A man in China jailed for his faith recounted the horrors he faced in prison, from being forced to eat live cockroaches to enduring hours of indoctrination.
Li Geng (a pseudonym), who's a member of the religious minority The Church of the Almighty God, told Bitter Winter about his arrest five years ago and subsequent imprisoned that lasted three years and six months for “organizing and using” an “evil cult” organization to “undermine the law enforcement.”
During his incarceration, Li was kept under 24/7 supervision by a group of prisoners that were led by guard-assigned inmates. To force inmates to renounce their faith, guards subjected them to mandatory indoctrination.
Li recounted how he was ordered to memorize prison regulations and “The Standards for Being a Good Pupil and Child,” a manual centered on the teachings of Chinese philosopher Confucius. Additionally, he was forced to watch videos that defamed The Church of the Almighty God.
“Every evening, I was told to write down what I had learned from these books or videos while a TV played very loudly in the same room,” Li said. “As time went on, I started hearing ringing sounds in my ears. After I was released, I learned that my hearing was affected severely, and I could not hear people speaking in slightly lower voices.”
If guards were displeased with Li's written reports, they would beat him.
“Instructed by guards, the prisoners who supervised me once pulled me to a corner of my cell and tore up the paper I wrote about the videos. They slapped my face more than a dozen times,” Li told Bitter Winter.
When Li refused to renounce his faith, he faced even harsher punishments: “For about a month, the ‘team leader’ did not allow me to use the toilet in the daytime: I could only use it at night after all other inmates were asleep,” Li recalled. “I was not allowed to defecate for 16 consecutive days. The leader told me that I could not use the toilet because I am less than an animal.”
Li also noted that he ate and drank very little during the 16 days of torture. And within the span of two months, he was forced to eat more than 100 cockroaches, some were still alive.
“Some of the cockroaches were bigger than crickets,” Li recalled. “My inmate ‘supervisor’ caught a cockroach and put it into my mouth while it was still alive. He didn’t allow me to spit it out, threatening to beat me if I did.
“He then continued putting cockroaches into my mouth but would not let me swallow them. He wanted them to crawl in my mouth first, and only then was I told to chew the cockroaches thoroughly.” Li added. “The pungent taste made me nauseous. I was in unbearable distress.”
China claims it guarantees freedom of religion. However, Chinese Communist Party officials have arrested an untold number of believers, shut down several prominent Christian churches, and detained or imprisoned hundreds of thousands of religious minorities in recent years. The crackdown on religions is part of a wider crackdown by President Xi Jinping’s perceived threats to the CCP.
In December, Wang Yi, pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church in the capital of Sichuan province, one of China’s largest churches, was sentenced to nine years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal business activities” following closed-door proceedings.
Another leader at the church, Qin Defu was sentenced to four years in prison for “illegal business operations” in November.
More than a dozen religious and spiritual groups have been branded as “evil cults” and banned in China, according to Amnesty International.
On Monday, the Trump administration barred 11 Chinese companies from purchasing American technology and products without a special license over their use of forced labor and other forms of repression against the Uyghur Muslims, The New York Times reported.
"Beijing actively promotes the reprehensible practice of forced labor and abusive DNA collection and analysis schemes to repress its citizens," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “This action will ensure that our goods and technologies are not used in the Chinese Communist Party’s despicable offensive against defenseless Muslim minority populations."