■ A new book confirms reports that China abuses imprisoned believers
U.S. publishers released an English translation of a memoir by Gao Zhisheng, a Chinese Christian dissident lawyer Tuesday. The book, which details his decade in detention and his hopes for a post-Communist China, follows recent reports that government agents continue to torture Chinese human rights activists while in custody.
Gao, whom WORLD named one of its Daniels of Year in 2012, wrote the memoir in secret while under house arrest in an isolated village in Shaanxi province. The Texas-based China Aid helped smuggle the manuscript out of China. Taiwanese publishers released the Chinese version of Unwavering Convictions: Gao Zhisheng’s Ten-Year Torture and Faith in China’s Future last summer, and when friends sent a copy to Gao’s residence, Beijing officials rushed to rip up the book. They also increased supervision and harassment of his relatives, according to his wife, Geng He.
In the Chinese Communist Party’s eyes, Gao is guilty of publicly opposing the “inhumane, unjust, and evil” government and representing house church pastors, journalists, victims of medical malpractice, and dispossessed landowners. For his “crimes,” police kidnapped him, placed him under secret detention, tortured him physically and mentally, and kept him in solitary confinement for three years. Authorities feared Gao would speak out about the dismal prison conditions, so they kept him separated from the other prisoners.
|Gao Zhisheng’s Chinese language memoir.
Associated Press/Photo by Kin Cheung
Gao noted that through his darkest times, God has sustained him and kept his hope alive that China would rise up as a democratic country based on the rule of law. “If your only source of space and light is your eyes,” Gao wrote, “your experience of these are greatly reduced [in prison]. … But if you have that space and light in your heart? Those are infinite and cannot be taken.”
Gao’s description of the torture he faced in prison is a window into how China treats political prisoners. In the past few weeks, reports detailed how prison guards tortured four other detained human rights lawyers. Wang Qiaoling, the wife of Christian lawyer Li Heping, confirmed to China Aid that interrogators used electric batons and other torture methods on her husband and fellow lawyer Wang Quanzhang while in custody. Li fainted several times from the electric shock session.
Li is one of the earliest human rights lawyers and over the years represented unregistered churches and blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng. Authorities rounded up Li and Wang Quanzhang in July 2015 during a nationwide crackdown, charging them with “subverting state power.”
In the 709 Crackdown (the name is the date, July 9, the roundup began) police also arrested Hunan lawyer Xie Yang. Recently Xie’s legal team released a transcript with Xie in which he described in detail how interrogators severely beat him, deprived him of sleep, and forced him to sit on a stack of chairs for 20 hours with “both legs dangling in such pain until they [became] numb,” he said.
In order to get Xie to confess crimes he didn’t commit, captors threatened to hurt his wife and children. At one point a captor bragged, “I’m going to torment you until you go insane.”
That threat came true for Li’s brother, Chunfu, a lawyer who was held in custody for 18 months. After returning home to Beijing on Jan. 12 on bail, his wife, Bi Liping, couldn’t recognize the emaciated, paranoid man standing in front of her. Chunfu was hospitalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia. He recalled his captors severely tortured and drugged him. When a local police officer called Bi, she angrily yelled that she had cooperated with the police in not speaking out about his imprisonment, but still “his mind is shattered! Just what did you people do to him?” according to China Change.
While the Chinese government has not responded to these allegations of torture, a recent editorial in the government-run Xinhua relied on its timeworn tactic of claiming American hypocrisy: “Certain Western countries, while turning a blind eye to their own deep-rooted human rights issues, such as rampant gun crime, refugee crises, and growing xenophobia, have a double standard on human rights, alongside a sense of superiority.”