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– HRWF (14.07.2020) – Li Jie[1] was transporting religious books in 2006 when he was stopped by armed police, arrested and tortured. Fortunately, he managed to escape. He then lived on the run to avoid another arrest until 2016 when he fled China and sought asylum in a democratic country.

 

Li Jie, who is from Shandong Province in eastern China and joined The Church of Almighty God (CAG)[2] in 1999, shared his experiences of religious persecution in China with Human Rights Without Frontiers during an interview.

Stopped by armed police

“On 7 August 2006, we loaded a truck with 20 boxes of books of Almighty God’s words[3] in Shandong Province’s Rizhao City, which were scheduled to be transported to a congregation in another province. When we reached a toll station in Pizhou City, Jiangsu Province, five or six armed police officers stopped us. They forced the driver to open the container door to search the contents. As soon as they saw that the title of the books in the crates was The Word Appears in the Flesh, they phoned their superior to report it. They then took us and the truck to the police station.”

Eight officers tortured him

“At the Police Station, officers searched me and confiscated my money (700 RMB or 100 USD in cash), as well as my notebook which contained handwritten phone numbers. They destroyed my trousers in the process. The officers fiercely interrogated me about where I came from, where we had printed the books, and demanded to know where they were destined to go. Seeing that I would not say anything, the chief of the Police Station pointed at my head and angrily said, ‘Do not think that the Government is a loving entity. You, believers in Almighty God, deserve harsh punishment.’ Their interrogation lasted four hours, but it yielded no results. Consequently, they called the local Public Security Bureau to take over my case.

 

At around 9:00pm a man in his fifties came in. Under his command, eight officers took turns torturing me in an attempt to force me to speak. They first demanded that I stand in a half squat. As it was August, and scorching hot in Jiangsu, I sweated profusely, wetting the ground under my feet. After about half an hour, I was so exhausted that I collapsed onto the floor, unable to stand up.

 

They then instructed me to sit on the floor with my two legs stretched out straight and a straight back. If I moved, they kicked and beat me as punishment. Since I had still refused to talk, they took a stainless-steel instrument with an iron head and a spring. They violently beat my toes and ankles, causing a tremendous pain. Even to this day, the skin around my ankles is dark and numb.

 

Next, they sprayed a liquid with a very strong odor into my eyes, causing immense pain and for me to tear heavily. It felt like my eyes were burning. Later, with a fully charged electric baton stick, an officer shocked my shoulders and knees. The torture I endured from these nine officers caused tremendous agony.”

A narrow escape

“The next morning, two officers took me into a separate room. They twisted my arms behind my back, tied my thumbs together with a thin cotton string, and told me to squat between two sofas near the wall. I knew that I would soon face more severe torture, and so I kept praying silently to be able to escape.

 

Out of the corner of my eye I observed how the door of the room was opened and closed. At the same time, I tried to pry my thumbs loose. To my surprise and joy that seemed to work. One of the two officers on guard then left the room, leaving only a young officer to keep an eye on me. This officer kept dozing off while sitting on the bed in the room. I was hoping to escape while he was napping.

 

However, just when I thought it might be possible, he seemed to notice something was wrong and moved a chair so as to sit directly in front of me, with his feet on one of the sofas to prevent me from leaving. I felt my heart in my throat because soon it would be lunch time and I would lose this window of opportunity to escape. Luckily, it wasn’t long before he began to snore. That is when I built up the courage to creep over him and, as quietly as I could, leave the room. To my horror, the door slammed shut behind me. After I realized the young officer was still sleeping, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. There was no one in the corridor and so I was able to walk out of the police station without being stopped. This is how I escaped the CCP and return home safely.

 

About two months later, fellow members of the CAG informed me that the CCP was asking about my whereabouts, and that I had to go into hiding as soon as possible. It left me with no choice, I had to leave my home and start to live as a fugitive.”

Forced to flee China

“After eight years of living in hiding, in 2014, the CCP falsely attributed the so called ‘May 28 Shandong Zhaoyuan Murder Case’[4]  to the CAG. The CCP mobilized the armed police, as well as the army, and conducted the ‘One Hundred Day Battle’ nationwide to repress and arrest CAG members. I learned from my family that people were asking about my whereabouts. My village’s Party Secretary had already reported me to the municipal township authorities. Later, I received word that many CAG members in my village had been arrested. I did not dare return home again.

 

It took another two years of living on the run before I managed to get a Passport and flee to Spain in August 2016, seeking asylum. In late September, my case was heard by the refugee board. Now, in 2020, I am still awaiting a decision from the Government.”

Footnotes

[1] This is a pseudonym. The real name of this asylum-seeker is known to HRWF.

[2] The CAG is a new religious movement that has only gained visibility outside of China due to thousands of its members fleeing and applying for refugee status in Europe and North America. It has been defamed by Chinese propaganda and, as a fast-growing movement, it is perceived as a competitor by Protestant Churches inside and outside of China, which present its theology as heresy.

The CAG releases periodic statistics on its website.[2] According to this source, between 2011 and 2013 more than 300,000 members were arrested. These figures are not inconceivable if one factors in the frequent references to ‘successful’ campaigns against the CAG in Chinese anti-xie-jiao propaganda and other official sources. The Church also reports that many of its members were tortured, and that some have died while in custody under suspicious circumstances.

According to official Chinese sources, the number of CAG members had reached approximately four million members by 2014. However, this figure is disputed by scholars who argue that it is inflated. They believe this over-estimation is used by the CCP as justification for the urgent need to persecute the CAG.

[3] In the CAG theology, the Almighty God is their (female) spiritual leader, the reincarnation of Jesus-Christ.

[4] In 2014, the CCP falsely accused members of the CAG of being responsible for a homicide that occurred at a McDonald’s in Zhaoyuan, Shandong Province. The CCP used all of the media outlets under its control to attack, defame, and slander the CAG. In 2017, Dr Massimo Introvigne investigated this criminal case and uncovered the CCP’s deliberate deception in an article published in The Journal of Cesnur.

 

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