A recent Radio Free Asia (RFA) news report revealed efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to detain Christians in secret, mobile facilities and pressure them into renouncing their faith. A member of a Christian house church in Sichuan who asked to be identified under the pseudonym Li Yuese said that he was detained for 10 months following a raid on his church in 2018.
The detainment center was operated by the CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD) and state security police. According to Li, the facility was staffed by members of a variety of government departments and even had its own political and legal affairs group that routinely targeted Christians who were members of house churches.
The communist regime classifies Christianity as a foreign import and dangerous religion, one of many “Western hostile forces” that can infiltrate China. As a result, religious affairs authorities frequently raid house churches that are not registered with the state-backed Three-Self Patriotic Association.
While detained at the facility, Li was kept in a windowless room and subjected to severe mental and physical torture. “They use really underhand methods. They threaten, insult, and intimidate you. These were United Front officials, men, women, sometimes unidentified, usually in plain clothes,” Li told RFA.
“The police turn a blind eye to this. You have to accept the statement they prepare for you. If you refuse, you will be seen as having a bad attitude and they will keep you in detention and keep on beating you,” he said. At one point, Li became so desperate to escape the torture that he committed self-harm by throwing himself against a wall.
At the “transformation” facility, detainees were forced to participate in brainwashing sessions in the basement. “There were no windows, no ventilation and no time allowed outside. I was given just two meals a day, which were brought to the room by a designated person,” he said.
Those who refused to “admit their mistakes” were kept in solitary confinement for lengthy periods of time. Li stated, “You can’t see the sun, so you lose all… concept of time.” By the time Li was released, he was in poor health and had gained approximately 10 kilograms from diffuse edema, a type of swelling caused from fluid retention, all over his body. Li says he is still haunted by the experience in the Party’s detention centers.
Forced labor in unsanitary conditions with hazardous materials
Three female members of The Church of Almighty God (CAG), which is banned in China, told Bitter Winter that they were forced to work 13 to 15 hours per day while in detention. One CAG member said that she was often unable to fulfill her quota of creating 250 artificial flowers each day and was penalized to “stand sentry” for four to six hours almost every night. The sleep deprivation caused her to suffer serious health issues.
Moreover, the artificial flowers contained hazardous materials and heavy metal elements such as vinyl chloride, formaldehyde, and lead, which had adverse health effects on workers. “The gum of artificial flowers smelled very bad, and the procedures were very dusty, making my hair, clothes, and face covered with dust,” a CAG member told Bitter Winter.
“Some artificial flowers were so small that I had to put them close to me to see them clearly. Due to prolonged contacts, I always felt bad in my throat, nose, and eyes, and felt a thick layer of something puckery on my tongue, and gradually, my sense of taste became less and less sensitive,” she said.
Other female prisoners noticed that they began to have irregular menstrual cycles, with periods only once every few months or no periods at all for a year or two. Due to the unsanitary working conditions and the fact that underwear would not be fully dry after airing out for long periods of time, many prisoners also suffered from gynecological diseases.