XIN LU | BITTER WINTER

The Church of Almighty God (CAG) is the most persecuted single religious movement in China whose members are often tortured during detention, the police forcing them to disclose information about the Church or sign statements renouncing their faith.

Starved for 82 days

“I felt that I was dying from starvation, often dreamt at night that I was eating. If the walls were not covered with soft materials, I would have sought death by knocking my head against them,” a CAG member from the central province of Henan recounted to Bitter Winter her sufferings in prison.

Seven years ago, 21 years old at the time, she was arrested and later sentenced to four years in prison, charged with “organizing and using a xie jiao organization to undermine law enforcement.”

Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code states that being active in a xie jiao organization may result in a prison sentence of three to seven years. The article is often used to convict members of religious groups that have been included in the list of the xie jiao.

During her detention, the woman refused to wear a tag that specified her conviction because she believed it to be blasphemous. Angered prison guards ordered her cellmates to strip the believer naked, and then they locked her up in a small cell used to torture detainees. The walls and floor inside are specially designed to prevent prisoners from committing suicide when they can no longer bear torture-inflicted pain.

“Every day, I was given only a steamed bun slightly bigger than an egg and a scoop of soup with some vegetables to eat. Guards would just dump the food instead of giving it to me,” the woman remembered, adding that she felt so hungry that she would rummage through rubbish bins looking for food, but guards would not permit that.

Starved and exhausted, she had to endure intensive physical punishments throughout the day. Guards would force her to stand at attention, march in military-style goose steps, do squats, or torture her otherwise. They also instructed other inmates to beat and abuse her.

After 82 days of malnutrition, the woman lost a lot of weight and stopped having her periods. She continued to feel anemic even after her release from prison.

Viciously beaten, subjected to electric shock torture

“Your membership in The Church of Almighty God means breaking the law. If you don’t admit this, we’ll beat you to death,” a CAG member from Chongqing, a municipality in southwest China directly administered by the central government, remembered how the police threatened him during an interrogation in May last year.

He was detained at a secret interrogation center in a desolate and uninhabited area for more than two months. The police beat and kicked him, slapped him on the face, and struck him with a stick until it broke into pieces.

Unable to bear extreme pain, he knocked his head against the bed, attempting to end his life. But police officers ignored his agony and continued beating him until he passed out.

His whole body was covered in cuts and wounds, and his feet were so swollen that he could not put on his shoes. Regardless, he was confined to a tiger bench – an iron torture device on which victims are forced to sit with their knees tied together – for three days and nights, not being allowed to close his eyes and forced to watch propaganda videos slandering the CAG.

The man still suffers from the trauma of torture. He often wakes up from nightmares, and his memory has deteriorated.

Even elderly CAG members are not spared. In October, a nearly 60-year-old CAG believer from the eastern province of Jiangsu was subjected to electric shock torture. The police used electric batons to shock her armpits, legs, and feet. The woman was in so much pain that she screamed, and her body trembled all over. Police officers then strapped her mouth with a strip of cloth and continued to torture her.

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