SAN FRANCISCO—It’s impossible to tell at a glance that Wang Liansu, a gently-spoken native of northeastern China now living in San Francisco, was brutally beaten and shocked with electric batons on multiple occasions during a 12-year incarceration.
“Some bruises remain,” he said, and directed me to touch his left rib. An egg-sized bump can be felt beneath the white cloth of his shirt.
In the evening of Oct. 22, Wang and over 1,500 other practitioners of Falun Gong from around the world gathered in front of the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco.
Seated nearly knee-to-knee in Laguna Street and along the sides of the consulate building, the practitioners lit candles in memory of the untold numbers killed in a brutal persecution that is now in its 17th year.
Jiang Zemin, the former Chinese leader, had vowed to “eliminate” Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline whose practitioners perform slow exercises and live by the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, in 1999. The regime’s propaganda apparatus mounted a Cultural Revolution-style hate campaign, and overnight about 70 to 100 million Chinese citizens found themselves targeted for arrest, detention, and torture.
In September 2001, Wang Liansu, then a 49-year-old mechanical engineer at a state-owned company, was printing literature aimed at exposing the propaganda about Falun Gong in a small print shop in Changchun, the capital of Jilin Province, when police barged in and arrested him.
While in detention, Wang’s minders subjected him to severe torture, sleep deprivation, and other forms of abuse in a bid to make him renounce Falun Gong.
Once, police officers tied him to a special metal chair and took turns beating him; when they grew tired, they shocked him with electric batons. “My privates were charred black, and I suffered heart palpitations,” he recalls.
On another occasion, Wang thought that he was finished after prison guards repeatedly shoved his head into a black plastic bag and choked him to the point of near death. Several times, Wang was tortured to the point where he required medical attention.
Despite the harshness of prison, Wang never once thought of giving up his faith. “I firmly believe that my adhering to truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance isn’t something wrong,” he said.
Wang once shared a cell with a practitioner who was beaten so badly that green bile dribbled out of his mouth, before he died the following day.
Wang Liansu was eventually released near the end of 2013. Last year, he secured travel documents to the United States—under fortuitous conditions— and was finally reunited with his wife and adult son.
After Wang left prison, he hoped to share his “12-year experience in the Chinese regime’s jails to the world’s people.”
Today, outside the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, he is doing precisely that.