Testimony of sister Cao Hongmei

China Aid Association
My name is Cao Hongmei, and my Christian name is Rose Cao. I am female, of the Han nationality. I was born on January 4th, 1969. I live in the fifth group, Lengshui Township, Zhongxiang City, Hubei Province. I came to the Lord in 1990, and in February of the same year I attended the trainings for theology. In October 1991, I was imprisoned for the first time. On August 8th, 2001, I was arrested and kept in a prison in Jingmen city. On December 19th, 2001, I was put on court for the first time, and received the sentence of three years in prison. On October 9th, 2002, I was put on court for the second time, and my sentence was changed to two years in prison. I served my terms in Wuhan Women’s Prison, and was released on August 8th, 2003.
My mother came to the Lord when I was eighteen, for she wanted to do something with her bad temper. Later my elder brother and elder sister believed too, but I didn’t.  I didn’t go against them either; somehow I even asked my mother to be a good believer. In February, 1990, I attended a meeting in my elder brother’s house. I sat there and listened to the co-workers sing When the Holy Spirit is in My Heart. I was so moved that my tears flew out. Not long afterwards, my eldest sister asked me to go to a “life meeting.” Though I didn’t really want to go, I went anyway in obedience to my eldest sister. In the meeting I heard the preacher talking about confessions, repentance and belief, as well as Jesus and His crucifixion. I felt that these words cut into my heart. I cried before the Lord, repented, and prayed. I felt an urge to proclaim the gospel. There was a training of theology at that time, so I went there before I could tell my family about it. Persecution was upon us while I was in the training. We switched to four reception houses in a roll in three years’ time. Three times we had to hide in the mountains. There was once that we stayed there for a week. We read the Scripture, prayed and listened to the sermons in the wilderness. It was always rainy in the South. My teacher of theology got rheumatism, for she was being exposed to the rain too long. Life there was hard indeed, but we had this genuine love for each other. Everyone was zealous for the gospel and the wandering souls. Three months later, the training was over, and I was sent on mission to a harvest field for the souls. One after another “life meetings” were held, and there were more and more people saved. Many believers were equipped with the truth, and served the Lord with a zealous heart. There were revivals everywhere. However, where there was the Lord’s work going on, there was Satan’s attack, let alone South China Church, a church established in the very persecutions and trials.
In the night of October 4th, 1991, my co-worker and I went to a fellow believer’s house. On the way there, a village official saw us and reported to the police.
That very night, policemen knocked the door of the fellow believer open, and took hold of us. They demanded us to tell them our profession and home addresses. But before I could answer them, a cop gave me a hard blow on the head and another in the face with a flashlight. Then I was taken to Jingmen Prison. Each newcomer would receive a “pass through”, which meant she would be beaten. It was very late at night by the time I went in, so they didn’t beat me. The second day, a prostitute pricked my fingers with needles, and blood gushed out. Seeing that she was so cruel to me, everybody else in the cell wept. By the time I was jailed, there was another evangelist from the gospel legion whose name was Wang Zishou. She had gone through even more brutal tortures. They pricked her hands with needles, and heaped blows on her back. All we could do was to pray to the Lord, asking Him to have pity on those unbelievers. I had been interrogated several times. Once an interrogator said, “The Bible is simply a book about nature. There is nothing special about it. There is no God. If you believe in God, you are lying to yourself.” There was another time that an aged interrogator called me to the interrogation room, and shut all the windows and door tight. He took his shoes off, and sat in the bed to interrogate me. He said, “Are you afraid of me? Don’t sit so far away. Come closer to me.” Then he asked, “Do you still want to believe?” I responded immediately, “Yes.” He said, “What is it? Speak louder, and get closer to me.” He had this lewd grin on his face. He didn’t look like an interrogator at all. I was very frightened, but still I said firmly, “Yes.” I prayed in my heart, asking Him to guard me. Finally a person knocked on the door, and he wrapped up this interrogation. I was shut there for three months, but they gave me no reason for it. On the day of my release, I was forced to write a “confession paper,” which said that I had broken up with the “All Scale Church.” After getting out of the lockup, I returned to the church.
Since the day of its establishment, SCC had undergone rounds and rounds of persecutions, especially in 1995 and 1996, when many believers were arrested. Some were jailed for a month, some six months, a year, two years, or even three years. They were fined too, from several hundred to 20 thousand RMB. The church was in a very hard time, but the work had never been stopped. God revealed His truth to us, and showed us that He would lead us to make the SCC special—Salvation and China. With His blessings, we compiled 48 issues in about two years. Our work grew more and more significant and influential. 
