Shanghai Brainwashing Centre, 610 Office’s Secret Detention Facility for Persecuting Falun Gong Practitioners

The Shanghai Brainwashing Centre, also known as “Shanghai Legal Education School,” has been the 610 Office’s secret detention facility, where practitioners are pressured to give up their belief through the use of coercive brainwashing.

According to information collected by the Minghui website, at least 279 practitioners have been detained in the Shanghai Brainwashing Centre since the onset of persecution of Falun Gong in 1999, and 28 of them have been detained there multiple times.

Falun Gong practitioner Ms. You Xiuying, 72, was arrested by Shanghai police for passing out information about the persecution of Falun Gong on August 26, 2016. She was sentenced to a one-year prison term on May 19, 2017.

Authorities recently informed her family that because she still refuses to give up practicing Falun Gong, the 610 Office plans to transfer her to the Shanghai Brainwashing Centre for “further education” when her prison term ends.

Number of Detentions Correspond to Persecution Trend

Notably, the yearly distribution of practitioners detained in the Shanghai Brainwashing Centre peaked in 2001 with 33 practitioners detained, in 2009 with 27 detained, and again in 2014 with 20.

The 2001 peak may have been due to the notorious self-immolation hoax on Tiananmen Square in January 2001. The staged propaganda stunt was promoted nationwide in China as the communist regime tried to find justification to continue the persecution. It also signaled an intensification of the persecution of Falun Gong.

The peak in 2009 could be attributed to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when the authorities clamped down on all dissidents. The number of practitioners detained in the brainwashing centre increased from 12 in 2007 to 25 in 2008, and peaked at 27 in 2009. 21 were detained in 2010 when Shanghai hosted the World Expo. The number of detentions dropped back to 14 in 2011 after the conclusion of the big events.

In 2014, the number of practitioners in the brainwashing centre peaked again at 20. This might have been linked to the shutdown of the forced labor camps in 2013, which diverted Falun Gong practitioners from the camps to brainwashing centres.

Falun Gong Practitioners Detained at Shanghai Brainwashing Center (PDF)

Fig 1. Yearly Distribution of Brainwashing Center Detentions in Shanghai.

Practitioners Deceived or Forced to Attend Brainwashing Sessions

Among the practitioners who have been detained in this brainwashing centre, some were deceived or forced by the police and neighborhood committee staff to show up, while others were transferred directly from prisons, labor camps, or detention centres after their terms expired.

Residential committee members deceived some practitioners into going to the brainwashing centre by telling them that they would be released in a few days. Some were told to go to the police station or neighborhood committee office and were taken to the brainwashing centre from there.

The authorities sometimes threaten the practitioners with termination of their salaries or even their jobs in order to force them to show up.

In some cases, the police arrest the practitioners and take them to the brainwashing centre.

Prior to the communist regime’s 16th Party Congress in 2002, a police officer went to the home of practitioner Ms. Xia Haizhen and attempted to deceive her into going to the brainwashing centre. When Ms. Xia refused to comply, several officers broke into her home, carried her out, and took her directly to the brainwashing centre.

Overview of Brainwashing Centre

Headed by Jiang Qiqiong, the former head of Shanghai Forced Labor Camp with a background in psychology, the Shanghai Brainwashing Centre has a specific set of procedures to brainwash practitioners and force them to give up practicing Falun Gong.

Each practitioner is detained in a separate room. They aren’t allowed to leave without permission or talk to other detained practitioners. Two staff members monitor them around the clock and record everything they do in order to make personalised brainwashing plans. The staff also determines whether or not to allow the practitioners to contact their families, based on how they think that contact or lack thereof will increase the success of the brainwashing.

To increase their mental stress, the practitioners are not told beforehand how long they will be detained. The brainwashing centre also determines whether they are “qualified to graduate” based on how much they are “transformed.”

Unlike prisons and labor camps, the living conditions and food in the brainwashing centre are excellent. It is a ploy to disguise the intent of what goes on inside. While enjoying such comforts, some practitioners lower their guards and cooperate with the brainwashing.

Specific Procedures

Once admitted to the brainwashing centre, each practitioner is told to fill out a form. That is the first test, giving the staff a clue as to whether or not the person can be successfully brainwashed.

