A 47-year-old member of The Church of Almighty God from Shaanxi committed suicide after prolonged persecution and intimidations by authorities.
On August 2 this year, Li Zhen (pseudonym), a member of The Church of Almighty God from Xianyang city in the northwestern province of Shaanxi killed herself after five years of harassment for her faith by authorities.
It all started in 2013 when Li Zhen was arrested for the first time while attending a gathering of her church. Although she was released soon after, she acquired a criminal record for her beliefs. As a result, her husband divorced her, and so, in 2016, Li Zhen started a new family and changed her address, extricating herself from the surveillance of the local police.
However, on July 5, 2017, the police tracked down Li Zhen’s parents and threatened them to put her name on the “wanted” list if they did not disclose her whereabouts. Intimidated by these threats, the parents disclosed Li Zhen’s address, and the police started to harass her on a regular basis.
Shortly after 9 a.m. on July 7, right after Li Zhen’s husband had left for work, two police officers stormed into Li Zhen’s home. They questioned her about her faith and threatened that “the next time we catch you, it won’t be this way.” The officers also took photos of Li Zhen and searched her entire home, even looked through the content of her son’s computer.
On May 7, 2018, Li Zhen was summoned to the village committee and was again interrogated by five police officers about her faith, the leaders of her church, and the people who preacher to her. They also said that they want to know where she is at all times, and therefore, started sending her text messages since the interrogation, causing her a lot of stress. In a letter to a fellow church member, she wrote: “Now, (the police) keep sending me text messages to harass me, causing me mental anguish. I feel distraught all day long.”
In July 2018, the police started coming to Li Zhen’s home; the visits gradually increased from once a week to every two or three days. Each time, four uniformed police officers arrived in police vehicles, stormed into her home, and interrogated her for over half an hour. They pressured her to abandon her faith, sell out her fellow believers, and provide information about the church.
The increasing pressure from the police caused Li Zhen to lose her sleep and appetite. According to a source close to her family, Li once distraughtly told her mother she was afraid that when the police catch her, she would be unable to withstand the torture and would betray other Christians, which she did not want to do. Li was also worried that the police harassment would affect her marriage, so she never mentioned it to her husband.
On August 2, 2018, four police officers came to Li Zhen’s home again. They left after half an hour. Li Zhen sent her ailing mother, who was visiting her at the time, back home, left a suicide note, and killed herself by ingesting pesticides.
Li Zhen’s husband and elder sister found her body and later discovered a container of pesticides “dimethoate” that she used to kill herself. Her mother-in-law said in tears: “She was such a nice girl, she was good to everyone in her family. How could she be so foolish….”
The family called the police, and seven or eight officers arrived at Li’s home. Members of the family rebuked the police for driving Li to commit suicide, but the officers were dismissive and shirked responsibility, saying: “We didn’t drive her to commit suicide, we were carrying out official duties.”
According to a government insider, such persecutions like Li Zhen’s are the result of the Chinese Communist Party’s policies. He added that as early as 2014, Xi Jinping personally gave orders to re-arrest and try again the believers in Almighty God who had been previously detained and make each one reveal the names of six members of the church. This operation was called “Vine Stroking and Root Digging.”
The Church of Almighty God reports that, from April to November 2018, in Shaanxi Province alone, more than 600 Christians were regularly harassed and intimidated at their homes by the police after being released. Among them, more than 100 people fled into hiding to escape police surveillance and harassment, but their families still face interrogations and threats.
Reported by Yao Zhangjin