On May 27th, 2001, several co-workers in charge of the periodicals (Li Ying, Meng Xicun, Li Yingping, Xiao Yanli, etc.) were arrested. This was a signal of persecution on the church. The entire environment was more and more hostile. Many believers had been caught. The police had placed traps everywhere to get the teacher of SCC. At 8 p.m., August 8th, I took a coach to Jingmen, Hubei Province, and called a fellow believer (his phone had been bugged by the police), asking, “How is the situation?” He said, “Just fine.” So I went there. Xu Fuming (Lingfeng) arrived soon after I got there, and said, “The teacher is downstairs.” I went down to meet him. He said, “I have risked my neck to come to Jingmen, for I have something important to deal with: there are two evangelists from a communication meeting here to preach.” After a while, we went ahead together. Before we could make several paces, a group of people surrounded us all of a sudden. One of them came at me and grabbed my neck. I screamed, “What is this?” That man shouted, “The police! Freeze!” I turned around, and saw that my teacher had been pushed onto the ground by several men. One of them pressed on my teacher’s legs, so that he couldn’t move. Another pushed his head down, making him unable to move or make a sound. Yet another took the leather belt off my teacher, and bound his hands and feet. The sister (Li Fengjuan) who had been with us tried to run away. But several men rushed up, and grabbed her. Then we were taken away separately in their cars. After arriving at Duodao Police Department, Jingemn, we were shut in separate rooms. I was tied onto a pole by the wall, with my hands handcuffed behind my back. After a while, several people pointed at me and said angrily, “Cao Hongmei, get yourself ready, for you are going to have some broken bones. What’s more, this time we’ll skin you alive!” At about 2 a.m., I saw that my teacher walked by my door. He was fettered, and handcuffed from behind. Several men shoved him forward. He stumbled for a second and those people behind pushed him really hard. (After this time, I only got to see him once in a while in Jingmen Prison.) Soon two men came and escorted me into a room, where several interrogators questioned me by turns about affairs and persons of the church. I just said “I don’t know” to all their questions. They kept on striking my head. I was kept awake for the whole night. They beat me till morning. Then they imposed more brutal tortures on me. First they had me kneel on the floor, and then they pulled my left hand from above the shoulder to the back. Then they pulled my right hand from under my armpit to the back. After that, they handcuffed me, and thrust bottles between my arms and my back. They put three there, which made my arms hurt so much as if they were going to break. One of the interrogators (Tang Mingpeng from Shayang Police Department) cursed me while stabbing my legs and hands with a sharpened bamboo stick. My hands were all blackish purple by then. Blood gushed out. Tang Mingpeng and Yang Shiming (the leader of Shayang criminal police) beat me while insulting the God I believed in, saying, “Where is your God? Ask him to rescue you then. Your God is a foreign God, a fake one. A Chinese should believe in Buddhism.” While they were saying this, I just kept silent. This annoyed them even more. Yang hanged me on the window pane, so that I was suspended in the air. After a while, my arms were all numb, and my hands were blackish purple. But Yang and Tang didn’t put me down. Instead, they cursed me and gave me blows on my arms and hands with a club. It was more than I could bear. I could only breathe out and couldn’t breathe in. then they pulled me down. Grabbed my hair, and threw me into a couch. Then they pulled my hair and dragged me on the floor. (A lot of hair came off. There were strands of them on the floor.) They heaped blows on my face. After a while, blood came out of my nose and eyes. My face was all bluish purple. (I got to know that I had been beaten into such a state only when I was sent to the lockup. The rest of the inmates in the cell all asked me in astonishment, “Why is your face swollen and black and blue?”) Yang took hold of the handcuffs (which had cut into my flesh), and knocked my hands hard. Then he took another pair of handcuffs, and smashed my fingers. I felt so painful that I screamed. The nails on my middle finger were cracked, and blood dripped onto the ground, reddish black. All the other fingers were also bleeding, and the fingernails all turned black. Later on all of my fingernails were infected and running with pus, and then they all came off. It took two years to get well. But even today there is still this black spot under the fingernail of the ring finger of my right hand. I guess it’ll never go away. Later Yang produced several steel nails before me, and was going to prick them into my finger tips. I was barely alive by then. My body hurt all over, and all my strength was gone. I wanted to cry, but no tears came out. All that I could do was pray in my heart. Seeing that I was sitting there still, an interrogator roared at me, “What the hell do you think you are doing? You are praying even now, aren’t you? Ask your God to come to your rescue then!” After beating me and swearing at me, they continued their interrogation, and forced me to say that my teacher and Sister Li Ying were the chief plotters behind the injury. (They had interrogated me many times, just to force me into saying that I “knew” that my teacher and Sister Li Ying had committed what they accused them of.) Later I learned that they wanted to sentence Gong and Li to death, based on this so-called evidence. I couldn’t admit having done what I knew not of. I couldn’t say “Yes, I knew it” to something I didn’t know. Seeing that I wasn’t obeying their command, Tang took out a lighter, and started to burn my face and ears. The fire gave out noise. I felt tremendous pain. After that, they went for my lips, pressing a burning cigarette into them. They said that there was something wrong with my ears, and that was why I couldn’t hear them; no words that they wanted ever came out of my mouth. My face and my ears were so burnt that they gave off a horrible smell. Later on they were all infected and pus came out. Then Tang took me by the throat with his two hands. My eyes were bulging out, and I couldn’t even breathe. Seeing that I might die, Tang let go of his hands. He threatened me, “If you still refuse to obey, I’ll throw the stub into your mouth. You’ll enjoy the taste of burning hot chaw of tobacco.” But how could I make things up? How could I testify things that I knew not of? Seeing that I still kept silent, Tang ripped my blouse open with a pull. (My hands were handcuffed.) Then he threw all those dirty, obscene and mean words on me, claiming that I had had sexual intercourses with Gong Dali (my teacher). He said that if I continued to keep my mouth shut, he would