Authorities in China are detaining Christians in secretive, mobile “transformation” facilities to make them renounce their faith, RFA has
A member of a Christian “house church” in the southwestern province of Sichuan who asked to be identified by a pseudonym Li Yuese said he was held in a facility run by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s United Front Work Department, working in tandem with the state security police, for 10 months after a raid on his church in 2018.
“It was a mobile facility, that could just set up in some basement somewhere,” Li said. “It was staffed by people from several different government departments.”
“It had its own (CCP) political and legal affairs committee working group, and they mainly target Christians who are members of house churches,” he said.
The Chinese Communist Party, which embraces atheism, exercises tight controls over any form of religious practice among its citizens.
State security police and religious affairs bureau officials frequently raid unofficial “house churches” that aren’t members of the CCP-backed Three-Self Patriotic Association, although member churches have also been targeted at times.
The CCP under Xi Jinping regards Christianity as a dangerous foreign import, with party documents warning against the “infiltration of Western hostile forces” in the form of religion.
Li said he was held in a windowless room for nearly 10 months, during which time he was beaten, verbally abused and “mentally tortured” by staff, eventually resorting to self-harm by throwing himself against a wall.
His account is chillingly similar to those of former inmates of “transformation” camps in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.
“They use really underhand methods,” Li said.
“They threaten, insult and intimidate you. These were United Front officials, men, women, sometimes unidentified, usually in plain clothes. The police turn a blind eye to this,” he said.
“You have to accept the statement they prepare for you,” he said. “If you refuse, you will be seen as having a bad attitude and they will keep you in detention and keep on beating you.”
Basement brainwashing sessions
Li said most of his fellow inmates were also people who had been released on bail during criminal detention for taking part in church-related activities.
Most hadn’t done anything that could trigger any criminal prosecution, so police sent them to the “transformation” facilities instead, Li said.
“They were using brainwashing methods on those of us who were on bail from the detention center,” he said. “It was in a secret location, in a basement.”
“There were two plainclothes officers in my room, and a uniformed officer was in another room,” Li said.
“There were no windows, no ventilation and no time allowed outside,” he said. “I was given just two meals a day, which were brought to the room by a designated person.”
Inmates who refused to “admit their mistakes” were held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods.
“There is no time limit for the brainwashing process,” he said. “I don’t know the longest time anyone has been held there, but I was detained for eight or nine months.”
“You can’t see the sun, so you lose all no concept of time.”
He said suicidal ideation and self-harm was commonplace.
“I couldn’t sleep; after you’ve been in there a week, death starts to look better than staying there,” Li said. “I bashed myself against the wall to self-harm.”
“One time in there, I was groggy and was trying to open my eyes but I couldn’t,” he said. “Four or five of them grabbed me by the arms and legs and pinned me to the ground.”
“They they injected me with some drug, and brought me back to consciousness.”