Chinese Christians held in secret ‘transformation’ facilities, says report

A police officer wearing a face mask tries to stop a photojournalist taking pictures on a street in Beijing on Oct. 13, 2020. (Photo by Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via LiCAS.news)

Christians in China are being held in secretive, mobile “transformation” facilities by communist authorities in a bid to force them to renounce their faith.

A report by Radio Free Asia quoted a Christian in the southwestern province of Sichuan who claimed to have been held in a facility run by the police and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The source who asked to be identified only as Li Yuese said he was held for 10 months after a raid on his church in 2018.

“It was a mobile facility that could just be set up in some basement somewhere,” said Li in an interview with RFA. “It was staffed by people from several different government departments.”

He said the facility has its own political and legal affairs committees that mainly target Christians who are members of house churches.

The Chinese Communist Party is known to exercise 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 are not members of the state-aligned Three-Self Patriotic Association.

The party sees Christianity as a dangerous foreign import and party documents warn against the “infiltration of Western hostile forces” in the form of religion.

RFA reported that Li was held in a windowless room where he was reportedly beaten, verbally abused, and “mentally tortured.”

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.

Another Christian who asked to remain anonymous told RFA that similar facilities are being used across China.

A lawyer surnamed Zhang from the northern province of Hebei said represented a number of former detainees who were Catholics.

“These brainwashing places were similar to the ones used on the Falun Gong,” he said, adding that he saw several priests who told him of what was happening.

“After the religious affairs officials had arrested the bishops and priests, they didn’t pursue criminal charges — they just disappeared them, sometimes for five, six or even 10 years at a stretch,” said the lawyer.

Zhang said he suspects the “transformation” facilities have been running for a long time around China.

A report in the online magazine Bitter Winter in November 2020 revealed the methods used in the centers, varying from beatings to torture, including cold showers in sub-zero temperatures, and forcing inmates to carry large buckets of water around their necks.

There are an estimated 68 million Protestants in China, of whom 23 million worship in state-affiliated churches under the Three-Self Patriotic Association. There are estimated 10-12 million Catholics in the country; roughly half of whom are part of the so-called underground Church while the other half worship in state-sanctioned congregations. - LiCAS.news