A member of The Church of Almighty God, arrested for his faith, was tortured for six days before he was sentenced to six years in prison.
by Deng Changlin
Zhao Gang (pseudonym), a member of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) from the eastern province of Jiangsu, was released at the end of 2019, having spent six years in detention just for his faith. “I was a healthy man, but years in prison left me with wounds and ill health,” he told Bitter Winter as he started recounting his ordeal.
Mr. Zhao was traveling when five plainclothes police officers arrested him, having monitored him for some time. He was first taken to a hotel for interrogation.
“The windows of the room were blocked with bricks. Officers cuffed me to a tiger bench [a torture device], fastening my hands and feet tightly,” Mr. Zhao recalled. They wanted him to disclose the whereabouts of his fellow believers and where church money was kept. Every time he refused to say anything, the officers slapped his face.
“Later, they brought in a desk, placed it half a meter away from the tiger bench, and put my feet on it. Because the desk was taller than the bench, whose steel pipes were pressing my legs, the bench lifted backward, my entire body weighing on my buttocks and heels,” Zhao described the torture. “When two officers treaded the bench downward with all their might, I felt extreme pain in my legs; it felt like they were being torn apart. I trembled, covered in sweat, and started screaming from pain. The officers rammed a bath towel into my mouth, fearing that someone will hear my screams.”
One of the officers said that higher-ups instructed them to punish him at will, to the point of breaking his arms or making him disabled.
The torture lasted from 8:30 a.m. until deep into the night, but the officers could not get any information from Mr. Zhao, so they continued torturing him the next day. He was tied to the tiger bench again. This time, two rough bricks were placed slantingly under his buttocks. Unable to keep balance, Mr. Zhao’s body immediately slipped, causing the bricks to fall flat. The rough surface of the bricks scratched his skin severely. The officers would set the bricks upright again to repeat the torture. Later on, they put his feet on a brick placed on a small table, his entire body suspended on the buttocks. He screamed from unbearable pain. The officers secured a towel to his mouth with tape, wrapping it around his head a dozen times.
“I was tortured this way for 24 hours, blood and pus seeping from the wounds on my buttocks. The scars remain till this day,” Mr. Zhao continued. The torture didn’t stop, however. Enraged for being unable to get any information from him, officers repeatedly fixed his hands to the tiger bench, while pressing him to the ground and pulling his legs at the same time. “I felt as if my hands were broken,” he remembered. “My arms swelled so much that I had difficulty taking them out of handcuffs when the torture was finished.”
He was then stripped of all clothes, and two officers shocked his body with 40-centimeter-long electric batons. “They gave off sparks when poking my flesh, my body becoming numb after each poke. It felt like a knife was cutting my flesh,” Mr. Zhao went on. “I smelled burning flesh, and the pain was intense. I later counted over 100 scars on my body. They are still clearly visible.”
After six days of interrogation and torture, which didn’t yield any results, Mr. Zhao was transferred to a detention house, where he was kept for nearly two years. Afterward, he spent four more years in prison, where he was subjected to forced labor.
Due to torture, a long time in detention, and heavy labor, Mr. Zhao is left with numerous physical and mental injuries. On top of the scars all over his body, his hearing and eyesight have deteriorated significantly; he has pain in his limbs and cannot straighten his leg because of injured ligaments, which makes walking difficult.
Numerous members of the CAG, the single most persecuted religious movement in China, have been arrested and tortured by the CCP merely for their belief. In 2019 alone, 3,824 were subjected to various forms of torture and indoctrination, and 1,355 were imprisoned.