In 2001, Frank Zhao was kidnapped from his house near Shanghai by special police for practising Falun Gong and for informing people about its persecution in China. He was held in detention without trial for a month following which he was handed a paper sentencing him to two years in a 're-education thru labor' camp.
The torture he suffered during that time was unspeakable but he survived – many do not. Frank talked to The Epoch Times about his experience and why he continued to speak out about the persecution in China when he knew the consequences could be so severe.
When they started trawling the streets and houses for Falun Gong practitioners in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics, Frank Zhao knew that he would have to leave China. He had already been in a labor camp once before and he knew that he could not go through it again.
“They were looking for me, the 6-10, they were looking for me and my wife, and I felt in danger of being kidnapped again, so we had no choice.”
He is not sure why he was so lucky, but he managed to flee tot Australia and, once there, applied for refugee status.
He says the Refugee Tribunal so far has been sympathetic.
“I had a lot of things to explain to them because sometimes they cannot understand about this persecution. It’s too cruel to believe – they can’t understand.”
Again, lucky for Frank, he had managed to keep a set of papers that verified he had been in a labour camp in Shanghai for two years.
“When I was going home from the labor camp, the local police asked me to their office and asked me for the paper. I know they don’t want me to have any evidence of this period of time in the labor camp,” Frank explained.
He hid the papers, he said, knowing they would be useful as evidence
The other papers with his sentence, a sentence which talked about his breaking the law and making society unstable, and included a lot of slander of Falun Gong – along with all his possessions, including his computer and the receipt for his possessions that were seized, were taken from him and never returned.
Frank had started to practise Falun Gong in 1996 while he was a student at university.
His health was not good at the time, he said, and he had tried all sorts of methods to improve his stamina, including running, swimming and exercise. He was also chronically anxious about his future.
“In Mainland China, most of the people are worrying about their future, their jobs, their positions in society…and do many bad things to others just to gain more for themselves.”
Frank said he felt like he was becoming like that too.
When he started to practise Falun Gong, however, his health improved and he began to see things differently.
“I know I am alive and I am not chasing the material [things]. [I know] that there is more than the material [things] and I knew it was to be a good person following Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance. I am leading a very, very happy life.”
That happiness, however, was resented in China and for Frank, like many thousands of other Falun Gong practitioners, it was severely challenged with his kidnapping by the 6-10 office agents in 2001. He was 28.
“It was one night when I was alone at home; they broke into my room and took all my things away. They took me to a detention place for one month, then I received a kind of sentence saying I was breaking the law…and sentencing me to two years in labor camp.”
Speaking the truth
At the time, he was working for a leading telecom provider (Huawei, China’s largest telco) on good pay and in a good position, but the guards in the detention centre told him his life was finished and if he did not renounce Falun Gong, he would spend the rest of his life in a labor camp.
No one knows exactly how many labor camps there are in China, but Frank knows there are at least three for men in and around Shanghai as he was put in No 1 Labor Camp just outside Shanghai first and then, in 2002, was moved to No 3 Labor Camp in the suburbs of Shanghai.
'Re-education thru labor' camps differ from jails only in the fact that the latter usually require sentencing in a court, Frank said. There are also separate labor camps for drug addicts. Frank said the camp he went to first was specially set up for Falun Gong practitioners and was full of young, well-educated males, many of whom were masters or doctorate graduates.
He estimates that the camp held around 100 men, but says it was hard to tell as so many seemed to come and go.
He does not like to talk about what went on in the camp, saying there are still things he has not told his family, as he knows it would upset them.
He said they had special treatment for Falun Gong practitioners and one of them was to make him sit on a hard stool from 4am till 2am the next morning for days. He said the blood, sweat and clothes all stuck together and that his “body hurt badly”.
He mentions the electric baton, but is not keen to continue, saying instead that he was moved around to different sections of the camp, which had specialist groups that would try different methods of torture to get him to renounce Falun Gong.
He spoke about the variety of products he was forced to work on in the labor camp, describing the “many, many men’s suits” he had to work on and the electric light bulbs that were 110 volts. In China, they use 220 volts, so he knew they were for export, most likely to America, he said.
When Frank was asked, as so many people do ask, why he had not just done his exercise and meditation at home, quietly, without anyone knowing and why he had continued to tell people about Falun Gong, knowing he could be snatched by the 610 office, Frank stopped and said quietly: “Yeah, yeah, at the beginning, I had the same idea because in China, the persecution is so hard and I do have a fear. So at the beginning, I practised at home.”
“But that kind of life is not what I am looking for,” he said. “I cannot live a life like that – it makes me very unhappy because I know Falun Gong is good, following Truthfulness Compassion and Endurance is not wrong. It is what every sentient being should follow.”
“Mainland China is full of “so many lies, propagandas from the Chinese Communist Party”, he explained. “But I just can’t lie to myself. I can’t live the rest of my life lying to myself. It is not normal. A human being cannot live like that, so I must tell people about the truth.”
The 610 office was set up in 1999 solely to oversee the persecution of Falun Gong. Besides its central office in Beijing, the '610 Office' has branches in Chinese cities, villages, governmental agencies, institutions, and schools. In terms of its establishment, structure, reporting mechanism, operation and founding mechanism, it is an organization that is allowed to exist outside of the established framework of the CCP and the Chinese government. The power it has far exceeds that which is officially authorized under the Chinese constitution and other laws; furthermore, it is free from national budgetary constraints.
The '610 Office' has full control over any issue that has to do with Falun Gong, and is an organization that Jiang Zemin, the former leader of Communist China used personally and privately to persecute Falun Gong.
This organization does not have any legal basis. It is very similar to Nazi Germany’s Gestapo and the 'Central Committee of the Cultural Revolution' during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.