Artist Couple’s Happy Life Shattered by Imprisonment and Torture

He Wenting (R) and Huang Guangyu on their wedding day in 2012. (



July 5, 2019 Updated: July 5, 2019

All Huang Guangyu and He Wenting wanted to do after they got married was hone their craft as artists and practise their faith in peace.

Huang and He married in 2012 and set up home in a village near Guangzhou College Town in southern China. He was already an accomplished painter, having graduated from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts with a major in oil painting and going on to have his works exhibited several times.

Wenting (L) and Huang Guangyu. (
Wenting (L) and Huang Guangyu. (

His wife was a writer and poet, and although she hadn’t been formally trained in art, she had been painting from a young age and had studied for a time under famous painter Li Zhengtian.

They loved traditional Chinese culture and started to express it using Western oil painting techniques, all the while refining their talents.

Painting by Huang Guangyu. (
Painting by Huang Guangyu. (

But just two years after they married, they were sent to prison for raising awareness about the persecution campaign against Falun Gong—in particular,distributing information on how to bypass the Chinese regime’s internet blockade.

Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, is a Chinese spiritual discipline handed down from ancient times based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. On July 20, 1999, the Chinese Communist Party launched a brutal persecution campaign against adherents of the practice that continues today and has resulted untold suffering and death.

Painting by He Wenting. (
Painting by He Wenting. (

‘Everything Changed Overnight’

In December 2013, Huang and He were illegally arrested and their peaceful home ransacked. They were held in detention until the following August, when they were sentenced to a three-year prison term, shattering the young couple’s hopes and dreams.

Horrified by the situation in prison, He wanted to let the world know and began to secretly document on sheets of tissue paper the torture and humiliation she went through.

Depiction of force-feeding of a Falun Gong practitioner. (
Depiction of force-feeding of a Falun Gong practitioner. (

“A bright light hit the wall in front of me. Counting the days since I have been here, I felt as if I have shed many layers of skin already. Before I came here, I was in my warm, comfortable bed and had everything everyone envies: a happy marriage, an ideal job, a bright future, and I was expressing myself with my paintbrush. Everything changed overnight,” she wrote, according to“How I wanted to paint again, everything I have gone through: the feeding tube, the handcuffs, the iron window, the logo on the uniform! I saw clearly the bruises on my hands, the dried blood on my lips, my bare feet, the filth in my hair… tears run down my cheeks again.”

She described how she was put in a dark cell and handcuffed and shackled, and how it was so cold she couldn’t sleep at night.

The idea for this painting by Huang Guangyu came to him in a dream. (
The idea for this painting by Huang Guangyu came to him in a dream. (

“The bedding was very thin. I trembled due to the cold and could not sleep. A male guard was shouting outside: ‘No quilts for the Falun Gong [practitioner] who did not reveal her name!’”

She went on a hunger strike to protest her mistreatment and was brutally force-fed. Force-feeding of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience who undertake a hunger strike is common and becomes yet another form of torture. Some practitioners have died from force-feeding, according to Minghui.

“Every morning I was tied down for force-feeding. Five to six male guards and male inmates pinned me down on the bed and pushed the feeding tube through my nose. I almost passed out because of the excruciating pain, and constantly threw up. I heard my own agonizing screams. In the past, I only read about the force-feeding torture online, now I am experiencing it myself,” she wrote.

Nothing is known about Huang’s time in prison, but it’s very likely he experienced torture and abuse as well. According to the Falun Dafa Info Center, possibly the most prominent feature of the campaign against Falun Gong has been the prevalent use ofextreme torture. Minghui notes that of the more than 3,400 confirmed deaths of Falun Gong adherents in China between 1999 and 2016, the vast majority came from torture.

When He was released in November 2016, she managed to smuggle out the sheets of tissue paper she had used as a diary. Huang was also released at that time. Little is known about their lives since then.

Inside China’s secret brainwashing centers

Inside China’s secret brainwashing centers: ‘People only see what the government wants them to see’.

From the outside it looks like any other holiday village in China.
But hidden inside one of the region’s picturesque mountains is a dark and forbidding ‘brainwashing center’ where government officials routinely carry out horrific acts of abuse and torture on Falun Gong practitioners.
Falun Gong – a spiritual meditation based on the guiding principles of “truth, compassion and tolerance” – was outlawed as a “dangerous cult” by the ruling Communist party in 1999 because of its popularity.
The Chinese government has been mercilessly persecuting Falun Gong practitioners ever since by torturing, killing and locking them up in ‘black jails’ – a network of extra-legal labor camps and detention centers established by the Communist Party to detain citizens without charge or conviction.

Detainees who don’t agree upon arrest to change their beliefs are sent to brainwashing centers for “re-education” where they are immersed in propaganda and brutally tortured physically and psychologically until they sign a waiver renouncing their beliefs. It’s a government-run system so secret it doesn’t even officially exist. The goal: To wipe out Falun Gong.
Some of those who escaped persecution and resettled in Australia after being granted refugee status have shared their shocking stories with in a bid to expose the scale and severity of the human rights abuses in China and help bring them to an end.

