The family of a late human rights and pro-democracy activist is grieving after officials in China's central Hubei province dissected his body against their will, removing his heart and brain.
According to persecution watchdog China Aid, Peng Ming, 62, died in prison in Hubei earlier this month while serving a life sentence on falsified accusations of organizing and leading a terrorist organization, kidnapping and possessing counterfeit money.
Peng's family was informed he collapsed while watching television and remained unresponsive despite resuscitation attempts. China Aid notes that Peng suffered from heart disease and other ailments, including kidney stones, for which was denied treatment while in prison.
However, his family was not given an official cause of death, prompting them to demand an independently conducted autopsy by an international medical professional. Many expressed doubt over the official version of events, particularly given the fact that Peng's older brother visited him as recently as November 24, Thanksgiving Day, and reported that he appeared to be in good health.
However, they were horrified when, last week, they learned authorities had violated their will by opening him up and confiscating his heart and brain. In addition, the family said that government personnel retracted an agreement permitting four chosen representatives of Peng's overseas family to attend his funeral, saying that only his elder daughter could attend.
"For two weeks, we family members dried our tears in silence," the family said in a statement. "Of course, we know, we are fragile eggs facing the high wall of despotism. In order to express our anger and protest, we decided unanimously that none of Peng Ming's overseas family will attend the farewell ceremony on the mainland."
The family added that Peng's imprisonment and subsequent death "has been directed single-handedly by the despotic government of China".
"[They] left Peng Ming's body (the parts of it that accurately remained) in the prison he spent 12 years' of his life, letting him wear out the Communist Party's prison floor," they wrote.
According to Radio Free Asia, in the 1980s and 1990s Peng, a Christian, established organizations and publications advocating for development and democratic reform. After 18 months' detention in 1999-2000, he fled to Thailand and then to the Bay Area in California where he continued his work. In May 2004, Peng travelled to Thailand to visit his parents and crossed into Burma, from where he was illegally transported to China. Shortly thereafter, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
China is ranked 33rd on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution. Nevertheless, a Purdue University study that found the country is on course to become the world's "most Christian nation" by 2030.