29. I Come to Clearly Distinguish Love and Hate by Undergoing the Bitterness of Persecution
By Zhao Zhi, Hebei Province
My name is Zhao Zhi and I’m 52 this year. I’ve been a follower of Almighty God for 14 years. Before gaining my faith I was in business; I was often busy entertaining, sending people gifts, and socializing. I was constantly in and out of entertainment venues like karaoke places and gambling parlors. My wife was constantly arguing with me over this and eventually ended up threatening to divorce me and leave our home. At the time, I was completely stuck in this mire and couldn’t extricate myself, and even though I did my best to take good care of our family, I just couldn’t do it. I felt like life was really miserable; I was exhausted. In June of 1999, the grace of Almighty God’s salvation came upon us, and through reading God’s words and having fellowship with brothers and sisters, my wife realized that the darkness in the world and human corruption are entirely due to Satan harming us and toying with us. She expressed understanding of my situation and opened up her heart in fellowship with me. Through the guidance of God’s words, I also saw that I was wallowing in a cauldron of sin, and that God was disgusted by it and hated it. Even more than this, I saw that I had not been acting like a human being at all. I felt remorseful and guilty, and so I resolved before God to become a new man. From then on, my wife and I prayed and read God’s words every single day, and we often gathered with brothers and sisters for fellowship. Before we knew it, the conflicts between us and the distress we had felt dissipated like a cloud of smoke, and our lives became full of peace and joy. I was deeply aware that Almighty God had saved our family when it was on the verge of ruin, and had brought us completely new lives. On top of feeling incredibly grateful, I also quietly resolved to offer up the entirety of my being to repay God’s grace. After that I started to throw myself into doing my duty and sharing the gospel so that more people could gain the salvation God has brought to us in the last days. However, the atheistic Chinese Communist Party government doesn’t allow people to worship God or take the right path, and it particularly doesn’t allow people to spread the gospel and bear witness to God. Because I believed in God and spread the gospel, I was subjected to arrest and persecution by the CCP government …
It was a spring day in 2002. A brother and I were reported to the police by a malicious person while sharing the gospel in a village. The police came immediately and, without ascertaining the situation at all, slapped handcuffs on me, dragged me into a police car, and took me back to the station. As soon as we got into the interrogation room, before I even had a chance to react, an officer charged toward me, grabbed hold of my collar, and slapped me hard several times. I immediately became dizzy and started seeing stars, and I couldn’t help but stumble and fall headlong onto the floor. I was bleeding from the mouth and nose and my face was burning with pain. When he saw this, the evil policeman kicked me viciously and fumed at me through gritted teeth, “You piece of shit, don’t you pretend with me. Get up!” Two other officers came over, yanked me up by the arms, and threw me to one side, and then the three of them started punching and kicking me. I was in unbearable pain all over my body; I fell to the floor and couldn’t get back up. They eyed me with murderous stares, glaring at me like a tiger eyes its prey. One of them barked at me, “What’s your name? Where are you from? Why were you at that man’s house? If you don’t talk, you’ll really get it from me!” I silently prayed to God, asking Him to protect my heart so I could remain quiet before God, and to give me faith and courage to not be cowed by their threats. Seeing that I wasn’t talking, a really ferocious-looking officer picked up an electric baton and waved it back and forth in front of my face, intentionally making it crackle. He then pointed at me and said threateningly, “Will you talk or not? If you don’t, I’ll tase you to death.” I was somewhat frightened by this and quickly prayed to God. “Oh God! All things are in Your hands, including this pack of evil officers. No matter how they treat me, it’s with Your permission. I’m willing to submit to Your orchestrations and arrangements. It’s just that my stature is too small and I’m feeling weak and timid. Please give me faith and strength and protect me so I don’t become a Judas. Let me not lose my testimony before Satan.” After praying, a passage of God’s words surfaced in my mind: “We have within us the resurrected life of Christ. Undeniably, we lack faith in the presence of God: Would that God would put true faith within us. Sweet indeed is the word of God! God’s word is potent medicine! It puts to shame the devils and Satan! Grasping God’s word gives us support. His word acts fast to save our hearts! It dispels all things and sets all at peace. Faith is like a single log bridge: Those who cling abjectly to life will have difficulty in crossing it, but those who are