A woman confined to “legal education center” due to her Christian beliefs, recounts indoctrination, sleep deprivation, surveillance.
Jian Yongjiu (a pseudonym), a member of The Church of Almighty God (CAG), described to Bitter Winter her personal experience of being detained in a “legal education center” for 22 days. This detailed and very personal testimony shines a light both on the techniques used within centers and on the mental and spiritual anguish suffered by detainees.
Ms. Jian tells Bitter Winter, “In the detention center, it is the human body that is tortured. In the indoctrination classes, it is the human will and spirit that are destroyed. For a person of faith, being subjected to mandatory indoctrination not only causes mental anguish but more so, the soul is subjected to unbearable repression and agony.”
Ms. Jian’s ordeal began on September 11, 2018, when she was arrested by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) police. She was detained for allegedly “organizing and using a xie jiao organization to undermine state law enforcement.” On September 20, she was sent to a “legal education center” in Hangzhou city, in China’s eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, to undergo indoctrination and reformation.
Bitter Winter has published reports that indoctrination classes and “transformation through education” has become an important means for the CCP to combat religious belief. Prior to the appearance of transformation through education camps in Xinjiang, “legal education centers,” often called “black jails” by their victims, were widely used by the CCP to persecute and indoctrinate people of faith.
When Ms. Jian arrived at this indoctrination center, set up in a hotel repurposed by the authorities, the entrance hall of the facility was lined with police officers and security guards, as well as uniformed personnel with work badges on their chests. Inside the center, slogans promoting the Communist Party and blaspheming God were posted on both sides of the corridors and inside all the rooms. Every room was fully occupied with people of faith who had been detained.
Each room had iron doors and iron locks, like a prison. Security guards were positioned at every staircase gate, and documentation needed to be presented whenever entering or exiting. Ms. Jian said that she was escorted by two “tutors” to a room on the fourth floor. The room had only a small skylight. Two female tutors, specially trained to help detainees undergo “ideological transformation,” meaning, to force believers to recant their belief, took turns guarding her 24 hours a day. They even slept with her in the same room, with Ms. Jian’s bed placed in between those of the two tutors. A surveillance camera was aimed directly at Ms. Jian’s bed to watch for any attempts to pray secretly. Her every move was monitored, the tutors accompanied her to indoctrination classes and made sure that she did her “homework.”
“Inside the meeting room where indoctrination education was conducted, there were two surveillance cameras aimed directly at us. We were monitored throughout the entire class,” Ms. Jian said. A specially assigned government worker from the community where Ms. Jian lives has been taken to the center to take care of “mentoring” her during classes.
Continuous 24-hour-a-day surveillance by the employees of the center and cameras in every room caused Ms. Jian extreme anxiety. “Even when resting at night, surveillance was not relaxed. One night, I took slightly longer when going to the washroom, and a male security guard burst in to check on me. When he saw that I was washing my hands, he glared at me before leaving.”
Indoctrination classes were two and a half hours, in both morning and afternoon. This class time was the most agonizing part of the day for Ms. Jian. At the beginning of their confinement, personnel forced the detainees to watch Communist Party propaganda videos. Topics included how the Communist Party provides earthquake relief and serves the people, how advanced China’s technology is, and similar issues. At the end of the classes, students were forced to sing songs thanking the Communist Party.
After three days, instructors started to play videos about xie jiao. “Of course, all of the criticisms of religion are accusations made by the CCP,” said Ms. Jian. According to her, the content that she viewed about her church is completely different from the true doctrine of The Church of Almighty God. The content in the videos was taken out of context or consisted of deliberately fabricated charges. In her opinion, some charges or accusations were full of loopholes and would not stand up to any scrutiny. “Of course, for people who know little about The Church of Almighty God, such content can be highly deceptive.”
“Every day, I was forced to watch content that condemned and slandered my faith, but I wasn’t allowed to refute it,” she continued. Every day, after class, the tutors forced Ms. Jian to “do homework” and accompanied her in the process. The “homework” consisted of five to seven questions, of which two or three questions required her to write words blaspheming God. If she did not write what she was told, she would not be allowed to sleep. If the tutors were not satisfied with what she wrote, she would be required to rewrite it. Ms. Jian said that for a Christian, blaspheming God is hard for one’s heart to accept and extremely painful; it is even more unbearable than torture. Every time Ms. Jian did “homework,” it was like “stepping onto a battlefield.”
Once, the tutors told Ms. Jian to state clearly and unequivocally blasphemous words about God. Ms. Jian refused to do so, and challenged them, “The national constitution expressly provides for the freedom of belief of citizens. Why do you torment and persecute Christians?” One of the tutors reportedly replied, “For whom is there freedom of belief? You were born in China, so you have to obey the Communist Party. Belief in God is what the Communist Party hates the most. If you want freedom, [you won’t get it] unless you go abroad.”
After being “trained” at the “legal education center” for five days, Ms. Jian had not given up her faith, so she was intimidated and coerced into making statements blaspheming God, and into writing a statement of “guarantee, repentance, break-up, and criticism,” which would mean renouncing her faith.
Because she refused to sign the statements, the two tutors took turns monitoring Ms. Jian and did not allow her to sleep. Due to her mental and spiritual torment, Ms. Jian was unable to eat, and lost weight as a result. “If I were not guided by the word of God, I would have been driven crazy. The CCP is evil,” Ms. Jian said in anguish.
Even after Ms. Jian was released on October 12, the police did not let the matter drop. They pushed Ms. Jian’s husband to prevent her from believing in God and even threatened Ms. Jian that if she continued to believe in God, her public rental housing would be seized. A woman wearing a “special duty” red armband tracks and monitors Ms. Jian near her home.
Ms. Jian’s story is but one of many like it. The statistics about religious persecution in China can be overwhelming, but the story of one individual’s suffering can help us to understand the true nature of religious persecution.
Reported by Lin Yijiang