Mr. Jintao Liu
Mr. Jintao Liu

Chemical technology student Jintao Liu, 36, was first taken to the mountain in an unknown location after police found Falun Gong books on his computer in November 2006. “They took photos of the Falun Gong books as evidence of my ‘crime’ and took me to the brainwashing center,” Mr. Liu told It was dark when he arrived.
“Outside I didn’t know where I was, there was no sun or anything,” Mr. Liu said.

“The area looked like a holiday village. The center was inside a mountain, a room. They use some of the buildings and houses there. Outside people don’t know [what goes on inside].”

Inside the mountain, Mr. Liu lived in a tiny, pitch-black cell. He was let out only to be subjected to brainwashing techniques and torture.
“They force you to watch the videos that defame Falun Gong,” Mr. Liu said. “The videos use false cases or take the words out of the context to defame Falun Gong teachers or books.”
Mr. Liu stood defiant and refused to watch the videos during his stint in the facility.

“They have security there that would drag me to a room and force me to watch the videos,” he said. “People were assigned to watch me, monitor me, force me, say bad words to me, and abuse me all the time.”
Mr. Liu was made to get up early every morning and do exercises because they stopped him from “doing Falun Gong meditation”.
“After the brainwashing center they couldn’t change my belief so they moved me to a labor camp,” Mr. Liu said.
He was not charged or convicted of any crimes but would spend the next two years in captivity.

“After that they still continued brainwashing me, forcing me to watch the video to defame Falun Gong,” he said.
The dungeon Mr. Liu was held captive in was just one of many of China’s brainwashing facilities established in abandoned houses, disused governmental buildings, remote hotels, and purpose-built compounds.
According to witnesses the centers are often disguised as institutions including schools and detention centers or tucked away out of sight in suburban areas.

Some victims have reported being shocked with electric batons, hung up by their wrists, stretched by their limbs until they break, and left in agonizing pain for days as they are abused and taunted by guards, who promise that the torture will end if they simply give up their spiritual beliefs.

Ms. Xiao Chen
Ms. Xiao Chen

Falun Gong practitioner Xiao Chen, 43, was sent to a brainwashing center during a three-and-a-half-year stint in a forced labor camp where she was tortured for refusing to renounce her beliefs. She was imprisoned without charge or conviction and torn from her baby son.

Ms. Chen said officials put inmates through an intensive program of mental and physical torture that included beatings, prolonged interrogations, sleep deprivation and continuous exposure to video and audio propaganda.
“If we still refused to recant, we were sent to an isolated room,” Ms. Chen said.

“In the isolation room, you could not see the sunlight outside and we were forced to watch brainwashing videos against Falun Gong.
“We would spend the whole day inside, being brainwashed, forced to watch videos, punished by squatting and being deprived of sleep, for extended periods of time.

“They would not allow us to take any showers or anything for many days.
“I felt the police were too cruel, especially to us Falun Gong practitioners, as they would torture us until we died or had a mental breakdown.”
Grandmother Fengying Zhang, 66, had a similar patience when she was sent directly to a brainwashing center and severely tortured after being arrested in her home for practicing Falun Gong in 2014.

Ms. Zhang told she was “cursed at”, humiliated and tortured but that she never let the abuse break her or change her beliefs.
“The brainwashing center is like a black jail,” she said. “Those people never give up but it doesn’t work.”
Ms. Zhang said the government stopped referring to the facilities as “brainwashing centers” after international pressure mounted on China to stop carrying out abuses against human rights.
“They changed the name of the centers to ‘re-education’ but they do the same thing,” Ms. Zhang said. “If people outside China keep silent to such atrocities and human rights abuses then it’s actually assisting evil and is going to put their conscience to trial in the future.

“The human rights abuses aren’t only hurting the people in China, but also the whole world by threatening peace and human rights.”
Mr. Liu, Ms. Chen and Ms. Zhang still bare deep psychological scars from their experiences but are among the lucky ones who eventually escaped persecution in China and resettled in Australia. But they haven’t forgotten the thousands of imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners left behind and the millions of citizens affected by oppression.

The brainwashing and abuse extends well beyond the confines of the ‘re-education’ facilities’ walls, they said.
“There’s no freedom or free information,” Mr. Liu said. “All the media are state/government-controlled. So the media broadcasts the propaganda from the government.

“The education we all heard from childhood is about how great the communists are, how great the police are, how great the Chinese government is.
“So we grow up and we really believe that.”
Mr. Liu said it was only after he “personally experienced this torture by police [he] started to see the dark side of the communists”.

“When I was tortured in the detention center and labor camp, I was asking myself ‘why are the policeman so bad and so evil?’ And I started to see a different side to what was promoted in the media and education,” he said.
“In China the people only see what the government wants them to see. They can’t even get on social media, on Facebook. The Chinese people don’t know the real facts because the information is blocked. A lot of people are poisoned and deceived by the propaganda and the lies.
“And that’s why this persecution can continue.”