ready to sacrifice themselves can pass over, sure of foot and worry-free. If man harbors timid and fearful thoughts, it is because Satan has fooled them, afraid that we will cross the bridge of faith to enter into God” (“Chapter 6” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “It’s true!” I thought. “I feel so afraid because I’ve been taken in by Satan’s trickery. In spite of the officers’ ferocious appearance, everything is in God’s hands and God is my backup. I have to rely on my faith and lean on God’s words to overcome Satan!” So, I kept my mouth shut, and when he saw that I wasn’t uttering a single word, that officer swung his baton up and jabbed it toward me. I clenched my eyes shut and gritted my teeth in preparation for the torment of intense pain, but surprisingly, though the baton was jabbed into me again and again, I didn’t feel a thing. They all thought it was really odd and said, bewildered, “Why isn’t this thing working today? It must be broken—try another one.” Then they got another to tase me with, but that one didn’t work either. I was continually exclaiming within my heart, “Oh God, thank You! You heard my prayer and You are secretly protecting me. You are so lovely, so faithful! God, no matter what kind of cruel torture I shall face in the future, I’m willing to trust in You with all my heart. I am determined to stand firm in my testimony!” Seeing that their batons weren’t yielding any results on me, they still weren’t at all willing to leave it at that, so they handcuffed and shackled me, dragged me into a police car, and drove me to a two-story building far away from the village.
When we went inside, an officer smiled coldly and said menacingly, “You can see there’s nothing here and no one will ever find this place. Now that you’re here, if you still don’t talk, it’ll be the end of you. You’ll be buried here, and no one will ever know. Think it over for yourself—if you’re smart, you’ll tell us what we need to know.” My heart leaped into my throat when I heard that. I really couldn’t imagine what these bloodthirsty-looking “People’s Police” standing before me, who acted just like underworld thugs, would do to me. I quickly called out to God within my heart, asking Him to give me strength and the resolve to withstand suffering so that I could bear the cruel torture that was to come. Seeing that I still refused to say a word, two of the officers viciously threw themselves on me and ripped off my outer clothing, then had me stand to one side. One of them pointed at my nose and said mockingly, “Look at that—you really know no shame.” Another one started going through my clothing inside and out just like a hungry dog looking for food. He ended up finding just 30 yuan, then swiveled his head around and spat out the words “You’re just a poor bastard!” while shoving the cash into his own pocket. This left me feeling anger and hatred. I thought, “How are these police ‘serving the people’? They’re simply a pack of rogues and bandits who tyrannize the people and exploit the common folk. If I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes today, I don’t know how much longer I would have continued to be fooled by the CCP’s lies.” I then realized that God’s good will was behind my arrest that day; God was not making me suffer on purpose, but instead this was happening so that I could clearly see the evil face of the CCP government. After another 10 minutes or so, another officer came in with two electric wires and wearing a wicked smile on his face, and he gestured at me threateningly and said, “Scared? The year before last there was another criminal who didn’t want to talk, but he couldn’t stand being electrocuted. He ended up spilling everything. I’m sure we’ll pry open that mouth of yours!” Seeing that they were going to electrocute me, I felt both hatred and fear. If that kind of torture were to go on long enough, I was sure to die. I quickly said a prayer to God: “God, these evil officers are so vicious—I’m afraid I won’t be able to overcome this. Please protect me and give me strength so that I don’t become a Judas and betray You because of the weakness of my flesh.” After I prayed, God enlightened me to think of this church hymn: “My head may break and blood may flow, but the mettle of God’s people can’t be lost. God’s exhortations rest on the heart, I determine to humiliate Satan the devil. Pain and hardships are predestined by God, I will endure humiliation to be faithful to Him. I will never again cause God to shed tears or worry” (“I Wish to See the Day of God’s Glory” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). “It’s true,” I thought. “The people of the kingdom have to have the integrity and the fortitude of someone of the kingdom—being greedy for life and fearing death is cowardice. Satan foolishly thinks that it can get me to betray God through torture and by doing so ruin my chance to attain salvation. I absolutely cannot let its scheme come to fruition, and I absolutely cannot allow God’s name to be shamed because of me.” Once I had thought through all of this, I felt a burst of strength within me and I found the courage to face the torture.
