(Minghui.org) Between August 17-18, 2002, a group of Falun Gong practitioners in Lanzhou City, Gansu Province successfully intercepted TV signals and broadcast videos to expose the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s brutal persecution of Falun Gong and clarify the truth about the Party’s pervasive and slanderous propaganda against the practice. The videos were broadcast on four local channels for half an hour, covering a number of areas in Gansu Province as well as Xining City in Qinghai Province.
Soon afterwards, 15 Falun Gong practitioners were arrested and sentenced to heavy terms up to 20 years. Mr. Sun Zhaohai, then 34, was given 19 years in prison. He suffered cruel persecution, and narrowly escaped death.
Mr. Sun was born in Jiamusi City, Heilongjiang Province. He grew up in the terror of domestic violence inflicted by his father. At the age of 20, he contracted tuberculosis, with cavities in both lungs. He coughed up blood and was very sick and skinny. Life was very miserable for him.
Mr. Sun and his wife started practicing Falun Gong in 1997 and all his illnesses disappeared soon afterwards. Just as his family enjoyed the happiness, the CCP suddenly launched an unprecedented nationwide persecution of Falun Gong on July 20, 1999.
Like tens of thousands of other Falun Gong practitioners, Mr. Sun stepped forward to speak up with no fear of the brutal suppression.
While serving the lengthy 19-year term in Lanzhou Prison, Gansu Province, he was subjected to all kinds of torture and abuse, including being locked up in solitary confinement in a small dark room, shackled with heavy chains, long-term sleep deprivation, freezing in cold weather, food deprivation, tortured on Tiger Bench, tied to the death bed and force-feeding. He suffered two fractured ribs and a concussion from the beating.
Having survived the hellish torture and incarceration, Mr. Sun was released on August 21, 2021. He recounted his story below and how his faith in Falun Gong helped him pull through his darkest period in prison.
Taking Up Falun Gong
My name is Sun Zhaohai. I was born in 1968. Both my parents worked full-time. I am the second of four children in my family. I was always considered more mature than my peers, ever since I was young.
I always enjoyed reading as a child and started to read classical novels when I was a third-grader, even though I could not recognise all the characters in what I was reading. I would read any book I could lay my hands on and spent all my pocket money buying or renting books to read. I was like a bookworm and read whenever I could.
I was fascinated by the righteous characters in ancient novels such as Three Heroes and Five Gallants, The Legend of Yue Fei, The Investiture of the Gods, and Stories Old and New. From the books, I learned about traditional Chinese culture and the values of “Benevolence, Righteousness, Courtesy, Wisdom, and Faith,” as well as being “gentle, courteous, and thrifty.” All these subtly influenced my character of being loyal and just, honest and trustworthy.
However, ever since I can remember, my family had always lived in the terror of domestic violence. My father was bad-tempered and alcoholic. He would beat us and my mother whenever he was in a bad mood.
When I was 12, I was so scared of being beaten by my father for even a small mistake that I ran away from home and went to live with some relatives in the countryside. I didn’t return until more than two months later. Perhaps my father was worried that I would run away again, and hasn’t beaten me since.
My mother was often abused by my father and couldn’t see any hope in life. She tried to commit suicide by drinking pesticide. Fortunately, she was saved. When I was about 18 years old, I began to protect my mother. Every time my father tried to beat my mother, I would pull her behind me. They began to live separately under one roof. In 1990, my father became seriously ill. My mother took good care of him with no complaints until he passed away.
I had an unhappy childhood. When I was in junior high school, I was already quite independent. I often wondered where human beings came from and why were we here. Although I had read many books, such questions remained unanswered.
In 1985, I was 17 years old and graduated from junior high school. I found a job at Jiamusi Friendship Sugar Factory. I studied on the job and earned a high school equivalency diploma in 1988 at the age of 20. Just when my life began to turn around, I ran a fever for more than a month. I went to the hospital and was diagnosed with type 3 tuberculosis. I was given anti-tuberculosis drugs and put on an IV drip in the factory hospital. I became very weak and skinny, always feeling sick and short of breath.
By the autumn of 1989, I had cavities in both lungs and had started to cough up blood. Moving even a little bit made me short of breath, and I was in a tuberculosis hospital for two months. Although the disease was under control, it relapsed every year with a slight cold and fever, accompanied by tuberculous pleurisy. At that time in China, tuberculosis was incurable. Although I was 1.72m (5′ 8″) tall, I weighed less than 50 kg (110 lbs.)
I got married in 1994. My wife and I got on very well and we cherished each other. Our financial situation was not bad, either. In 1996, I was transferred to the Economic Police Squad where I worked.
A female colleague introduced me to Falun Gong in March 1997. She had spent a fortune learning other qigong schools before, but she said Falun Gong was a true cultivation practice. She told me to buy the book Zhuan Falun (the main text of Falun Gong) and that I would understand all after reading the book. I was really surprised that she gave up what she learned before so quickly and switched to Falun Gong with such a determination.