take me to a hospital for gynecological examinations. Then he said in a vicious tone, “You are not talking? Fine! We’ll teach you how. You know nothing about it? Fine! We’ll tell you what to say.” In a word, they forced me to admit that I had had sexual intercourses with Gong Dali. Tang asked, “Which one of you got in bed first, you or him?” I said, “I have no idea what you are talking about.” He asked, “Which took off the clothes then?” I answered, “I still have no idea what you are talking about.” Tang flew in a rage and swore at me, “Damn you! Have you ever been in bed together at all?” I said, “Never.” Tang was so mad that he roared, “Cao Hongmei, seems that we would have to fix you till you know how to succumb. Let’s see who is tougher, you or us!” He said that if I kept denying it for a month, they would interrogate me for a month. If I kept denying it for two months, they would interrogate me for two months. Since the day I was arrested, I was called out early in the morning for interrogation, and it was not until midnight that I was allowed back to the lockup. It went on like this everyday. They carried out rounds and rounds of interrogations on me, which could last three days and three nights in a roll. I was allowed no rest during all this time. Besides, I was so exhausted and tortured both body and soul. It went on for a month. I couldn’t bear all this any longer. Now I knew what it meant to “be better off dead.” I just hoped that these days of brutal treatments could be over. There was nothing I could do. Under these circumstances, I had to say what they forced me to say. I said that my teacher had had sexual intercourses with me. I could but parrot the interrogators’ words. Then I was ordered to sign my name and put my fingerprint on the paper of testimony, which the interrogators had already prepared. (They never put down what I had said as the note for the interrogation. They just made things up, and claimed that it was my testimony. Then they forced me to sign, so that they could get what they wanted. Like, I had never said that my teacher and I had had sexual intercourses or my teacher and Li Ying plotted the assault.) I gave up a false witness just as what the interrogators wanted me to.  Now I was tormented both body and soul. I spent each day in self-reprimand and remorse. I had testified falsely against my teacher. All his teachings through all these years were spent on me for nothing. He brought me to the Lord and taught me the truth of the Bible. He was an example for me in every way. However, as his student, I had put him in this snare, just because I wanted to save my own butt. The false testimony was made an evidence for them to put my teacher to death. I cried my heart out for this. I couldn’t even face my teacher, who had been so good to me. Even today, I would still feel no peace in my heart each time I recall this. I just can’t forgive myself.
October 10th of the year 2001 was an unforgettable day. Even now when I recall it, I would shudder. I was so frightened that I almost got crazy. On October 8th, Tang Guangbin (He was a cop from Shayang Police Force. Actually he had been introfgating me too. He didn’t strike me, but took the role of a coaxer. The others beat me, and he would be coaxing me, trying to talk me into obeying them) and another cop (Luo Xiaoming) brought out a man out of the blue, and called me out. In my face they asked the man if he knew me. He said he did, and that I had been to his house. I had no idea who he was. I said, “I don’t know him. I had never been to his place either.” Tang Guangbin shoved me, and spoke in a vicious tone, “Still trying to quibble, aren’t you? He has said that he knew you! If you refuse to admit, fine! You’ll know what it means later on.” I returned to the cell, and prayed again and again in my heart. I knew I was going to be brutally beaten again. Early in the morning of the 10th, I was called out from the cell. Tang drove me to Jingmen Police Department. On arriving at a room, he roared at me, “Do you know that man or not? If you don’t, I’ll make you do! You’ll know what kind of person I am today.” He burst into curses. He took over a pair of handcuffs, and made me “carry the sword” (see the previous explanation). Against and again they took them off, only to have me handcuffed soon. In the beginning my shoulders hurt a great deal, and then they grew numb, as if my arms had been broken off. They did this to me again and again, just to make me suffer all the more. I just bit my lips and tolerated all this. I knew whom I believed in. I knew quite well that God had prearranged all this from the beginning. I had no other choice but to walk on this road. I kept silent all this time. In the afternoon Tang took me to another place. When we were in a corridor, Tang pointed at a club broken into halves on the ground, and said to me with a triumphant air, “See this club? It got broken from beating your brothers. We have beaten them still their legs and ankles were so swollen that they can’t even pull off their pants.” Then he roared in laughter. Hearing this, I burst into tears. The brothers had suffered more than I did. They took me to a room at the end of the corridor, and shut all the windows and the door tight on getting in. Nobody could enter without their permission. I knew that they were going to torture me brutally again. So I kept praying and calling out to the Lord. Tang said, “I won’t waste no damn time on you. I’ll beat you first.” He forced me to kneel on the ground, and tied my arms up with plastic strings. I was kept that way for a solid hour. Tang heaped curses on me while talking to me, “I’ll see if you’ll admit you have done this. If you don’t, we’ll damn hang you up.” I was in so much pain that I grew pale and felt numb. Then a man came in and said to me with a pretended kindness, “Why don’t you just admit? If you do, we won’t beat you.” Tang took the strings off me. They questioned me many times, just to get me admit that I knew that man and had been to his house. I had no idea why they were forcing me to make a false witness. I didn’t even know who that man was, where he lived, or what his name was. Tang asked again, “How many people did you bring to his house? How much money have you blackmailed him? Did Gong Dali know about stabbing with a nail?” Oh my goodness! It was what they had made up, and now they were trying to trap me. I gave them a firm answer, “You lie. There is no such thing.” Seeing this, Tang was so mad that he roared at me, grabbed my hands, had them handcuffed, hanged me up in a high shelf, and smashed at my legs with a chair and then his big hands. I was in so much pain that I screamed. Tang stared into my face and said, “I dare you to cry out again. I’ll stuff your mouth with stinky socks if you do.” He continued to hit me in the legs with the chair. I was in so much pain that sweat streamed down my back. Finally I had no strength to move or cry out. Seeing that I was