinated collusion between the inspector and the inspected, both of whom know the truth without spelling it out.
Our investigation has shown that, when facing the believers that are almost all “headstrong and refuse to transform”, those responsible for “transforming” these individuals have completely lost their humanity. As a result, they treat those being transformed unscrupulously to the point of committing all manners of crimes. The whole system has exhibited insanity driven by desperation as the suppression has lasted six years without any success. The recent horrifying incident in which the policeman He Xuejian raped two female Falun Gong practitioners in Tunzhong City, Hebei Province in front of his colleagues, is a clear example.
I must especially emphasise that if this evil crime does not stop, then the interrogation of our nation by people like Gao Chengzhi will continue. The day when Chinese society becomes stable and harmonious will not arrive. People have lost their patience with power-abusers who cast aside their conscience day and night. The storm of protests created by these people is constantly shaking the country’s foundation and rocking what people have been used to for decades. How could anyone ignore this phenomenon?
Through my experience of continuously communicating with those citizens who are firm in their beliefs, I have truly seen the existence of something most precious to our nation today. Those who can calmly describe with a smile their experiences of dealing with the dreadful process of being persecuted have shaken my soul. I was often moved to tears. In our nation, I have finally seen the spirit that remains faithful and unyielding, holding onto the intangible quality of principles.
The tribulation in the last six years has created a large group of people who have this unmatchable and noble human dignity. Their firmness towards faith, the way they treat the brutal custody with scorn, as well as their optimism that our nation will have a beautiful future earns one’s deep respect. Another trend we found in our investigation is that every Falun Gong follower who has stepped out of custody, no matter how long he or she was in custody, becomes more faithful.
The most typical example is Ms Han from Fuxin City, Liaoning Province, who was arrested and placed in custody several times. After being released from a brutal custody that lasted for a few years, the head of the local police station tried to make her promise not to practise Falun Gong any more. To this, she told the policeman, who represents the people’s government, firmly yet peacefully: “Even if you arrest me one hundred times, I will still continue to practise. The fact that we practise is nothing wrong, let alone a crime. After I returned home from custody, through constantly telling our family members and the people around me the truth about Falun Dafa, over thirty of them have joined the practice.”
Through my acquaintance with these believers, I was deeply moved by their calmness when narrating their unprecedented calamity, their compassion toward those that tortured them, and their optimism towards our nation’s future. These people take fame and profit very lightly. They continue to quietly assist fellow practitioners whose lives are in danger due to the ruthless oppression. Their patience in assisting the vulnerable children or the elderly relatives of Falun Gong practitioners, who were either illegally detained or killed, is beyond a typical human being’s imagination or understanding. How one’s belief has such a strong influence over one’s soul and morality is unbelievable.
For instance, Zhu Xiaoguang, who is 33 years old, told me that when he was first thrown in the prison, malicious interactions among inmates were the only type of communication. People there gained the upper hand by being more ruthless than the others. No one wanted to be tamed nor was required to exercise any self-restraint. Later on, Falun Gong practitioners miraculously cleansed the prisoners’ souls and guided 100 people to begin practising Falun Gong. He said, “I calmed myself through a complete transformation of my spirit.” As a result, many new inmates were dumbfounded to find kind and helping hands in place of “tone-down lessons” upon their arrival at the prison.
The experience of Zhang Linyou, a former policeman in Kungchuling Detention Centre, was even more astonishing. He told me that practising Falun Gong led him to become the only policeman in that gigantic prison who stopped torturing prisoners and turned down any bribes. He said that he was in constant agony the first year he decided to quit his bad habits. It was extremely painful for him to see his colleagues accept bribery and to resist the temptation when he himself was short of money! He proudly told me that cultivation completely transformed his soul! Later on the 60 inmates under his charge were very grateful to him and believed that all the Chinese police should practise Falun Gong. If that happened, the prisoners said, the Chinese police would become the most civilised in the world. Nevertheless, Zhang Linyou was later illegally sentenced to forced labour and dismissed from his job for practising Falun Gong.
Yet we are distressed to see that the transformation of people in China is going in the opposite direction. Public political pressures and temptation have annihilated the last trace of kindness in the police. The evil side of human beings is rapidly dominating their behaviour, while a basic conscience is no longer valued. The police are, in fact, victims of this fanatical movement to eliminate human nature.
Belief and morality are the most important elements for securing the longevity and advancement of a nation. What our nation has missed the most over the last few decades is the underlying belief that upholds and enhances our nation’s moral values. This is the cause of China’s continued chaos for the past few decades. Hence, for the long-term well-being of our country, one must grant and protect people’s freedom of belief. Only through transforming people’s hearts can we create a world with hope. What our government has been doing in the past six years is utilising violent and barbaric tactics to impede our nation from striving towards a bright future.
In this open letter, I would also like to bring several requests to the government’s attention. These are to end immediately the violent persecution of people who uphold their beliefs and to free and compensate Yang Guang and other prisoners of conscience! Yet we are not asking for the government to reinstate the good name of Falun Gong people. For in their own hearts, as well as in the hearts of ethical members in our society, no one has ever claimed that this group of people was problematic. A system that has ruthlessly tortured a nation for over half a century no longer has the moral values or qualifications to reinstate anyone’s good name. Moreover, to allow such a statement to be made by this system is an insult to the victims! I hereby warn those who still endorse violence to cease their barbaric acts since this is your last chance!
Lastly, allow me to tell Mr Hu Jintao and Mr Wen Jiabao with respect that we must have the courage and morality to admit that the political machine, which has ruthlessly tortured our nation for half a century, is tainted with the blood and tears of innocent people and that the piteous fate of the Chinese people, owing to coercion and oppression by the dictatorship of thousands of years, is still without end. We must acknowledge that our nation, our people, have the right to pursue democracy, freedom, the rule of law, and human rights, and that this yearning has never before been this fervent.
Today, any attempt to obstruct people’s pursuit for the abovementioned rights will end in vain. Please pardon my frankness but all the blood debts have been engraved in the people’s eyes, experiences, and tainted memories. Gentlemen, only when the safety of the suffering people is in your hearts can you find true security. Likewise, only when you genuinely care for the future of our nation will you have equally as bright a future!
Wishing Mr Jintao and Mr Wen Jiabao safety and health in the New Year.
May the New Year bring a new world for my fellow citizens!
May God bless the Chinese people!
Your fellow citizen,
December 12th, 2005, Changchun City, Jilin Province