Just as I was thinking all of this, two of the officers rushed up to me, pressed me down onto the floor on my stomach, and then pressed a chair down on top of me. Two more officers came over, one on each side of me, each grinding a foot down onto one of my hands. It felt like my hands had been nailed to the floor—I couldn’t move at all. The policeman with the electric wires took two wires from the circuit box and tied one to a finger on my left hand, one to a finger on my right hand, then turned on the power from the circuit box. A wave of electrical current instantly coursed through every single nerve in my body; it was both numbing and painful and I couldn’t help but go into full-body spasms. It was so painful that I screamed. The evil police shoved a foam slipper into my mouth. They shocked me over and over that way, causing such pain that I was completely drenched in sweat, and before long it was soaking through all of my clothing, as though I had been drenched with water. While administering the electric shocks, the officer kept yelling at me, “Are you going to talk or what? I’ll electrocute you to death if you don’t speak up! This is what you get for not talking!” I clenched my teeth hard and forced myself to endure the pain without making a sound. When they saw this, they started keeping the electricity on for longer. Finally, I felt I couldn’t bear it any longer and just wanted to die. I used every last ounce of strength in my body to push off the two officers pressing the chair down on top of me and then banged my head against the floor hard. But oddly, that hard concrete floor suddenly felt as soft as cotton, and no matter how hard I hit my head against it there was no effect. Just then, a couple of lines from God’s words that had frequently come up in fellowship before suddenly came clearly to mind: “The suffering of some people reaches an extreme, and their thoughts turn to death. This is not true love for God; such people are cowards, they have no perseverance, they are weak and powerless!” (“How to Know Man’s Nature” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “Even though your flesh suffers, you have God’s word and you have God’s blessing. You cannot die even if you want to: Can you resign yourself to not knowing God and not obtaining truth?” (“Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words served as a gentle reminder for me that I wanted to die because I was unable to bear the suffering, and that I wouldn’t be bearing witness to God, but would be shaming and betraying God. It would be gutless, it would be cowardly, and it would not shame Satan at all. God’s enlightenment allowed me to realize that the floor suddenly feeling soft was God quietly stopping me, protecting me, and not allowing me to die, in the hope that I might stand witness in the midst of this terrible situation, thus shaming Satan and bringing glory to God. Seeing God’s love and protection was immensely inspiring for me and I silently made a resolution: No matter how these evil police torture me, I will keep going, and even if I’m at my very last breath I will spend it well and stand witness for God, and I absolutely will not let Him down. My entire body surged with strength—I gritted my teeth and prepared to receive even more brutal electrical torture.