silent, Tang poured a cup of water onto my face, and undid my handcuffs. I fell from high up there to the ground. Tang dragged me to a chair, and swore at me, “Don’t you think you can play possum on me, you bitch.” My entire body, especially my back hurt so much that I couldn’t keep control of it. I passed out. I don’t know when I came to myself. When I did, I tried to move my legs a bit. They were in so much pain as if they had been ripped apart. I had just come to myself when Luo Xiaoming came in. (He was from Shayang Police Department, and was in charge of interrogating a certain person of the SCC case.) He forbade me to sit. Instead, he ordered me to walk around in the room. My legs were in tearing pain; how could I walk? But he forced me to again and again. All I could do was stand up, holding onto the chair, and move little by little. Luo Xiaoming said I was walking too slowly, and forced me to go faster. I was in so much pain that my entire body was covered with sweat. Tears ran down my face. (I couldn’t even tell if it was tears or sweat.) I did all I could, moving forward inch by inch. I just longed to escape from their devilish clasp, for I couldn’t stand this any further. I was wondering if I would just drop dead. Seeing that I was in agony, Tang and Luo laughed contentedly. Tang got up and roared at me, “Cao Hongmei, do you know that the guys at Zhongxiang Police Department have beaten a SCC believer to death? Her name is Yu Zhongju. If you don’t talk, we’ll strike you dead too. We’ll simply dig a grave here and bury you, or throw you into Hanjiang River. We’ll see what you can amount to. Don’t even think that you can find justice!” Hearing this, my head went blank. I was shocked and frightened. Lord! I had thought that I had gone through hellish torture, such a one as the world had never seen, but there was even someone beaten to death! I could still breathe and think and feel, which means I could have received the easiest torture. But it also means that I might receive a more brutal torment, which could even kill me. Then they would notify my family that I had “committed suicide for fear of the crimes”. My folks were all villagers, who hadn’t seen much of the world. The police staff would just frighten them and coax them and cheat them. How could my family know how I died? Even if they did, so what? They got neither power nor authority. The police had been blabbing around about how they had beaten Yu Zhongju to death. But no one had come up and brought them in front of the law. I had been tortured cruelly here, but who even knew this? Since the day I had been arrested, I hadn’t managed to contact my family. They didn’t visit me either. I was cut off from the world outside. I had been beaten like this, barely alive. I would be following Yu Zhongju too. How I had been tortured when I first got here came back into my mind. My fingers are still running with pus; the finger nails were gone. My hairs were scarce from their pulling. I was in intolerable agony. I collapsed; both body and soul. I felt I was dying. There was this only one that could keep me alive— my Lord, the one I had my hope in. They took turns to torment me till very late at night (I had no idea what time it was.), forcing me to tell them the names of the evangelists, reception families, and other believers. I had hardly any strength left after all this torture. I was so exhausted that I just wanted to rest in bed. Being forced again and again to talk, I said, “I don’t know that man at all. I have never been to his house, let alone blackmailing him.” But they did all they could do force me into admitting that I had blackmailed and beat him. So finally I did, against my will. There was nothing I could do but to sign on their paper of testimony, which they had already made up. They got what they wanted. The entire room was filled with their roaring laughter. I failed again. Though I had made though their beatings once, I collapsed when they put me again to torture and threat. I didn’t even know what I had done. I was like a puppet, in the hands of others. Tears ran down my face. My heart was full of regret. I blamed myself for being so useless and weak. I was remorse enough to die. I was so disappointed of myself. Would the church still want me? I wouldn’t have carried through if not for the others’ encouragement and consolation. Since I had said and wrote what they wanted, the cops didn’t interrogate me again. At night, they handcuffed my hand to a chair, mocking me and saying that it was a bed on the ground. I had neither blankets nor quilts. I was wearing a thin blouse. I was freezing and trembling. I just leaned there. Though I was over-tired, I couldn’t fall asleep. I was filled with fear the minute I closed my eyes. All I could do was to call out to the Lord in my heart: Lord, please save me. About two or three hour later, morning dawned. They came in again, and ordered me to speak about the affairs in the church. Seeing that I kept silent, Tang struck my legs with his hands, which were already black and blue and couldn’t receive more blows. Each time he gave me a blow; I would close my eyes and held back my tears. If I shed tears in front of them, all I could get was ridicule and insult, instead of compassion and sympathy. Whatever they asked, I refused to answer. Inevitably I was struck and kicked upon. I could do nothing but scribble down the name of several evangelists and common believers. I was like a corpse being abused. When they got tired or bored, they would sit there and talk to each other. I was placed beside them. One of them (I don’t know the name) asked me, “Cao Hongmei, would you like to watch a video show about Gong Dali?” I glanced at him. He continued, “You still watching out for Gong Dali? You still want to be a scapegoat for him instead of testifying against him?” Then he turned to the others (including Tang and Luo), and said, “We have made a special one about Gong Dali and Zhang Xiaohong in bed.” Another man asked him, “How did you do that?” He said, “The techniques are really advanced these days. We just made it like the real thing, though he wasn’t here. Both of them are stark naked in bed. Ha, ha, we had great fun watching it. Gong Dali is a dead man now.” They said a lot of dirty words. These several men sat there talking, swearing and laughing till afternoon. I was sent back to the lockup in the evening. I got no idea what time it was. My two legs were as if broken. I couldn’t even move. I remember that a person took hold of my arm, dragged me down the stairs into a car then into the cell. I had no strength even to sit up. Seeing the wounds in my body, all the fellow inmates in the cell wept. I had to stay in the lying position for over two weeks, during which I couldn’t even move around. Fortunately there were two other sisters in the cell (Xiang Fengping and Yang Chijiao). They all wept when they saw me all beaten up, saying, “You had been out for only two days and came