In early April that year, my wife and I went shopping on our day off and bought a copy of Zhuan Falun at a bookstall. When I got home, I couldn’t wait to read the book and I spent three hours browsing through it.
I felt very emotional while reading the book and tears kept running down my face. At long last, I found what I was searching, and Zhuan Falun answered all the questions I had as a teenager. I understood that the meaning of life is to return to one’s true self. Falun Gong is wonderful!
Two or three days later, my wife and I joined a local exercise group and group Fa study. On the eighth day, when I finished the exercises in the morning and was about to go home, I felt some sharp pain in my chest and back. The pain was so intense that I couldn’t straighten my back. I was not scared because I knew that the bad things in my body were being removed. I didn’t tell anyone and walked home slowly, with my back bent forward.
In three minutes, the pain suddenly stopped. My tuberculosis disappeared since then, my body was purified and I felt so good.
Nothing Could Shake My Faith
I had a miserable childhood and a painful youth, yet Falun Gong wiped away all my sufferings. Just as I was basking in the joy of practicing Falun Gong, the environment changed.
On July 20, 1999, after hearing from fellow practitioners that the government was planning to ban Falun Gong that day, more than a dozen of us decided to go to Beijing to appeal for the right to practice it.
On the train to Beijing, some fellow practitioners were taken off the train by the police, leaving seven of us to continue our journey. Before the train left Heilongjiang Province, many Falun Gong practitioners from other areas were also stopped by the police and taken back to their hometowns. Upon hearing that the police were searching very carefully for Falun Gong practitioners at the Beijing Railway Station, we got off the train at Sanhe City in Hebei Province, the nearest city to Beijing, and divided into three groups to go to Beijing by bus.
Around 3 p.m. on July 22, we saw some Falun Gong practitioners gathered outside the Sanhe Municipal Government, and a speaker began to broadcast the government notice to ban Falun Gong. Mr. Zheng Libin (who had since passed away due to the persecution) and I stopped and listened. But we did not talk to the local Falun Gong practitioners there.
We heard that many Falun Gong practitioners in Beijing had been arrested in the past few days and I became very worried and anxious. Before reaching Beijing, our bus passed two checkpoints and was checked by armed police both times. The weather was sultry and hot, and I was anxious to get to Beijing as soon as possible.
It was around 5 p.m. by the time we arrived in Beijing. We went to Tiananmen Square which was heavily patrolled by plainclothes police everywhere. The atmosphere was very tense, but I had no fear.
It was past 7 p.m. when we arrived in the hotel near the Temple of Earth. I felt a bit anxious and wasn’t sure what to do. My only thought was to get in touch with Beijing practitioners as soon as possible to figure out what to do.
In early August 1999, a sharing conference was held at an abandoned pagoda on the mountain near Nanshangle Village in Fangshan District of Beijing. Around 200 Falun Gong practitioners managed to attend the conference, and most of them were from northern China. The purpose of the conference was to discuss what to do under the high pressure from the regime.
Many practitioners shared their understandings and what they had seen or heard in recent times. We reached a consensus to encourage more practitioners to step forward. During the conference, we also did the Dafa exercises together.
When the plainclothes police came up to the mountain to check things out, we spread out and quickly left. A number of practitioners were unfortunately arrested.
After the Fa conference in Beijing, I went back to my hometown, shared ideas with some local practitioners, and went to Beijing again. My wife resigned from her work, borrowed some money and went to Beijing with me.
Around 7 p.m. on September 24, 1999, the Mid-Autumn Festival, some armed police broke into our rented house in the suburb of Beijing after our phone calls were monitored. More than a dozen practitioners were also arrested and taken to Sanjianfang Police Station for interrogation. A number of male practitioners, including me, were beaten by the police.
We were then taken to Chaoyang District Detention Centre. As my wife and another practitioner were pregnant, they were taken back to our hometown in Jiamusi.
Yin Haizhu (a fellow practitioner) and I were locked up together at Chaoyang Detention Centre, where the living condition was very poor. It was very crowded and we had to sleep on our side like packed sardines.
Four days later, staff members from the Jiamusi Liaison Office in Beijing came to the detention centre and took me back to Jiamusi. I was handcuffed on the train for around 27 hours and taken directly to the local police station upon arrival.
I would like to mention something miraculous. When I was arrested in Beijing, I put all the Falun Gong books and materials of the fellow practitioners who were sharing the rental place in my travel bag, and brought them with me from the police station to the detention centre, then back to my hometown.
On our way to the local police station, I happened to see my younger brother on the way. I asked the police to wait for me and I handed the bag to my brother.
In fact, I had a chance to escape on the train earlier, but I didn’t because I could not leave the bag with Falun Gong books behind. Maybe because I had a pure heart to protect the books, I was able to pass them to my younger brother.
On October 1, 1999, I was taken to Jiamusi City Detention Centre. There were fifteen or six people in our cell, including five or six practitioners. We were given two meals a day with steamed corn flour buns and salty thin turnip soup. It took me a while to be able to eat such rough food.
My younger sister, through some connection, brought a police officer to the detention centre. The officer told me that if I wrote a “guarantee statement” to give up Falun Gong practice, I would be released. I refused to do so.
