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Surviving an Assassination Attempt in Prison

November 16, 2011

[Translation and Abridgment by Human Rights in China]

While serving time in Shandong’s Tengzhou Prison, at one point I lost contact with my family for 140 days. On October 19, 2009, I called my wife, Jiao Xia, and told her the “mystery of my disappearance” in the Tengzhou Prison. As it turned out, during this time, I had suffered an assassination attempt in the Tengzhou Prison. I did not make the call from the Tengzhou Prison, but from the Zaozhuang Prison [after being transferred there].

Jiao Xia recalled that the last time that we were in touch was in early June, but heard nothing from me thereafter. My younger brother went to prison to visit me in late June, but was unable to see me. Since then, my family lived in constant worry. They had no idea whether I was alive or dead.

Over the phone, I recounted for my wife the details of my “near-death encounter” in prison. Since arriving in the Tengzhou Prison on August 8, 2008, I have been cruelly persecuted and inhumanly tortured by prison authorities. One of my right ribs was broken during a beating; I hardly had enough to eat; I had to work more than 20 hours [a day] in an underground mine. From the strenuous labor, my left big toe, both my knees, and my back have been seriously ruined. Because of this, I could hardly walk.

I have personally experienced the darkness in the Tengzhou Prison. I saw a 20-year-old inmate work so hard in the mine that he coughed up blood. I also saw that, due to the dangerous and harsh work in the mines, the hands and feet of many inmates were covered in wounds or completely deformed. Some have died because their illnesses and injuries were left untreated.

I saw the inmates were subjected to such intense labor in the mine that it borders on cruelty. Each shift of inmates are expected to mine more than 20 tons of coal. Inmates are now allowed to leave the mine shaft if the quota is not met. I saw inmates leaving the mines who are so exhausted when they come up that that they collapse or fall asleep in the dark alleys, completely unable to walk. I saw that after inmates die, their bodies were abandoned on the floor below the prison hospital; no one cared.

I saw an inmate, Wei Yanling, locked up in solitary confinement for more than ten months for talking back to the guards. When he was released, this man in his thirties was nothing but skin and bones, so frail the wind could blow him over— indeed he was on the verge of death. By contrast, the Prison Law clearly stipulates: Solitary confinement cannot exceed 15 days.

I saw inmates working so hard so that prison officials can fatten their own pockets. Inmates only earn 20 fen (about $.03) a day. And what can you buy with 20 fen? A bun? One minute of air time on a mobile phone? A trip to the public toilet? In the city, you cannot even buy a newspaper with 20 fen!

In prison, I also heard this wise saying. On March 17, 2009, at around 7 p.m., some 2,000 inmates were gathered in the prison yard for a lecture. Apparently, three inmates got into a fight, which disturbed prison order. The fight infuriated Deputy Warden Zhang Xingxin. At the podium Zhang, without holding back, said: “Outside, you pretended to be thugs, and you fought, and you got thrown in here. Now inside, you continue to fight. You think you’re tough? You’re black [thug-like]? You’re black? Yes, you’re black. You’re even blacker than the Communist Party!” As he proclaimed it on the podium, the 2,000 prisoners roared below.

After this incident, for a long time, the Tengzhou inmates would joke when they saw one another: “Are you black? You’re even blacker than the Communist Party!” And then, they would burst out in laughter.

I wrote down the above incidents in a 300,000- character record, a series of articles that included “A Survey into the Life of Prisoners,” “The Anticorruption Reporter’s Prison Hunger Strike,” and “The Tragic Existence of the Tengzhou Prison Inmates.” But a fellow inmate reported the existence of my manuscript, and on April 30, 2009, Liu Huanyong, the prison guard, searched my cell and confiscated it.

My articles exposed the dark secrets of prison. To cover up the truth, prison officials decided to put a “contract” on me. After I went into the mine on May 3, Liu Huanyong, the prison guard, arranged for an inmate named Zhai Fengqiang to do me in.

In a mine shaft 130 meters underground, the merciless killer knocked me down. Blood gushed out, and my whole face became a bloody mass.

I passed out.

I do not know how long it took, but two inmates found me, rushed me to the surface, and saved me from death. Otherwise, Qi Chonghuai would have died in that mine shaft 130 meters below the surface. However, even on the surface, I remained unconscious. It was not until May 6 that I finally opened my eyes.

Unconscious for four days, do you know what that is like? Anyone with common sense would know that my life hung by a thread! It was sheer luck that I woke up! If I did not, then I would have forever left this world!

After regaining consciousness, I found that the left side of my face was badly mangled and my left arm was swollen and could not move. As for what had happened over the past few days? And who beat me up? I had no idea. I cannot remember.

Other inmates told me that on May 3, someone had tried to kill me. Two inmates from my shift saved me and brought me to the surface. My assassin was an inmate called Zhai Fengqiang. He was directed by the prison guard Liu Huanyong—Zhai Fengqiang is his hitman.

Other inmates also told me: while unconscious, Liu Huanyong arranged for someone to give me drugs— in capsule form. Probably to induce amnesia.

On May 7, with my body covered in wounds, Liu Huanyong ordered me to go down to the mine to work. On May 8, enduring the aches in my body, I wrote an application asking to meet the procuratorate representative at the prison. I wanted my attacker Zhai Fengqiang and his puppetmaster, Liu Huanyong, punished for their crimes.

But I received no response. No one cared that someone had tried to do in Qi Chonghuai.

On June 9, I submitted another written request and strongly demanded to meet the procuratorate to report Liu Huanyong’s criminal acts.

Not only did the prison officials ignore me. In the face of my legitimate request, they also tried new ways to harm me. Around 8 a.m. on June 15, just as I exited the mine shaft after a ten hour shift, I was thrown into solitary confinement by Liu Huanyong for no apparent reason. I asked: Why put me in solitary confinement? No one responded.

Around 2 p.m. later that day, I was released from solitary confinement, then shackled and secretly transferred to Zaozhuang Prison in Shandong.