1. Yuhua Zhang — Falun Gong (China)
Zhang, who escaped from China in 2005, worked as a Russian language professor at Nanjing Normal University in China until she was expelled in 2002 after China began cracking down on members of Falun Gong, according to the State Department.
Zhang was arrested in 2011 and sent to a labor camp three different times. She spent a total of seven-and-a-half years in detention where she was severely tortured.
While speaking with reporters at the ministerial, Zhang said that not only was she forced to endure electric shocks but also faced sleep deprivation, forced drug injections and forced long-term standing.
Although she is now free, she says that her husband is still imprisoned.
“I really worry about him,” she said. “As many know, in China, the persecution of Falun Gong is [very brutal]. They are even force harvesting organs. I myself in prison was forced to take blood.”
Every three months, she said, her husband has blood taken from him.
Zhang elaborated further on her experience at the labor camps.
“When Falun Gong practitioners are sent to the prison, they first force you to give up Falun Gong,” she explained. “If you don’t say so, they begin torturing you. First they say, ‘You must think about your children and think about your wife and parents and so on. If this doesn’t change you, then they torture you physically.”
“For example, they didn’t allow me to go to bed or to sleep [in prison or labor camps]. In the room, there was no chair or nothing. You just stand there,” she said. “For me, they didn’t let me go to sleep … for [over a] week. They let you stand there until you cannot bear any more. Maybe you lose conscience and you say, ‘OK, I give up.’ Then, they let you sleep for one night.’”
Zhang said that it made her feel “humiliated” and as though she lost her “identity.”
“I have many cramps,” she added. “Many things they did to me I cannot even speak about.”
According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s most recent report, over 900 Falun Gong practitioners were arrested in 2018 for practicing their beliefs or distributing literature.