A Chinese Christian woman revealed the mental abuse she endured at a Chinese “indoctrination camp,” including how police withheld sleep after she refused to blaspheme the name of Jesus Christ.
Jian Yongjiu, a member of The Church of Almighty God, told Bitter Winter magazine that after she was arrested for “organizing and using an organization to undermine state law enforcement," she was sent to a “legal education center” in Hangzhou city, in China’s eastern coastal province of Zhejiang.
She told the outlet that while she was not physically harmed, she endured “mental torture” that sought to destroy her mind and spirit.
“For a person of faith, being subjected to mandatory indoctrination not only causes mental anguish but more so, the soul is subjected to unbearable repression and agony,” she said.
Jian described prison-like conditions, complete with 24/7 surveillance and small, padlocked rooms with little more than a skylight. Guards escorted her everywhere she went, and two “tutors,” specially trained to help detainees undergo “ideological transformation,” slept beside her every night. A surveillance camera was aimed directly at Jian’s bed to watch for any attempts to pray secretly.
During the day, Jian participated in several hours-long indoctrination classes, where she was forced to watch Chinese Communist Party propaganda videos, study Chinese President Xi Jinping's teachings, and sing songs thanking the Party. After several days of this, she was shown videos criticizing Christianity and ordered to complete “homework,” which required her to write words blaspheming God.
“Every day, I was forced to watch content that condemned and slandered my faith, but I wasn’t allowed to refute it,” she said, adding that the homework was “like “stepping onto a battlefield.”
Once, the tutors told Jian to clearly write blasphemous words about God. She refused to do so, and asked, “The national constitution expressly provides for the freedom of belief of citizens. Why do you torment and persecute Christians?”
One of the tutors reportedly replied, “For whom is there freedom of belief? You were born in China, so you have to obey the Communist Party. Belief in God is what the Communist Party hates the most. If you want freedom, [you won’t get it] unless you go abroad.”
After being at the camp for five days, Jian had not given up her faith, so she was forced to write a statement of “guarantee, repentance, break-up, and criticism,” which would mean renouncing her faith.
When she refused, the two tutors took turns monitoring Jian and did not allow her to sleep.
“If I were not guided by the word of God, I would have been driven crazy. The CCP is evil,” she said.
Although she was eventually released, Jian continues to be harassed and threatened by police, and is continually monitored by a woman wearing a “special duty” red armband.
Legalized in 2018 and often located in state-owned hotels, nursing homes, and psychiatric hospitals, “legal education centers” were established to allow local governments to “educate and transform” people influenced by “extremism.”
However, with an estimated one and a half million inmates — many of them Muslim majority Uyghurs — these centers have become a means for the CCP to combat religious belief and repress ethnic minority groups.
While presented as “educational” facilities, inmates are routinely submitted to an “inhuman regime of labor and indoctrination and to strong pressure to renounce their religious faith, with instances of torture and suspicious deaths frequently reported,” according to Bitter Winter.
In light of these abuses, watchdog group Open Doors USA ranked China number 27 on its World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith, marking a 16-spot jump from its previous ranking.
Open Doors warned in its report that "the increased power of the government and the rule of Xi Jinping continue to make open worship difficult in some parts of the country."