Members of the Church of Almighty God have reportedly met the same fate as Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities by being detained, tortured, and subject to indoctrination in China’s so-called reeducation camps.
Several members of the persecuted Christian sect — also known as Eastern Lightning — spoke with Bitter Winter under condition of anonymity, recounting beatings, sleep deprivation, sexual assault, and pressure to give up their faith.
One former detainee identified as Gao Jie described being locked up in a remote location in northwest China’s Xinjiang region with 400 other detainees.
The so-called vocational training facility mirrored a maximum security prison, with tall walls and barbed wire keeping them in.
“When we were taken there, we were stripped-searched, guards telling us to do three squats; they then checked our hair,” Gao Jie recounted.
“Four armed guards escorted us into the cell block. There were three buildings for the detained, one for women and two for men. Out of the about 400 detainees, most were Uyghur Muslims, Christians, and Falun Gong practitioners,” she said.
Gao Jie was also subjected to physical abuse and attempts at forced indoctrination.
“Guards instructed two other inmates to beat me, who knocked my head against the wall until my face became swollen,” Gao Jie said.
She was also stripped naked and ordered to have sex with a male guard, although circumstances prevented the sexual assault from going forward.
“They also threatened to blind me if I refused to write the four statements: Repentance, break-up, guarantee, and criticism,” Gao Jie said.
Her refusal to sign those statements resulted in an escalation of the torture.
“They handcuffed me to a chair and covered my head with a black hood,” she said.
“Over a dozen guards took turns watching me. As soon as I dozed off, they would strike the desk by my side, beat my head, or knock my back with an iron stick.
“For three days in a row, they did not give me food or water, nor allowed me to use the toilet. Whenever I asked them to be allowed to go to the toilet, they told me to relieve myself on the chair.”
As noted by another detainee identified as Zhou Min, writing the four statements was tantamount to blasphemy.
“We don’t want to do this, but not everyone could stand the torment, so some succumbed to pressure. It was excruciating for them,” Zhou Min said.
One detainee was transferred to a psychiatric facility after arguing with a guard.
“I was forced to take medicine and live listening to cries and screams of patients all day long. I thought of dying on several occasions,” the detainee said.
Another witness recounted detainees being electrocuted, slapped with shoes, and being suspended from cuffed hands. While suspended, religious books were placed under their feet, thereby forcing detainees to step on them to relieve the physical agony.
Beijing has claimed these “training centers” were for “voluntary” re-education purposes, but a leak of official documents in 2019 revealed that these facilities were essentially “brainwashing” camps modeled after high-security prisons.