back like this. We had thought that we might never be able to see you again.” I said, “I thought I could never see you and the other bothers and sisters. I never dreamed of coming back alive.” We three held each other in the arms, and cried out hearts out. They took care of me everyday. Tears would flow out when I saw them washing my clothes. They would also weep when they see my legs. They took care of everything for me. They washed my clothes, brought me meals, and helped me to use the bathroom. They would leave pickles for me, though there were but little. At night they slept on bare boards, with only a coat covering their bodies. They did this so that I could have the quilt and keep warm. (There was only one quilt) Were it not for their help, my legs might not recover so soon (within two months). There was this official of the prison who, seeing that I was lying there unable to take care of myself, said, “No one has beaten you.” No one has beaten me? Did I beat myself then? The superintendent and the doctor came and checked on me. They just left the medicine enough to cover a day. After that they paid me no heed. The two sisters in the same cell with me underwent brutal beatings and tortures, just like I did. Yang Chijiao was handcuffed from behind and hanged up for them to strike, which went on for two days. They forced her to say she had had sexual intercourses with the teacher. After she turned to the cell, we saw that one of her arms couldn’t even move. During the time we were locked up, all information about us was cut off from the outside. No letters or visitors were allowed in. (After I was released, I learned that my family had been going everywhere to find out where I was in vain.) I was shut in this lockup with on extra clothes and no daily necessities. We three had to share one quilt. Many times we woke up in the cold. The other inmates treated us badly too. (They thought we were dirty, for we barely washed clothes or wash our quilt. But we had no extra clothes to put on. All we could do was to wait till one piece of clothing is dry and then wash another. As for the quilt, there was only one. How could we wash it then?) We had tasted enough the coldness of the world. It grew colder and colder, but I was still wearing a summer shirt. So I made requests again and again, asking then to contact my family and tell them to bring me some clothes. But the officials of the prison said, “Those dealing with your case don’t allow visitations or correspondences.” Again the people dealing with the case said, “Ask people in charge of the lockup to meet your needs.” They just went like this, shunning their responsibility. I spoke to them again and again that I desperately needed clothes and a quilt. In the end they brought to us (five people, each got one item) some shirts and underwear, which they had taken away from SCC believers’ houses. But I still didn’t get a quilt or clothes for winter. In late October I had been called out for interrogation a couple of times, and saw our teacher. He was wearing but a very thin shirt. I could hardly recognize him when I saw him. He had been tortured beyond recognition.
On November 3rd, I was called out for an examination. Only then did the life in terror at the police department was temporarily over. A month later, the “indictment paper” from Jingmen People’s Procuratorate was delivered to the 17 of us in the night of December 7th. (On December 7th, Li Ying, Li Yingping, Yi Chuanfu, Dong Daolai, Xiao Yanli and Meng Xicun were escorted to the No.1 Prison of Jingmen respectively from the lockups in Zhongxiang, Jingshan and Dangyang). The hearing was to be held in ten days. I wanted to contact my family and tell them to get me a lawyer. But the officials in charge of the prison said, “The court has made an order that no detainee from SCC should contact his or her family, nor can they hire their own lawyers.” We all made the requirement to get our own lawyers, for it was a right given by law. There was so such law that said no Christian could get a lawyer. Just to calm us down, an official said that we were to receive “assistant lawyers.” But shouldn’t they, these “assistant lawyers”, come and talk to their clients? It was almost time for hearing, but they were nowhere to be seen. We thought to ourselves that there was no hope for that. Then we asked for pens and papers to write our own statements. But the officials wouldn’t give them to us no matter what. We made the request again and again. Finally he gave us three pens, and each person could have two pieces of paper. How could these be enough? (One cell held four sisters.) I felt so bad and disappointed. Picking up the indictment paper, I felt that tears run down my face.
When it was the day for the hearing (December 19th, 2001) the seventeen of us (Gong Dali, Li Ying, Sun Minghua, Gong Bangkun, Hu Yong, Xu Fumimng, Xiao Yanli, Yi Chuanfu, Dong Daolai, Du Qingfeng, Qiu Chunyi, Fu Shijun, Xiang Fengping, Li Yingping, Meng Xicun, Liu Xianzhi and myself) were all handcuffed from behind. But the teacher was also fettered. We were escorted by some armed police to the Middle People’s Court of Jingmen City, and were kept standing in a row. We stood there like that through three solid days. Even during the sojourn, we were still kept handcuffed from behind, squatting in the ground. All through the hearing, there were only the questionings of the judge, and the accusations of the public procurator, without defenses of the lawyers, let alone the defenses or statements of the defendants. All I saw were ridiculing and self-content faces (especially those of the “assistant lawyers'”). We heard no defenses from the lawyers; instead, they were whispering to each other and laughing. How could they call themselves lawyers? The bailiffs even swore in the solemn court. A brother (Qiu Chunyi) took a bit more time to look at a photo serving as evidence, and said, “I don’t know the person in the photo.” A bailiff went up, slapped him, and said, “Behave yourself.” In the afternoon of the second day of the hearing, I saw that my teacher couldn’t muster enough strength to stand, being so weak from the tortures. He kept putting his hands on his legs, as if he was going to faint. After a while, he couldn’t hold on any longer. He reported to the judge, “I’m going to faint.” Before the judge could say anything, he collapsed onto the ground. (It was really cold.) Later the judge allowed a stool to be taken to the teacher to sit on. During the sojourn, a bailiff walked up and swore at him, “Gong Dali, behave your-damn-self! Don’t try to play possum.” We were still in pain from the previous beatings, and tired from standing there so long that our legs were numb and couldn’t move. We had to walk slowly out of the court. The bailiffs spoke to us viciously, “Move your ass! You Christians are so damn disgusting in our sight.” On the third day, it was time for each one of us to make a defending statement. My teacher said, “I