A member of The Church of Almighty God recalls his time in detention after he was arrested and later sentenced for his faith.
by Yang Luguang
Qi Qiang, a member of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) from the eastern province of Anhui, was sentenced to seven years in prison merely for his belief. Released at the end of last year after completing his prison term, he recounted his miserable ordeal to Bitter Winter.
On a cold day in December 2012, the police arrested Qi Qiang while he was sharing the gospel with fellow believers. The man was interrogated throughout the night to make him divulge information about the Church. Officers handcuffed him, one arm bent over his shoulder, and the other below his armpit, forcing his body in an arched position, and started placing bricks between his back and handcuffs. “Every time they added a brick, the pain sharpened,” Qi Qiang recalled. “It felt like my arms were broken; I could hardly breathe. Officers also beat my wrists and slapped my face.”
Because he still refused to say anything, the officers stripped him to his long underwear, tapped all over him with a wet mop, and dragged him twice outside to lay in the snow, pouring water over him. “It was snowing heavily that night,” the man remembered. “My whole body trembled from the cold. When they poured the water, it was so cold that I stopped breathing. I wanted to end it all.”
Back in the room, one officer lit up a cigarette and moved it in front of Qi Qiang’s face, threatening to remove his pants and burn his private parts if he still refused to disclose information. He was also beaten with a leather belt, and mustard was put on his face. The officers then cuffed his wrists to the grooves of a torture device called tiger bench and pressed iron lock rings downward, causing unbearable piercing pain.
Unable to get any information from him, the police sent Qi Qiang to a detention house, where he was subjected to forced labor threading wires. “I started work at 5 a.m. and had to complete a quota of 8,000 colored lights each day. The wires were as thin as needles, and as time went on, my eyesight blurred,” he remembered. “I worked slowly because I was unskilled. If I didn’t finish my task, I was not allowed to sleep and had to work through the night. Other inmates often abused me. I was later assigned to plug light bulbs. My fingers deformed, and they were covered with bloody blisters.”
In April 2015, after spending more than two years in the detention house, Qi Qiang was sentenced to seven years in prison for “using a xie jiao organization to undermine law enforcement.” The CAG was included in the list of the xie jiao in 1995 because of its rapid growth and has been subjected to brutal suppression ever since. Countless CAG members have been arrested for regular religious activities, which the CCP deems as “crimes.” In 2019 alone, at least 3,800 CAG believers were subjected to torture or mandatory indoctrination after they were arrested, among whom more than 1,300 were sentenced to prison.
When Qi Qiang was transferred to a prison, he was assigned to polish and pack railroad ties. He had to complete a quota of nearly 40,000 kilograms every day, each tie weighing over 15 kilograms. Each part of his body was exhausted from prolonged forced labor and psychological torment. “It was so painful that I even thought of harming myself by dropping one of these logs on my foot,” he recalled.
Qi Qiang was also indoctrinated with CCP ideology by specially assigned personnel, was forced to sing patriotic songs. “One of them told me that westerners rely on Jesus’ redemption to transform themselves, while Chinese people have their traditions and culture, and do not need it,” he said.
After refusing to renounce his faith by signing a repentance statement, the man was sent to solitary confinement for 15-days. “I could only sit on a bed platform, all my limbs stretched out, handcuffed and shackled to the ground,” Qi Qiang remembered. “Four people took turns watching over me 24 hours a day. When I left solitary confinement, others couldn’t recognize me. It’s a scary place.”