Activist Lawyer Cheng Yuan subjected to forced labour and political indoctrination in Hunan prison

A founder of Changsha Funeng, a humanitarian NGO, Cheng is forced to work with a sewing machine and attend courses on the superiority of socialism. He was recently subjected to solitary confinement for three months. In his prison, guards regularly abuse and torture political prisoners.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Cheng Yuan, a human rights lawyer, has been subjected to forced labour and political indoctrination in a Hunan prison, his family told ChinaAid based on letters he sent them.

Cheng is a founder of Changsha Funeng, a human rights NGO run by lawyers. Police arrested him in July 2019 along with two other members on charges of subversion against state power.

In July last year, a court in Changsha sentenced him to five years in prison. A few months before the verdict, his wife fled to the United States.

For more than 10 years, Changsha Funeng has advocated for the rights of marginalised groups and people with health issues, like those living with HIV and hepatitis B and the disabled.

In the past, Cheng fought against China’s one-child policy and for the reform of residency rules that determine whether migrant workers can get medical treatment and enroll their children in schools.

In letters to his wife, father and sister, Cheng says that he was forced to work with a sewing machine, and that every evening he has to take an hour-long lesson on the superiority of socialism and China’s great “revival”.

He also says that he spent three months in punitive confinement starting 18 January. The loss of contact with his family was so traumatising that he lost six kilos.

Conditions in Chishan prison, where Cheng is being held, can be very harsh for activists, ChinaAid reports.

Detainees are forced to walk with their feet in a V-shape, like ducks, until they are exhausted; their windowless cells measure one-square metre with the light turned on for 24 hours with a roll call every hour.

Prisoners are also forced to sleep in a certain position, laying on their back and hands outside the comforter.

In such a prison, solitary confinement is imposed on prisoners who make mistakes or for refusing to plead guilty during their trial.

Prison guards reportedly engage in physical violence, abuse and torture against inmates, including insults, sleep deprivation and denial of food.