have been found guilty for rape. Why, then, is there no plaintiff or witnesses in court€¦” The judge said, “Stop it, Gong Dali. The court has affirmed the charges.” Li Ying said, “My church is not a cult. What I believe in is far from a cult belief, but Christianity. It takes the salvation from the cross as the basis, the mighty power of the truth of the Bible, and establishing churches as the central work…” Before she could finish, the judge interrupted her with a loud voice, “Li Ying, cut it short.” Li Ying said, “I have nothing to do with committing injury. The testimonies were all made up by the police through inquisition by torture.” The judge said impatiently, “Li Ying, stop talking. Your deeds have been made clear. The court has affirmed the charges.” He also cut Sun Minghua and Gong Bangkun short before they could say anything. Yi Chuanfu said, “Your Honor, please take a look at the wounds I have received from the inquisition by torture at the police department.” Then he pulled his legs of the pants up. We all saw that his legs were covered with wounds, which were all infected and swollen. Yi wept as he spoke. We did too. However, the lawyers looked at each other and laughed. The judge said with a vicious look on his face, “Yi Chuanfu, put your pants down and say no more.” Yi still wanted to speak, but the judge forbade him to. Later Dong Daolai, Xu Fuming, Hu Yong, Du Qingfeng and Qiu Chunyi all testified in court that the teacher had not plotted the injury, and that Li Ying knew nothing about it. Xiang Fengping, Liu Xianzhi, Meng Xicun, Li Yingping and I also testified that the police had held inquisitions by torture, and forced the accusation upon us. “Never have I had sexual intercourses with my teacher.” We could but say one sentence before the judge stopped us. He wouldn’t listen to ant defense from our side. There was this lopsided judging while no defendant was given the right to defend, make a statement, even to speak. The hearing was over, and I was very disappointed with a heavy heart. (I had never thought the court could treat us like that. It was just a token action.)

Three days later, the judge took the note of the hearing and asked us to sign. The normal procedure required that the defendants read the notes first before they signed on the paper. But we were told to sign immediately. We asked them to let us read first, but the judge forbade us to. We refused, while they coerced us and were even ready to beat us. We could do nothing but to sign. We were in a rage. Why did the notes deny any reading? Did it mean that what was recorded there was untrue?
We waited anxiously in the lockup for the verdict. At about 9 p.m. on December 29th, 2001, we (Li Ying, Xiang Fengping, Meng Xicun and I) had all gone to bed when the officials called our names, and said that we were to dress up quickly and get out. We were astonished. It was so late; what were they calling us out for? We asked the officials, who gave us no answer. We walked out, and found out that the verdict papers were to be handed to us. People from the police department, the procuratorate and the court all came, standing in the dark. The four of us in one cell stood out there, while a cop shouted at us, “Squat, and hold your head with your hands.” A sister was a bit slow to comply, and the cop gave her a slap. We all squatted and waited. Then we were taken to a small house one by one. It was blazingly lighted. A man was holding a camera, and the judge stood in front holding the verdict papers. When he handed the paper out, he would ask, “Do you admit you are guilty of the charges? If not, will you appeal?” We all said, “We will appeal.” Then we just receive the paper, sign, and put the fingerprint on it. They videotaped the whole thing.
The verdicts went like this: our teacher (Gong Dali), Xu Fuming and Hu Yong were all sentenced to death. Li Ying and Gong Bangkun were sentenced to death with a respite of two years. Sun Minghua was sentenced to life in prison. Xiao Yanli was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Xiang Fengping was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Dong Daolai, Yi Chuanfu were sentenced to 10 years in prison. Li Yingping, and Meng Xicun were sentenced to 8 years in prison. Du Qingfeng was sentenced to 6 years in prison. Qiu Chunyi and I were sentenced to 3 years in prison. Fu Shijun and Liu Xianzhi were sentenced to 2 years in prison. That very night, no one could fall asleep. I don’t remember how I spent that that night. In tears, I guess. We were as if at the end of the road with no hope left. Lord! Who could save us from the trial? Who could change all this? We could only pray that the miracle in Genesis could happen again: when Abraham was to make Isaac a sacrifice, he took the knife and got ready to kill his son. But an angel stopped him. We just hoped that the Lord could treat us SCC believers under heavy sentences just like that.
We didn’t admit we were guilty of the charges. Instead, we would lodge an appeal. We were given only ten days. We wrote the instruments of appeal at once, handed them in, and had no idea what this could amount to. All we could do was wait patiently. After we were given the verdict, we were locked up in the No.1 Prison of Jingmen City. All seventeen of us were there. The brothers were separated from each other (locked up with unbelievers), while the sisters were put together in a group of four. I was with Li Ying, Xiang Fengping and Meng Xicun. Sun Minghua, Liu Xianzhi, Xiao Yanli and Li Yingping were in one cell. While waiting, we encouraged each other, looked back on the history, and gave thanks. We examined ourselves, sang praise songs, prayed, loved each other and were in one mind. We were here on earth, but as if in heaven. Though they forbade us to, we still sang praise songs and prayed together. Even the unbelievers in the same cells were moved and did the same thing with us. (Sometimes we had to be careful of the officials when we sang.) Sister Li Ying often talked about Bible stories with us, like Abraham making Isaac a sacrifice, Job’s sufferings, as well as the persecutions the overseas missionaries had encountered in China. While talked about all this, we were moved to tears before we knew it. We bowed down before the Lord, gave thanks, and prayed. Sometimes we also wrote about our own inspirations about the truth, like what faith, life, and life through faith were all about, and so on. We said grace before each meal. We also recalled the truth from the Bible and the poems of praise the teacher had taught us. We also recalled the books we had learned at the church, like Truth in Line and God Forever and Ever, as well as some other books. We had been talking, recalling all this and giving thanks, from which we realized how weak we were, and repented before the Lord, asking Him to strengthen us once again. Because of our encouragement for each other, our grieved hearts were revived and were full of faith and hope.