During daily brainwashing sessions, practitioners study the Constitution, criminal law, and other regulations intensively in an effort to make them think that they have violated the law by practicing Falun Gong.

At the end of each session, they are required to write down what they learned. Sometimes they are also required to answer questions about themselves. The answers are used by the staff to look for weakness that can be targeted by brainwashing.

Once the staff senses that the practitioner has begun to agree that he or she has violated the law by practicing Falun Gong, they take the next step, which is to make the practitioner think that it is Falun Gong’s fault that they violated the law and were persecuted.

If the practitioner continues to go along with the brainwashing, the staff makes them think that Falun Gong is not good and that they shouldn’t practice it.

In the final step, the brainwashing centre staff tells the practitioners that they are the ones who truly care about them. At that time, they persuade the practitioners to sign prepared statements renouncing Falun Gong. Once the practitioner signs it, the brainwashing is considered to have been successful.

Harassment after Release

Before practitioners are released from the brainwashing centre, they are required to attend a meeting with representatives from the brainwashing centre, the 610 Office, and their residential committee, to demonstrate that they have been “successfully ‘transformed.’”

After the practitioners are released, the brainwashing center staff makes regular follow-up phone calls or home visits as a way to reinforce their “brainwashing results.”

Mental Torture Led to Rapid Decline

For many practitioners, the intense brainwashing and intimidation in the isolated setting of the brainwashing centre was too much to bear, which sometimes resulted in a mental breakdown or rapid deterioration in health.

Ms. Yu Jingyan was taken to the brainwashing centre and subjected to intense brainwashing in August 2012. By the time she was released in late 2012, she started to have symptoms of a stroke. She was hospitalised for two weeks and now suffers from paralysis on one side of her body.

Ms. Zhou Xianwen was taken to the brainwashing centre four times during the past 18 years. She developed a heart problem after 24 days in the brainwashing centre, in October 2012. She was released in November 2012.

Ms. Wang Yijin also suffered a heart attack during her 87-day stay at the brainwashing centre in 2014.

Psychiatric Drugs and Physical Torture

If practitioners resist the brainwashing, the staff uses psychiatric drugs or physical torture in attempts to “transform” them.

Psychiatric Drugs

Mr. Wu Liyou was taken to the brainwashing centre in 2012. The staff mixed neuro-toxic drugs into his food in order to damage his memory and convince him to give up practicing Falun Gong. The head of the local 610 Office talked with Mr. Wu regularly and realised that he was still holding onto his belief, so they increased the drug dosage.

When Mr. Wu was released a month later, he had symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and his family noticed that his memory had severely deteriorated. He had also developed itchy red blotches all over his body.

Mr. Du Zhilong, 74, was held in the brainwashing centre in 2014. He was in good health when he first arrived, but a month later his memory, hearing, and vision had deteriorated significantly. He can no longer carry on a conversation and has difficulty thinking. It is believed that he was given neurotoxic drugs.

In addition, five female practitioners have suffered mental collapse, showed signs of dementia, and were unable to speak after being injected with psychiatric drugs in 2005.

Forced Feeding

Mr. Lin Mingli was sent to the brainwashing centre in 2001 after he was arrested for having Falun Gong materials. Originally he was told that he would be held there for a month, but the authorities extended his term twice because he refused to give up practicing Falun Gong.

When Mr. Lin went on a hunger strike to protest the detention, the brainwashing centre staff force-fed him. They repeatedly pulled the tube in and out of his stomach to increase his suffering. They did this many times, until his esophagus was ruptured. He was shaking from the intense pain during the force-feeding. The tube was covered with blood, and his mouth was also filled with blood. He was then taken to a hospital for emergency treatment.

Other Victims

When Falun Gong practitioners are persecuted in the brainwashing centres, they aren’t the only victims. Their family members also suffer from the stress of the persecution and constant worry about the safety of their loved ones.

In some cases, the authorities didn’t inform the practitioners’ families after they were taken to the brainwashing center, making them look everywhere for the practitioners.

Some practitioners are the only breadwinners at home, so their absence causes tremendous financial pressure for their families.

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