China: More members of church arrested and tortured

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After the epidemic of COVID-19 was comprehensively eased in 2023, the CCP has launched more frequent crackdowns targeting The Church of

Church of Almighty God believers gather in isolated areas in the countryside and the mountains to avoid police crackdowns. Artistic AI-generated image.

Almighty God (CAG). Frequent cases of torture, including of minor, elderly, and disabled believers, were reported to “Bitter Winter.”

Zhejiang

As “Bitter Winter” had previously reported, on June 15, 2023 alone, at least 1,043 CAG Christians were arrested in Zhejiang Province. One of them died three days after his arrest. There were wounds on his head and bloodstain in his eyes. Relatives and co-religionists believed he had been tortured.

Anhui

“Bitter Winter” also reported on arrests and torture in Anhui and Jiangsu Provinces. During the course of 2023, according to information supplied to “Bitter Winter,” police in Anhui arrested at least 3,319 CAG believers, among whom 1,277 were subjected to forcible indoctrination. The believers were forced to renounce their beliefs, refer to their faith in blasphemous ways, and give to the police information about the CAG.

Those who refused were punished in various ways, including by beating them, compelling them to stand for several hours, and depriving them of sleep. One female CAG member could not bear the torture and jumped off a building from the third floor, resulting in the fracture of her spine, feet, and arms. Medical treatment was delayed intentionally, and she is currently disabled. The condition of a male CAG believer who had suffered lumbar disc herniation deteriorated and he could no longer take care of himself after being punished and compelled to stand for long hours.

Jiangsu

In Jiangsu, on May 16, 2023. the police from Huai’an City’s Xuyi County arrested at least 54 CAG Christians. In July, 109 more were arrested in the same city.

A minor female CAG believer told “Bitter Winter” that during an interrogation, the police repeatedly slapped her face. The left side of her face was bruised and swollen, with blood blisters on her lips. Then, they handcuffed her wrists behind her back and put a one-meter-long stick under her armpits. The police stood on the chairs and lifted the stick to suspend her in the air twice. They also sealed her mouth with tape, blocked one of her nostrils with toilet paper, and inserted an ignited cigarette into the other nostril, causing her to burst into tears and making her breathless. Then, they forcibly poured water into her nostrils. After that, they handcuffed her to a window, made her stand on her toes barefoot, and stuffed a plank behind her buttocks, warning her not to let it fall.

In June, the police from Xuzhou City arrested 141 CAG devotees and confined them in the basement of a hotel for forced indoctrination and deprogramming. On July 13, one of them tried to escape and the police chased her to the rooftop of a residential complex. She died after jumping off the building.

Arrested CAG believers are paraded through the streets by the police. Painting by an anonymous CAG devotee.
Arrested CAG believers are paraded through the streets by the police. Painting by an anonymous CAG devotee.

Another CAG member in Jiangsu suffered a comminuted fracture in her left leg due to an accident before her arrest, and the steel plate inside her leg has not yet been removed. The police knew that well, but still ordered her to do horse stances, beat the soles of her feet hard with a branch one centimeter thick, and even deliberately kicked the injured area continuously. She was so much in pain that at one point she wanted to commit suicide. After that, the police handcuffed her wrists behind her back and kept pulling up her hands to torture her repeatedly. “At that time, it seemed that my shoulders were broken. As a result, when I raise my right arm now, it makes a clicking sound,” she told “Bitter Winter.”

Another female believer who suffered several forms of torture reported to “Bitter Winter” that the police beat the soles and the backs of her feet so hard with wicker sticks that they broke several of the sticks. They handcuffed her wrists at her back, pulled the handcuffs upwards several times, and forced her legs apart. They also forced her to stand on her heels while doing horse stances and put several thumbtacks under her heels. When she failed to hold on and stood on the ground, the thumbtacks would be stuck into her heels, but the police did not allow her to pull them out.

After interrogating her to no avail, the police grasped her wrists behind her back and handcuffed them to the back of a tiger bench, ordering her to sit up and stretch her legs when they tied her upper body to her legs with a rope, making her face touch her legs for nearly an hour. Then, they tied her feet together and lifted her feet up, swinging her in the air and beating her feet with a wicker stick. After being tortured, she could no longer walk on her own or lift her arms, and they had to drag her back to the room where she was detained.

Jiangxi and Fujian

As reported to “Bitter Winter,” as of November 2023, about 227 CAG members had been arrested in Jiangxi Province and at least 102 in Fujian Province.

A CAG believer from Fujian Province was subjected to the torture named “Exhausting an Eagle” for more than twenty days. She could only sleep for a while when the auxiliary police were off guard. When the police kept a close eye on her, she was not allowed to close her eyes all night. When she was found to have closed her eyes, she was ordered to stand as punishment. Another 20-year-old devotee was made to stand for eight consecutive days without being allowed to sleep.

On July 20, in Hukou County, Jiujiang City, Jiangxi Province, 48 CAG believers were arrested. Most of them reported that they had been subjected to the torture “Exhausting an Eagle,” which lasted from eight to ten days and nights.

Two CAG believers try to escape arrest. Painting by an anonymous CAG devotee.
Two CAG believers try to escape arrest. Painting by an anonymous CAG devotee.

“I was not allowed to sleep on a bed for nearly forty days. The best place for me to sleep was a bench. My energy and strength had reached the limit,” a CAG believer told “Bitter Winter.” She saw another female devotee with a bandage around her arm, and the guard said that she broke her arm after dozing off as she was punished and compelled to stand continuously.

Another female believer was beaten up by the police and given shocks with electric batons until she fainted. The police told her that they had planned to give her one hundred shocks, but eventually they only shocked her 93 times. They stated that no one would know it even if she was beaten to death.

Henan

On August 26, 2023, more than 170 CAG believers, including one in his 80s and ten in their 70s, were arrested in Nanyang’s four counties of Tanghe, Xichuan, Neixiang and Xixia.

According to a female CAG devotee who was subject to the torture “Exhausting an Eagle” for ten days and nine nights, “On the fifth day, my head and eyes ached so much that I was about to collapse, feeling like my brain did not belong to me anymore. I was so sleepy that I couldn’t help lying down to take a nap for only twenty minutes. The police forcefully dragged me up and told me that they purposely allowed me to sleep and then woke me up twenty minutes later because it was the most painful timing.” On the seventh day, however, she managed to take another nap while the police were off guard.

A CAG believer tortured by the police. Painting by an anonymous CAG devotee.
A CAG believer tortured by the police. Painting by an anonymous CAG devotee.

Sichuan

From March 16 to 31, 2023, in Sichuan’s cities of Guang’an, Nanchong and Dazhou, 152 CAG believers were arrested.

A female CAG member told “Bitter Winter” that the police made her sit on a tiger bench and put her hand behind the back of the bench, then handcuffed her wrists and pulled the handcuffs back forcefully, causing her to scream in pain. She is short and thin. The police handcuffed her and suspended her in a wardrobe. Later, they handcuffed her twice up to a window and suspended her in the air for about two hours and eight hours respectively.

In the short span of three days from May 9 to 11, in Sichuan’s five cities of Chengdu, Meishan, Emeishan, Ya’an, and Deyang, 141 CAG members were arrested. The violent arrests resulted in one devotee’s ribs being fractured both on the left and on the right.

Our interviewees insisted that these cases are only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, many more CAG members have been arrested and tortured throughout the country. Precise statistics are now more difficult to come by, since most court decisions are no longer published. And of course co-religionists learn about torture and extra-judicial killings only when witnesses report these incidents to them. — Bitter Winter