Seeing that I still wasn’t yielding, the officers were so angry that their veins were bulging out. They had fierce looks in their eyes, they were grinding their teeth and clenching their fists, looking like they were itching to devour me. One of them, thoroughly exasperated, stormed over to me and grabbed a handful of my hair, yanked my head up forcefully, leaned over my face and shouted at me with a fiendish look, “You piece of shit, are you going to talk or not? If you don’t, I’ll peel off your skin and leave you at death’s door. That’s what you get for not talking!” He then let go of my hair, and frantically yelled at another evil policeman, “Give him a lethal voltage of electricity!” Unable to withstand this higher voltage, I passed out. They splashed me with cold water to revive me, then continued their torture. After several more shocks I was in unbearable pain throughout my entire body. I really couldn’t stand it anymore and felt like I could die at any second. In this crisis, God guided me to think of this church hymn: “In adversity, the leading of God’s words strengthens my heart; I cannot hold the plough and look backwards. It is so rare to be able to accept the training of the kingdom and I absolutely cannot miss this chance to be perfected. Failing God, I would be regretful for the rest of my life. If I turn my back on God I will be condemned by history. … My heart treasures only the truth and is devoted to God, I will never again rebel and cause God grief. I am resolved to love God and remain utterly devoted to God and nothing and no one can stop me. And I will stand testimony to glorify God no matter how hard the trials and tribulations are. I will live a meaningful life by obtaining the truth and God’s perfection” (“Resolved to Remain Utterly Devoted to God” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). I also thought of these words of God: “So long as you still have one breath, God will not let you die” (“Chapter 6” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Guided by God’s words, my weak heart was once again strengthened. I thought to myself, “No matter how savage you pack of demons are, you can only torture my flesh and make my life worse than death, but you can never, ever change my desire to follow God. The more you torment me, the more clearly I see your evil faces, and the firmer I am in my resolve to follow God. Don’t you dare imagine that you can get me to sell out a single brother or sister—even if it means I die today, I will satisfy God this once!” Once I’d become willing to sacrifice my life, I once again witnessed God’s almightiness as well as His mercy and care for me. They electrocuted me several more times, and when they saw that I was going into really serious, full-body spasms, they didn’t dare continue, afraid that I would die and they’d be held responsible. But they still wouldn’t give up—they hoisted me up from the ground again, forcefully twisting my arms behind my back and tying them tightly with a rope. It was so tight that my wrists were in a lot of pain, and before long my hands became cold and swollen; they went so numb that I lost all feeling in them. The evil policemen wanted to hang me up to further torture me, but every time they pulled the rope up it would loosen. They tried to do this many times, but each time ended in failure. Perplexed, they said, “What’s going on today? The rope is so hard to handle—it’s really weird! Maybe it’s a sign we shouldn’t do this guy in?” One of them said, “Forget it! That’s enough for today. It’s getting late.” That terrible officer who wanted to string me up had no choice but to give in, but he pointed at me and said menacingly, “You’ve been really lucky today, but just wait and see what I have in store for you tomorrow!” I knew that God had protected me once again, and I thanked Him over and over within my heart. Just then, these words from God occurred to me: “The universe and all things are within My hands. If I speak it, it will be so. If I ordain it, thus it shall be. Satan is beneath My feet; it is in the bottomless pit!” (“Chapter 15” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “I am your backup, and you must have the spirit of the male child! Satan is lashing out in its final death throes, but it will still be unable to escape My judgment. Satan is beneath My feet and it is also being trodden under your own feet—this is a fact!” (“Chapter 17” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). That day, I personally witnessed God’s wondrous protection of me, and I personally experienced that God truly is almighty and that He rules over everything, that absolutely everything in heaven and earth is within His hands, and that all things, alive or not, are entirely ruled by God. I saw that those evil police officers were particularly subject to God’s orchestrations, and though they may have seemed savage on the outside, without God’s permission they weren’t able to touch a hair on my head. As long as I kept my faith in God and was willing to let go of my life to satisfy Him, and was willing to stand witness for Him, those demons would certainly be shamed and defeated. This was the embodiment of God’s almightiness and His total triumph!