Two Years of Torturous Forced Labor
The Jiamusi Forced Labor Camp in Heilongjiang Province was located in Xigemu Township, covering an area of more than 130,000 square meters. The labor camp was affiliated with the Judicial Bureau of Jiamusi City.
In order to persecute Falun Gong, the Jiamusi Party Committee and the municipal government built two new buildings for the labor camp, which were equipped with modern surveillance facilities. The building for the women’s division was put to use in the fall of 2000. It had a total area of 12,000 square meters on three floors.
In late October, 1999, I heard from the loudspeaker in our cell that I was fired from my workplace (the sugar factory).
On November 3, 1999, thirteen female Falun Gong practitioners and four male practitioners including me were taken to a “public trial” held in Jiamusi Cultural Palace, supervised by heads from the public security department, the procuratorate, the court, and the local 610 Office. Shortly after, we were given forced labor camp terms between one to three years for the crime of “disturbing social order.” I was given two years.
My first meal at Jiamusi Forced Labor Camp was dark flour buns, with thin soup made of unwashed frozen pumpkin cut into large pieces. There was no bowl to eat with, and we had to squat around the basin to eat. At the bottom of the basin was a layer of mud.
The labor camp had two brigades, and each had three squadrons. I was first taken to the training team with Mr. Du Wenfu, Mr. Liu Junhua and Mr. Wu Chunlong (Mr. Du and Mr. Wu have passed away due to persecution) and later to Squadron 4 of Division 2. In the summer of 2000, after construction of women’s labor camp began, we were ordered to carry construction materials there.
One day in late fall, one-third of the thirty-six Falun Gong practitioners detained in the labor camp escaped. The incident shocked the authorities. Mr. Jia Yongfa from Hebei Forestry Bureau was recaptured the same night. He was brutally beaten by the guards for several days, and continued to suffer persecution while in detention. He passed away soon after he was released.
Because of this incident, we were taken back to the men’s labor camp, where the guards established a team to try to forcibly “transform” us. The head of the education department tried to brainwash us with propaganda against Falun Gong, but to no avail.
In the winter, I was locked up alone in a cell, which was very damp and cold, and the floor was covered with ice where it was wet. I was on my own most of the time, watched over by two inmates assigned by the police. When I needed to use the toilet at night time, I had to call out and asked them to open the door for me. Sometimes I went to the laundry room and poured cold water over me, as to relieve my depression.
A month later, a kind-hearted guard whose wife is a Falun Gong practitioner proposed to move me to a different cell, saying that I had been detained there for too long and it was inhumane. Simply because he showed some sympathy, he lost the opportunity for promotion. Another ten odd days later, I was transferred to a relatively warmer cell, accompanied by a former practitioner who had been “transformed” under pressure.
Two days before the Chinese New Year in 2001, I was moved to a big cell shared with nearly twenty people. All of them were former practitioners who had been “transformed.” Because I often reasoned with them, I was transferred to Brigade 2, where the inmates were non-practitioners. During the day, they went to work and I stayed in the cell. Once, while I was doing the exercises, brigade leader Wang Tiejun walked in and slapped my face.
When my term was due on September 30, 2001, I was not released. I told them that it was illegal for them to extend my term and that they would bear the consequences.
To protest, I hit my head against the wall and my head was bleeding. This alarmed them, and they released me on October 3 that year.
Two years with no freedom was far too long. The hellish life took a devastating toll on me both physically and mentally. I worried most about my mother, who had become bedridden after suffering from a stroke in 1998. I failed to fulfill my responsibility to take care of her. My younger brother and his wife were caring for my mother, but neither of them had a job. My wife earned only a few hundred yuan a month, so our family’s financial situation was very tight.
Forced to Divorce
After my release, the Jiamusi City 610 Office put me on their blacklist. To avoid further harassment, I was forced to live away from home right after the Chinese New Year in 2002. I rented an apartment by myself. At night, the scary police sirens often kept me awake, and I knew that Falun Gong practitioners were in danger of being unlawfully arrested at any time.
On April 20, 2002, practitioners in Jiamusi successfully intercepted TV signals to broadcast videos about Falun Gong. Even though I wasn’t involved, I was viewed as an “important” target for my steadfast faith in the practice.
That day, I was having dinner with my wife at a restaurant to celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary, and we planned to celebrate my thirty-fourth birthday in a few days, but we never made it. Since that day, we never saw each other again for nearly twenty years, and when we met again, the former loving couple had become strangers.
To avoid being arrested, I decided to leave my hometown. In July 2002, I heard that because the police didn’t find me in a mass arrest in our city, they arrested my wife and took her to the detention centre, where she was detained for two months.
Under the pressure from her workplace and her family, she gave up practicing Falun Gong and divorced me without my knowledge. In order to verify that she had indeed given up Falun Gong, her manager at work forced her to drink alcohol (Falun Gong practitioners do not drink) at a dinner party until she became very drunk.
(To be continued.)
Chinese version available