Women and men are sentenced merely for being active in the church, and tortured and humiliated during their detention. Some suffer permanent harm.
by Wang Yichi
“I was taken to a highly guarded cell block, and the prison guard arranged two prisoners to surveil and control me. Their task was to have me give up my belief,” said a female CAG member from the central province of Hunan, who agreed to talk to Bitter Winter. In November 2018, the Hunan provincial police carried out a unified arrest operation targeting CAG members. Over 100 CAG members, including the one who told her story to us, were arrested one after the other. She was sentenced to two years in prison for her belief, and released from jail in November 2020.
During her prison term, she reports, she was subjected to inhuman mistreatment and torment as she refused to give up her belief. The guard punished her by letting her stand at attention for 18 hours every day for 14 consecutive days, during which the guard prohibited her from going to the toilet, and ordered her to have meals while standing there. As she was given little food, she was always starved.
“On the fourth day when I was standing at attention, my feet became numb, feeling like lead. When I went to the toilet at night, I had to move slowly with my hands supporting my knees. The backs of my feet and my legs were all black,” she said. “If I stayed in the toilet over the three minutes they set, the prisoners would shout to urge me, and pour cold water over my body. As they poured water on me more than once, my shoes were always wet, making my feet swollen even more, so that I had difficulties in putting my feet into my shoes. My hands also began to be swollen and numb. I was sleepy and hungry, dazed and flustered.”
“Nine days later, as I was not allowed to excrete in time, my stomach was bloated in pain, so that I had no appetite, and could not sleep well at night,” the woman said, recalling that because she stood for a long time, her hands and feet were terribly swollen. She had difficulty in breathing, but the prisoners who surveilled and controlled her still punished her by letting her stand until midnight.
After she stood in for 14 days, as she refused to write the statement promising to give up her belief, the guards punished her by letting her sit still on a small stool for 18 hours every day, during which she was not allowed to go to the toilet. “I really could not hold on, getting incontinence of urine and feces. It was greatly painful to sit on the small plastic stool,” she said. “Other prisoners covered their noses when passing by me.” Because she was prohibited from excreting during a prolonged time, she had constipation and could not urinate, and she still has not recovered now.
We also interviewed another CAG member from the southeastern province of Jiangxi, who was compelled to stand still and locked in a small dark room during his prison term. He was arrested in July 2018 for helping in the production of CAG videos, and was later sentenced to one year and ten months in prison.
In prison, as he refused to sign the three statements of repentance, break-up and guarantee promising to give up his belief, he was punished to stand still over a dozen hours every day for more than ten consecutive days. Later, the prison guards locked him in a 3-square-meter dark room (specially used to lock “disobedient” and mentally-ill prisoners). On two other occasions, they locked him together with mentally-ill prisoners. The guard incited the prisoners to beat him, and when they had a relapse, they would stain a towel with feces and put them on his face.
To force him to give in, the guards then locked him in a large cell. “Seventeen or eighteen prisoners were locked there, and we were punished to stand still several hours every day, not allowed to move or speak. And we were waked up every half an hour for roll call at night. This went on repeatedly until dawn,” he recalled. “I was locked there for about three months. The guard did not allow me to take a bath, nor did they give me enough food. I lost more than 15 kg.”
Yet another CAG member, a woman from the central province of Henan, was released from prison in early 2020 after completing her sentence term, but her mental condition was greatly different before and after she was put into prison.
“We always fetch our food from the same place, but she can never find it and can only find it every time after others remind her,” her family members told Bitter Winter helplessly. She had been sentenced to eight years in prison merely for being active in the CAG. The 8-year prison life has caused great harms to her body and mind, so that her memory has seriously declined.
At the end of 2011, she was arrested, and later tortured by the police during interrogation. To force her to give up information about the church money and church leaders, the police gave her hard slaps on the face, and even shocked her with electric batons. Later, they took turns to watch over her, depriving her of sleep for four days and nights. Whenever they found her dozing off, they would beat her on the head, or frighten her by knocking hard on the desk.
During her sentence term, she was forced to labor over a dozen hours every day, and was punished if she failed to complete her task. She was so tired that she had gynecopathy, resulting in hemorrhage. After she was released from prison, she was diagnosed with a mild degree of brain atrophy, and her memory seriously declined, so that she could not work and live as normal.
Though these CAG members have gotten out of prison, the CCP’s persecution has left them with permanent harm. In 2020, the CCP intensified its persecution of the CAG, and as a result, at least 7,055 CAG members were arrested, and at least 1,098 were sentenced. They are suffering unknown misery and torment in the CCP’s prisons.