Those officers tortured me in that little two-story building nonstop from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. before taking me back to the police station. When we got back, they put me inside an iron cage and wouldn’t give me anything to eat or drink. Cold, hungry, and physically weak, I leaned against the bars of the cage and thought back over everything that had happened that day. Some of God’s words arose in my mind: “This gang of accomplices in crime! They come down into the mortal realm to indulge in pleasures and cause a commotion, stirring things up so much that the world becomes a fickle and inconstant place and the heart of man is filled with panic and unease, and they have toyed with man so much that his appearance has become that of an inhuman beast of the field, supremely ugly, and from which the last trace of the original holy man has been lost. Furthermore, they even wish to assume sovereign power on earth. They impede the work of God so much that it can barely inch forward, and they close man off as tightly as walls of copper and steel. Having committed so many grievous sins and caused so many disasters, are they still expecting something other than chastisement?” (“Work and Entry (7)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Comparing God’s words with the facts, I finally saw clearly that the police officers I had looked up to in the past were actually incredibly savage and vicious. They appear very dignified and are always spouting off about duty and integrity, putting on a face of benevolence as “servants of the people,” but in fact, they’re a pack of brutal and unfeeling beasts, demons who can murder someone without batting an eye. What was wrong with me having faith? What was wrong with me worshiping God? Those evil officers saw me as a mortal enemy and treated me with such inhumane brutality, pushing me to the brink of death. How could a human being be capable of such things? Aren’t they things that only a demon could do? Only then did I realize that those police officers looked human on the outside, but on the inside, their essence was that of demons and evil spirits who hate the truth and hate God, and who are the natural enemies of God. They have come into the world specifically as living ghosts to harm people and devour people. I was filled with hatred for them and at the same time I came to have a deep sense of God’s kindness and loveliness. Though I had fallen into a den of devil, God was always with me and was quietly protecting me, encouraging and consoling me with His words, and giving me faith and strength so that I could make it through time after time of those demons torturing and ravaging me. Even several times when I was on the brink of death, God protected me with His great power, saving me from my demise. God’s love for me is so very real! I quietly exhorted myself: No matter how these demons torture me in the future, I will stand witness and satisfy God. The enlightenment and guidance of God’s words comforted my heart and my physical pain was significantly eased. Accompanied by God’s love, I made it through the long night.
The next day, two of the officers came to stand in front of the cage after they had eaten breakfast. One of them smiled slyly and said, “How ya doin’? Did you have some time to think things over last night? So, will you talk or not?” I glanced at him but made no response. Upon seeing this he immediately changed his tune—he stuck a hand into the cage, grabbed a handful of my hair, and yanked me right in front of his face. He then burned my nose with the tip of his cigarette and, looking at me savagely, said, “I’m telling you, a lot of criminals come through here and even the most reluctant to talk can’t escape my grasp. Even if you don’t die here, I’m still going to skin you alive!” Two other officers came in before long; they opened up the cage and pulled me out. By then my legs felt rubbery and weak and I was unable to stand up. I collapsed onto the floor. One of the officers thought I was faking it, so he came up to me and savagely kicked me a few times, screaming, “You think you’re going to play dead with me?” Two other officers hoisted me up and swung their fists at me, punching my face and upper body. After they had been at it for a while, they saw that my body was sagging like a corpse, there was blood coming out of my nose and mouth, and my face was beaten to a bloody pulp and unresponsive. One of them said, “Forget it, let’s stop. It looks like he won’t last long and if he dies in our hands then that’ll cause us a lot of trouble.” Only then did they stop their violent assault on me and cast me off to the side. I could hear them quietly talking amongst themselves, and one of them said, “I’ve never seen someone as hard as him the whole time I’ve been a police officer. He hasn’t said a single word the entire time—it’s really something!” I felt I could hear the sound of Satan hanging its head, sighing dejectedly in their words, and I could see it fleeing in panic in the face of failure. I could also see God smiling from having gained glory and I felt an indescribable joy. I silently gave thanks to God and couldn’t stop myself from singing out a church hymn “The Kingdom” within my heart: “God is my support, what is there to fear? I pledge my life to fight with Satan till the end. God lifts us up, we should leave everything behind and fight to bear witness for Christ. God will carry out His will on earth. I’ll prepare my love and loyalty and devote them all to God. I will joyfully welcome God’s return when He descends in glory, and meet with Him again when the kingdom of Christ is realized. … Out of adversity come many victorious good soldiers. We are victorious with God and become God’s testimony. Look to the day God gains glory, it comes with irresistible force. All peoples flow to this mountain, walking in God’s light. The unparalleled splendor of the kingdom must manifest throughout the world” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). The more I sang, the more energized I felt. I felt that in following God, being able to experience this kind of oppression and hardship was truly an honor for me. My faith grew exponentially, and I swore to do battle against Satan until the end. This is how I made it through another day.
