A member of The Church of Almighty God recounts three years and six months in detention where he was forced to eat cockroaches and banned from the toilet for days.
by Deng Jie
The Church of Almighty God (CAG) is a Chinese Christian new religious movement that has been severely persecuted by the regime for years. After Church members are arrested, they are often subjected to brutal torture to disclose information about the CAG or renounce their faith.
24/7 surveillance by prison thugs
Li Gang (we use a pseudonym to protect his identity) was arrested for practicing his religion five years ago and imprisoned for three years and six months on the charge of “organizing and using a xie jiao organization to undermine the law enforcement.” He served his time in a prison in the southern province of Guangdong, where he was held in a special cellblock designated for political prisoners.
He told Bitter Winter that guards had arranged an inmate serving a term on criminal charges to lead a team of prisoners who were to supervise him 24-hours a day. Such a method, commonly referred to as a “double team,” is often employed by guards in prisons to intimidate prisoners of conscience: CAG members, Falun Gong practitioners, and human rights lawyers.
The “supervised” prisoners must obey the team leader and remain within three meters from him at all times. They must ask for permission for any action, be it eating, drinking water, using the toilet, changing clothes, sleeping, and even scratching an itch. Nothing can be done if not allowed by the leader.
“They could decide that I may only breathe, and nothing else,” Li remembered. “If I did not obey the leader’s demands, he would use violence against me. I could not speak or respond to anyone, or else I would be slapped hard on my face.”
Indoctrination and continuous beatings
To quash them mentally, CAG members are subjected to mandatory indoctrination to make them renounce their faith. Li told Bitter Winter that in the beginning, guards would make him memorize “The Standards for Being a Good Pupil and Child” (Di Zi Gui in Chinese, the ancient manual based on the teachings of Chinese philosopher Confucius) and prison regulations, watch videos defaming the CAG.
“Every evening, I was told to write down what I had learned from these books or videos while a TV played very loudly in the same room,” Li remembered another standard method used in China’s prisons to torture prisoners of conscience. “As time went on, I started hearing ringing sounds in my ears. After I was released, I learned that my hearing was affected severely, and I could not hear people speaking in slightly lower voices.”
He was also frequently beaten if guards didn’t like his written reports or for any other reason they would come up with. “Instructed by guards, the prisoners who supervised me once pulled me to a corner of my cell and tore up the paper I wrote about the videos. They slapped my face more than a dozen times,” Li said. He remembered that on the fourth day of “classes,” an inmate hit his face over 100 times. Beatings became an integral part of his life in prison: he was awakened by prisoners slapping him almost every morning.
Prohibited from using the toilet, forced to eat cockroaches
Li Gang’s punishment intensified with each day he refused to be “transformed.” “For about a month, the ‘team leader’ did not allow me to use the toilet in the daytime: I could only use it at night after all other inmates were asleep,” Li recalled the torture he suffered in prison. “I was not allowed to defecate for 16 consecutive days. The leader told me that I could not use the toilet because I am less than an animal.”
During these 16 days, he drank and ate very little, to ease the suffering of not being able to use the toilet. The torture has left a lasting impact on his health.
One of the worst torture Li Gang had experienced in prison was when he was forced to eat more than 100 cockroaches over two months. Sometimes, ten cockroaches a day, three or four in one go, and other times—alive cockroaches. “Some of the cockroaches were bigger than crickets,” Li recalled. “My inmate ‘supervisor’ caught a cockroach and put it into my mouth while it was still alive. He didn’t allow me to spit it out, threatening to beat me if I did. He then continued putting cockroaches into my mouth but would not let me swallow them. He wanted them to crawl in my mouth first, and only then was I told to chew the cockroaches thoroughly. The pungent taste made me nauseous. I was in unbearable distress.” The inmate threatened Li that he would have to eat all cockroaches in the room if he “did not study well.”