A British researcher meets with refugees who escaped China and now live in England (second in a series of two articles).
by Ruth Ingram
In the first article of this series, I reviewed a disturbing book published in Korea about the persecution of The Church of Almighty God in China. Having read the book, I discovered that refugees from this church live in Britain too.
Sitting on the banks of the Thames in London seems a far cry from the increasingly dystopian world of China where every moment of people’s lives is monitored through a vast network of cameras and surveillance devices. Gazing out over the muddy torrent filled with boats of every description from the warm fug of a coffee house, three such exiles gathered to talk to me about their lives. Hannah, a new arrival in Britain, terrified that her identity be discovered and thereby her family members in China be persecuted by the CCP is still shell-shocked following her life on the run. For this reason, she hid her real identity.
Hannah entered The Church of Almighty God in 2013 after having become disillusioned with the widespread corruption she observed around her at work. She saw honesty and integrity among a group of friends who were part of the movement and eagerly joined. She rose to become a leader after five years, but due to the CCP’s persecution she had become a key target of arrest. She moved from one safe house to another, frequently escaping a round up by a day or a few hours. Often her room mates were captured and tortured to disclose her whereabouts, but none gave in.
Weeping, she spoke of a church member who was arrested after the start of a major arrest operation in Zhejiang Province, who was beaten to death under interrogation. The woman’s body was covered with bruises and strangle marks around her neck, which were attributed by the police to her having committed suicide, a common tactic used by police to shift blame for unexplained deaths in custody. Of the four young women with whom she shared a house before her escape, only one was released. During captivity this friend was ordered to stand for consecutive days without sleep as a punishment, her legs swelled painfully. She was later bound to a tree where she was stung by ants causing uncontrollable itching over her entire body. The other three are still missing. In addition, a church member was beaten with electric batons, her face submerged in water and threatened with rape if she refused to sign the three statements (a statement of repentance, a statement of guarantee, and a statement breaking off ties with the Church). Another church member was locked in a small underground room for one month in an attempt to break her and force her to give details of names and church finances.
“I had to hide out during the day, and wear a face mask at night if I had to leave home for any reason,” she said. On the rare occasions she dared to go out, she said she wore a range of wigs and always carried spare clothes in case she noticed someone following her. “Very often I would notice people taking photographs of me and I would have to go into a public toilet and change my outfit,” she said. “It was terrifying and extremely stressful,” she said. She could not carry a mobile phone and all communication with her was through couriered written notes. During those days she said that believers met in the mountains, in farms and fields or cellars, away from surveillance. She had no way to contact her mother to say she was safe.
The young women spoke of the difficulty of maintaining normal life for members of their church. If someone bought too much rice, or ordered more gas than usual, they would be arrested and interrogated. “Every aspect of our lives was monitored,” said Hannah. “Our phones were tapped. Police vans would encircle buildings where we lived to monitor sounds coming from the flats,” she said, recalling again with tears how in this way one of the meetings was raided and five members were taken. None has been heard of since that day.
She and the other young women interviewed in London are convinced that Xi Jinping’s ultimate agenda is to eradicate religion from the map of China. “He is determined that his thought will reign in every corner of the land,” she said.
Hannah managed to obtain a tourist visa and board a flight to the UK, which she can only attribute to miraculous intervention, and now she waits anxiously for the outcome of her asylum application. While the process runs its course, with not a word of English, she sits alone in a small room, too afraid to go out, scarred by the years of looking over her shoulder and waiting for a knock on the door. There is no CAG church in the UK, only a small handful of members scattered around the UK, and very few asylum claimants in her situation. She is afraid to be sent back to China and continue to be persecuted if her application is not approved.
Reading the harrowing accounts and talking to Hannah and her friends in London, one can only beg the question why? Why is this massive world power that is already planning a space station on the moon by 2040, that has 54 of the world’s nations cowed into silence over its treatment of the Uyghurs in its far west, that pours endless amounts of money into black holes of poverty around the world and plans to wow us with more snow and ice spectacle at the Winter Olympic in 2022, so afraid of a handful of millions of believers peacefully living out their faith? Spurious attempts to discredit the movement by implicating them in serious crimes, have been proved false by independent researchers, but still the campaign to eradicate them continues. Not a legal campaign based on laws and open and transparent legal process, but a violent, sadistic and irrational campaign of brutality meted out on those who have absolutely no legal redress and whose voice has been silenced.
And Xi Jinping’s relentless and well documented plans to sinicize all religion within its borders is not limited to newly emerging groups such as the CAG. It continues apace, bulldozing mosques and domes, tearing down churches, temples, crosses and Buddha’s and indoctrinating the new generation that there is no god but Xi Jinping and the Communist Party.