Under CCP’s “transformation” program, CAG members are abused and tortured, until they sign the “three statements,” promising to give up their belief.
by Cai Congxin
In April 2019, the General Office of the CCP Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council issued the “Opinions on Strengthening and Improving Prison Work.” The document specially mentioned the reinforcement to transform members of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) and other religious groups, and demanded to “improve the transformation rate and consolidate the transformation results.” By “transformation,” the document means the “de-conversion,” or deprogramming, of religious devotees, who should confirm the success of the intervention by signing a statement that they renounce their belief. To complete the task, prison authorities often forced those religious members to give in under prolonged torture and mistreatment.
Tortured to the brink of death
“Other inmates were beaten for failing to complete their task, while I was beaten as unexpectable trouble came,” a CAG member from southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region told Bitter Winter, adding that he was repeatedly tortured and mistreated for refusing to sign a “statement of repentance” during his 3-year sentence term.
“Once, the cell boss ordered me to stand still as a soldier for disobeying the management [that is, refusing to sign the statement of repentance], and tightly wrapped a copper wire as thick as a little finger around my body five times,” he reported. He added that, after he was punished and compelled to stand for four hours, his hands turned blue and lost their consciousness. The marks gradually disappeared only two days later.
Due to the severe block of his blood circulation, a series of problems appeared in his body before long. His legs became swollen, and his hands were often numb and trembling, without strength to carry his rice bowl or twist his clothes, and even got numb and ached when touching cold water. Soon after that, his abdomen became also numb and unconscious, and felt no pain when being pinched hard. All his toenails fell off. Many prisoners predicted that he would not survive a year.
“Sometimes, when the bell rung [for muster], other inmates rushed to stand in line, while I could not stand up no matter how I struggled, even if I tried hard to lean on a desk. I felt greatly helpless,” the CAG member recalled.
Once, when he was late for muster because his feet were numb and ached, the cell boss covered his head with a trash bin in public, and only took it off five minutes later.
“Nasal mucus, sputum, and dirt fell from the bin on my face and body. The smell was really unbearable,” he reported. Instead of allowing him to make a clear-up, the cell boss forced him to stand in the scotching sun for four hours. Because he refused to sign the “three statements” of “repentance, guarantee, and break-up,” he was insulted this way more than once. “None of thousands of other inmates in the whole prison suffered such mistreatment,” he said, adding that his hands and feet are often numb to this day, and his hands tremble, unable to do heavy work.
“Sign, or you will be tortured”
Several other CAG members, who were released from prison this year, told Bitter Winter stories of how they were subjected to violent “transformation” in prison. Due to refusal to sign the “three statements,” a CAG member from the eastern province of Anhui who was sentenced to three years and six months in prison was sent to a “transformation through education” class in the prison. She was physically punished for eight hours on each of five consecutive days. She had to squat half with one leg forward and down with the other leg backward, while keeping her waist straight, her hands raised above her head, and her body unmoved. Furthermore, she was also compelled to stand for another two hours at night.
Another CAG member, who was imprisoned in the same jail, was deprived of sleep for five nights as punishment. “It felt like my head was about to explode,” the devotee told Bitter Winter.
The teaching assistants in the “transformation through education” class in the prison, “put iron stools on my feet and sit on the stools for two to three minutes,” another CAG member reported. “They also pulled my fingers apart and fisted me on the head. I was beaten so hard that I broke out a cold sweat, had a pale face, and was out of breath,” he recalled, adding that during his sentence term, he was forced to watch videos praising the CCP. He was subjected to violent “transformation” again one month before he was released from prison.
A 60-year-old female CAG member from the eastern province of Shandong was sentenced to three years and three months in prison. On the first day, when she was put into prison, she was forced to sign the “statement of repentance.” As she refused, other inmates beat her, which resulted in half of one of her teeth broken off, and three other teeth loosened.
“As I refused to write the statement of repentance, the inmate whom the guards commissioned to help indoctrinate prisoners of conscience ordered me to sit still on a stool for 16 hour every day, with my legs placed together and my hands put on my legs. Any movement was not allowed for me,” the elderly woman reported.
Another released CAG member told Bitter Winter that, while she served her prison term in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, she was punished to stand for three days and nights for refusing to sign the “three statements” and promising to give up her belief, and she was also punished to sit still on a small stool.
“I was kept sitting on the stool, my legs placed together with paper sheets wedged between them. I was forbidden to have the sheets fallen down,” she said. “What’s more, my cellmate often kicked me and slapped my face with a slippery, resulting in my face and body covered with bruises. Sometimes, she beat me with a duster or hanger so hard that the duster and hanger were broken. Once, when I and other inmates took bath, one of them mocked me saying, ‘I’ve never seen so many bruises.’” On one occasion, fellow inmates stripped her and another CAG member of their pants, and they also wrote blasphemous words on their sanitary pads, pushed and beat them publicly, and insulted them.
A CAG member who was released in January 2020 in the southeastern province of Jiangxi told Bitter Winter that he was originally ordered to attend military training together with new inmates, but because he refused to sign five statements of repentance, awakening, determination, break-up, and criticism, he was ordered to attend highly intensive special training alone, and asked to stand still for long hours. Later, he was transferred to the enhanced security unit, which was called the “prison in the prison,” where he was compelled to stand or sit still from morning to evening. He was also ordered to write ideological reports of self-criticism.
The dreaded “implication punishment system”
The CCP also resorts to “implication punishment” to force CAG members to sign the statements promising to give up their belief. This means that, if a CAG member refuses to sign the statements, all the inmates in the same cell would be punished “by implication.” The CCP uses this method to subject CAG members to tremendous psychological pressure on top of the arbitrary physical punishment.
A CAG member from the central province of Henan told Bitter Winter that because she refused to write the statement of criticism, the guards punished all the 17 inmates in her cell by depriving them of sleep, and she was thus beaten by the other inmates.
Under the intensified “siege” from the inmates, she became much worried about her situation. In the end, under high mental pressure, she had to write the statement and put her thumbprint on them. As she could not forgive herself for what she perceived as a betrayal of her belief, she fell into desperation, and tried to kill herself in the cell.
A 50-0dd-year-old CAG member from the southern province of Guangdong told Bitter Winter that the prison arranged three inmates as a “supervision team.” One had been a CAG member, and the other two were unreligious prisoners who supervised her. If she rejected indoctrination, the team would also have points deducted from their score, and have no opportunities for a reduction of their penalty. Because she refused to sign the “three statements,” she was often tormented by the other inmates.