Source: Direct Reports from China
Date: June 22, 2018
A member of The Church of Almighty God was continuously persecuted and monitored by Chinese authorities for over five years after she was arrested and tortured for her faith in 2012. Afraid of being arrested again, she gave up her faith.
In March 2018, two employees of a local residential community committee in the city of Taizhou, Zhejiang Province, came to the house of Li Hua (pseudonym), took photos and told her that because the 19th National Congress was taking place, she was not permitted to leave her home. The cause for this was her membership at The Church of Almighty God, a Christian new religious movement.
A couple of weeks later, the residential community committee staff called the 55-year-old woman to their office. They told her that her record of the arrest in 2012 had been transferred to them. Had it been a different conviction, the case would have been expunged long ago. The government instructed them that cases related to religious beliefs could not be forgotten and should still be watched carefully.
On December 13, 2012, four officers arrested Li Hua and another member of the Church while they were preaching the gospel. The police interrogated her, forcing to disclose her personal information and tell them about her faith. They threatened her that if she refused, she would be sentenced to eight or ten years or even death. They forced her onto a tiger bench for the night – a gruesome torture device when a victim’s legs are tied tightly with belts to the bench and bricks or other hard objects are put under the victim’s feet, adding them until the belts break; victims endure unbearable pain and often pass out during these torture sessions. The next evening, the police took her fingerprints and locked her up in a detention center for a week, along with the other detainee.
Although she was let go, the Chinese Communist government has continued to monitor, control, and intimidate her. A few months after her release, on February 15, 2013, Li Hua was called into the local Political and Legal Affairs Office. An official warned her that the government had defined her church as a cult, and she should call the police whenever anyone from The Church of Almighty God comes to visit her. She was called back two months later for questioning about her faith. In January 2014, six employees of a local residential community committee came to her home and told her to give up her faith. If she did not, they threatened, it will impact her child’s opportunity to become a civil servant or serve in the military. On October 30, the committee notified Li Hua that she needed to enroll in an indoctrination course – a heavy-handed technique used by the Chinese Communist Party to force people to give up their faith. To escape persecution, Li Hua had left home and lived in hiding for some time.
The persecution and intimidations continued when she came back. In June of 2015, three officers, two of whom were holding long-barreled guns, came to her and ordered not to leave her home. The officers went inside and threatened her by forbidding her from leaving home. In March of 2017, the committee employees called her to their office and took a group photo with her.
Afraid of future persecutions and interrogations and worried about the wellbeing of her family, Li Hua was forced to give up her faith.
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Bitter Winter plans to report on how religions are allowed, or not allowed, to operate in China and how some are severely persecuted after they are labeled as “xie jiao,” or heterodox teachings. We plan to publish news difficult to find elsewhere, analyses, and debates.
Placed under the editorship of Massimo Introvigne, one of the most well-known scholars of religion internationally, “Bitter Winter” is a cooperative enterprise by scholars, human rights activists, and members of religious organizations persecuted in China (some of them have elected, for obvious reasons, to remain anonymous).