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This Street in Shanghai Used to Protect Jews Hiding From Hitler. Now It Holds Religious Prisoners

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Leo Timm  |  Epoch Times

The front entrance to Tilanqiao Prison in Shanghai. (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The front entrance to Tilanqiao Prison in Shanghai. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

During World War II, 20,000 German Jews fleeing imminent persecution and extermination found refuge in the “Paris of the Orient”—the popular nickname for Shanghai at the time. They resided in an international settlement centered along Changyang Road, located near the mouth of the Yangtze River.

The story of the Holocaust and those fortunate enough to ride it out in Republican China is recorded in the exhibitions at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. Vintage photos and artifacts on display, as well as educational videos playing on screens at the former synagogue keep the memory of the Shoah fresh in contemporary minds.

But right across the street, in the Tilanqiao Prison, a similar horror is still being played out.

In 1999, when the Communist Party deemed tens of millions of adherents of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline to be state enemies, many of them would end up being incarcerated at Tilanqiao, known as the “Alcatraz of the Orient.” The brutality behind its gates is over a decade’s worth of spiritual struggle between a communist political campaign and the freedom to choose one’s faith.

Though no Chinese law bans Falun Gong, millions of adherents have been jailed in the over sixteen years of the campaign against them. Torture, forced labor, and brainwashing are common punishments for practicing Falun Gong, and researchers say that hundreds of thousands have been murdered in Chinese military hospitals for their organs.

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Images from the prison (Minghui)

While tight control by the Chinese authorities makes investigation difficult, a picture of the persecution of Falun Gong at the Tilanqiao facility can be gleaned from reports published on Minghui, a Falun Gong website that documents the repression.

Zhao Bin, a businessman from Shandong Province who practiced Falun Gong, died within two month of being detained at Tilanqiao Prison, Shanghai, on Oct. 19, 2013.

It is not known how many Falun Gong adherents have been held in Tilanqiao, and how many have lost their lives as a result, but reports indicate that they have been held there since the early 2000s and continue to suffer torture there as of 2015.

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