We used different ways to encourage and console each other. Sister Li Ying made a birthday card (out of cigarette packets and trademark papers) for each one of us for our birthdays. She did it really carefully, on which she even wrote birthday greetings. We also held birthday parties. When it was Li Ying, Minghua and Liu Xianzhi’s birthday, we held this simple party, and invited the unbelievers too. We sat together in a circle, and each person would give a blessing, sing a favorite song, and present a gift. We all cried while laughed during the party. The unbelievers were all moved. We asked which cells the brothers were in, and sent them greetings and encouraging words. We also ordered dishes, transferred money, and bought stuff (including food) for them. In a word, we did all that we could to help each other and be witnesses for Christ, so that all could see that we were disciples of Jesus. Many unbelievers said, “You Christians are real good people. You would even save your own food for others.” Our teacher loved his students even more. He suffered the most in jail, while he had never forgotten his students here with him. He asked again and again to give the clothes and money that his family had sent him to Yi Chuanfu, Dong Daolai and Gong Bangkun. But the officials wouldn’t. Our teacher made the request again and again to read the Bible, which was rejected too. Sister Li Ying’s piety for the Lord all these years hadn’t faded. Instead, it grew all the more. The sisters fasted with her for three days and then seven days with her. She had even this greater will to follow Moses and Lord Jesus to fast for forty days.

In the Spring Festival of the year 2002, we longed for the Lord Jesus and missed the brothers and sisters all the more. So we sang praise songs. Though we were miles apart, we all belonged to the same body. So out we sang “The Lord is my Shepard.” We sang so loud that the entire prison could hear us. They all heard; more than that, our Lord in heaven and the heavenly hosts all heard. This was the praise that SCC prisoners gave, while in the valley of the shadow of death.
Of course, each time we prayed and sang, we did it secretly. Many times the officials shouted at us to make us stop, or launch a sudden checkup (they search our cells) against us. All the birthday cards we had made so carefully as well as the words from the Lord that we had put down were taken away. Once they took all our papers of appeal and verdict papers away. I had no idea why. Each time they came to check, they would scatter all the quilts and clothes around on the floor. They even stepped on the clothes in their shoes. I said, “You are stepping on the clothes with your shoes on.” The guy from the armed police stared at me and said angrily, “So what? I want to step on it.” Then he gave me a slap. There was simply too much injustice we had encountered in the lockup to be numbered.

There was this one more thing, the reason why she did this to us I had no idea.
There was a woman official (Li Guang) who exaggerated and lied about our case. She made up stories and told them to other prisoners to insult us. She said that each sister in our church had had sexual intercourses with the teacher, and that we were all rotten people. I had no idea why she was saying all this. But since her stories were spread out, all the other prisoners would ridicule us and laugh at us. I really didn’t understand: could an official in the prison slander a prisoner any way she wanted?
We waited anxiously for the result of the appeals. Then on September 23rd, 2002, we received the notice that the SCC case was to be retried. We were also informed that the rehearing was to be held on October 9th. There was a National Day Holiday in between, which would take seven days. Did we still have time to contact our families? We waited in anxiety. Then the rehearing was held on time. This case, which had seventeen people involved, was wrapped up in one and a half days. They evaded the charge that SCC was a cult, but that didn’t mean this charge was withdrawn. On the first day (the 9th) we were put to court one after another, after the court had carried out the inquiry. In the morning of the 10th, the seventeen of us were given a less than 30 minutes time period to defend ourselves and make a statement. When it was again defense and statement time in the afternoon, our teacher said, “I have nothing to do with committing injury. The testimonies at the police department were gotten through inquisition by torture. Here my fellow suspects also testify now that I had no idea about the injury.” Minghua, Du Qingfeng, Yu Fuming, Xiao Yanli and I all said that out church was not a cult at all, let alone a criminal organization. In the church our teacher had taught us to be good Christians and worship the Lord our God with a devoted heart. He taught us the Bible, not how to commit injury or take revenge. Meng Xicun, Li Yingping, Liu Xianzhi and I all testified in court that the teacher and we had had no sexual intercourses, and that the testimonies at the police department were gotten through inquisition by torture. We even said that if they refused to believe, we could take off out clothes there in court to let them see the wounds we had received by electric shocks, which hadn’t yet recovered. We made the request that the judge and jury could give us a just sentence. After we said all this, we found that they were not paying us any attention or recorded what we had said. Then our lawyers started the defense. Our teacher’s lawyer (Yang) and Hu Yong’s lawyer (Zhao) all said, “You have brought up the accusation against South China Church as a cult, a criminal organization, which was in fact groundless. We have carried out inquiries while we were in Beijing, and the result is that they are no cult. If you say it is a criminal organization, this would mean all of them were taking revenge and committing injuries, which is not the case. Only several of them injured other people, which took place under certain circumstances. It was not their fault only. Gong Dali did not gave out concrete measures for the injuries. During the hearing, his fellow suspects have all testified that he had not incited or plotted it. The court should take this onto account. The spoken testimony at the police department cannot be taken as solid evidences, and the judgment should not be based on that. Therefore, Gang Dali, Li Ying and Sun Minghua have nothing to do with committing injury, all of whom should be released. The others are not the principle criminals either.” The defense ended up like this. However, the Middle Court of Jingmen announced right away that Gong Dali (our teacher), Xu Fuming and Hu Yong were sentenced to life in prison. Li Ying and Gong Bangkun were sentenced to 15 years. Sun Minghua was sentenced to 13 years. Xiao Yanli, Yi Chuanfu and Dong Daolai were sentenced to 10 years. Du Qingfeng and Qiu Chunyi were sentenced to 2 years. Liu Xianzhi, Xiang Fengping, Li Yingping and Meng Xicun were acquitted. Hearing this, we all shed tears and gave thanks. After this, we were escorted back to the lockup. The four sisters who were to be released were also handcuffed and taken back. On getting out of the court, our families and fellow believers, who had been missing us for so long, all swarmed up to see us. But the police pushed them back with electric clubs and forbade them to come up. A sister missed her relative so much that she tried to break through. As a result, a cop shoved her down onto the ground. After we got back to the prison, we all helped the four sisters who had been acquitted to pack up. But to our great astonishment, within half an hour, they received a notice from Jingmen Police Department that they were to be sent to the labor camp in three days. We were greatly shocked. We could hardly believe our ears. But the notice in our hands made us realize that it was true. What was this, three years in the labor camp because one was not guilty? I had no idea what the law or justice had become.
The retrial and the change of the sentences of SCC case were known all through the No.1 Prison of Jingmen City. All the detainees there were shocked. Many people said, “I can hardly believe this is true. Who would, if they haven’t seen this with their own eyes and heard it with their own ears?” Some even said, “This is true, so I’ll tell everybody I know, for I have seen it with my own eyes.” God has done wonderful things for SCC. He has given us a miracle and come to our rescue. God has listened to the prayers of those who loved Him. Thanks be to the Lord; praise Him!
On October 13th, 2002, the verdict papers were handed to us. The four sisters who had been acquitted were to be sent to Qilihu Labor Camp, Shayang, Hubei Province. They lodged an appeal to the High Court of Hubei Province. In January, the decision was announced that the previous sentence was affirmed. On December 2nd, 2002, the thirteen of us were sent from Jingmen Prison to prisons in various places to serve our terms. Li Ying, Sun Minghua, Xiao Yanli and I were escorted to Wuhan Women’s Prison of Hubei Province.
After we arrived at the prison, we were put into the groups. We had to memorize the regulations (there were 58 articles), receive education of the prison, undergo military trainings, and do the labor. (It was all manual labor, like making envelops, cardboard boxes, scarf and so on.) We had to study, work and go through the military trainings. We had little time for rest. The best we could have was to rest in bed by 11 p.m. Though we didn’t have much free time, I would still keep praying everyday. Sometimes I was so tired that I would fall asleep while praying. Sometimes I would keep the Lord’s words in mind as I do the work. In this way I could forget where I was. When the four of us were together, we would talk about the Lord’s words and encourage each other. This could make our days easier. There was heavy works outside the walls and pressures within. (We were under strict administration. If one failed to recite the regulations of the prison, she would be put to stand by the wall with her head against it. She would be allowed no rest till two or three days or nights later. It was a common practice.) But when keeping in mind that we were here in jail for the Lord, for the truth, we would have peace in heart. In January 2002, the judge from of the Middle Court of Jinmen City (Jia Shuang) came to me with a “civil compensation order”, and asked me to sign. I wouldn’t. He said, “Why not? There is nothing to it!” I said, “If I did, don’t get my family in trouble. There is no way I can pay them.” He said, “No, it’s just a procedure thing, so that the other party can get a response. There is nothing to it. Just sign.” So I signed reluctantly. After four months in the team, we were put to the sub-districts. Li Ying and I were sent to the second branch of the third sub-district. Sun Minghua was sent to the fifth branch of the third sub-district. Xiao Yanli was sent to the “three shifts” district, where they were under strict control.
The first day of getting there, we were handed a set of prison uniforms right after we had put the belongings down. Then we were led to the workshops to work. In the beginning I couldn’t get used to the tight working schedule there. We worked from morning till night, when we were too tired even to eat our meals. Later we were put to do some handiworks, like making “Chinese knots”. It was very complex. Each one was to finish 700 each day (it was more than anyone could make). So from 4 a.m. we would be sitting there till about 11 p.m., stopping only for the meals. It was not until 12 p.m. that we could finish with washing the face and rinsing the mouth. We should have prayed, but as long as we lay down, we would fall asleep immediately. We were simply too tired. There was this “three prison styles” (which means we had to wear the prison uniform, a prison name card, and prison hair style, which was only long enough to reach the ears.) Sometimes when we rested at night, we also sang praise songs. We even talked to the fellow inmates about Jesus and taught them praise songs. We Christians were the most obedient inmates in prison. In everything we did, we were careful and active. We never delayed the work or violated the regulations. All could see it.
I was imprisoned for eight months and six days. On October 8th, I had served my two years. My family took me home. I was free. But my teacher and other brothers and sisters were still in bondage. My heart was not comforted. If one member of the church is suffering, the entire body would suffer. Since the day I was released till today, I have been missing my brothers and sisters and my teacher, who are still in chains. All I could do was to pray for them with a sincere heart.
I had spent two solid years in prison. You can imagine what kind of hardships and trials I had encountered there. Though the difficulties were many, I have never lost heart, nor did I ever regret for what I had paid, for I knew whom I believed in. Glory and praise be to God forever and ever. Amen!
Written by Cao Hongmei, a Christian
September 28th, 2003

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