A police officer came in around 9 a.m. on the third day. The moment he walked in he introduced himself to me and said he was the chief of police at that station. He stood in front of me and, with feigned gentleness, said, “You’ve really suffered. I’ve been at the county in meetings for the last couple of days; I just got back and heard about what’s been going on with you. I reprimanded them really harshly—how could they just beat someone up so arbitrarily without first understanding the situation? That was really out of line.” I couldn’t help but feel confused in the face of this unexpected “kindness” from an evil police officer, but just then I got a reminder from some of God’s words: “At all times, My people should be on guard against the cunning schemes of Satan …” (“Chapter 3” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I realized that this was one of Satan’s tricks—when it sees that the stick isn’t working, it tries the carrot in an attempt to get me to betray God and sell out the church. My heart brightened and I felt a sense of inner confidence. I thought, “God’s wisdom is exercised based on Satan’s trickery. So no matter how cunning and crafty you are, you old devil, I have God’s words to guide me. You’re dreaming if you think your tricks will succeed!” No matter how many “nice things” he said to entice me, I wouldn’t pay him any mind. Seeing it was all fruitless, he eventually had no choice but to leave. After that, two other officers came in and yelled at me, enraged, “You little shit, just you wait. If you don’t talk you’ll never get out of here! We can get you sentenced without any evidence at all. You just wait and see!” I was very calm in the face of their threats, thinking to myself, “I believe that everything is in God’s hands, and whether or not I receive a sentence is also in His hands. These demons don’t have the final say, God has the final say. No matter what happens, I believe that there is meaning to everything God does and I’m willing to obey to the very end.”
The police didn’t have any evidence for a conviction, but they still weren’t willing to let me go. They had refused me food and water for several days in a row. That evening I was so hungry that I had no physical strength at all, and I wondered if I would end up starving to death if things continued on that way. Just then I thought, “People’s fates are within God’s hands, so if God doesn’t want someone to die, they won’t die. All I have to do is submit to God’s arrangements and orchestrations.” Not long after, the police brought in six people who had been caught gambling. The six of them had the officers buy each of them about a pound of dumplings, and the officers brought back about seven pounds. They ended up paying their fines and were quickly released; right before they left, they gave their leftover dumplings to me, unbeknownst to the police. I saw once again that all people, events, and things are orchestrated within God’s hands. My eyes welled up with tears and I was moved in a way I can’t explain. I felt only how lovely and how wondrous God is! Even though I had fallen into a demons’ lair, God had been by my side all along, caring for me and watching over me, acting as my inner life force, supporting me to overcome being tempted by Satan again and again. He also showed compassion for my weakness, helping me get through these hardships. God is so practical, and His love is so real!
By the sixth day, the police had been totally unable to find any evidence to convict me of a crime, so they ended up fining me 200 yuan and letting me go. I was deeply aware that God was ruling over all this, and that God knew for certain how much suffering I should bear and how many roads I should walk—God wouldn’t allow me to suffer a single day I didn’t need to suffer. I knew that the police hadn’t wanted to let me go that day as, because of their devilish, sinister natures, they would never let me go so easily. But God would no longer allow it, so they had no say in the matter. This also allowed me to see that Satan and demons are rendering service to God as He perfects His chosen people, and although they may appear very fierce, God rules over everything. As long as we truly lean on God and submit to Him, He will protect us so that we may overcome all demonic forces, and pass through danger into safety.
I was tortured for a full six days at the police station, and the extraordinary experience of those six days helped me truly see the ugly countenance of the CCP government and its evil, reactionary nature and essence. I saw that it is a demon that is an enemy to God, and that it is made up of a gang of rogues. It also allowed me to understand God’s almightiness, sovereignty, wondrousness, and wisdom, and to personally experience God’s love and salvation; I came to understand that God is an almighty, faithful, great, and lovely God, and that He is the One eternally worthy of mankind’s trust and worship. Even more so, He is worthy of mankind’s love. That experience became a turning point in my life of faith because, without it, I never would have developed true hatred for Satan, nor would I have gained true understanding of God. Then my faith in God would have been very empty and I would not have been able to achieve full salvation. Only by going through that brutal persecution and oppression by the CCP government did I come to know what Satan and demons are, what hell on earth is, and what dark, evil forces are. And only through that experience could I perceive what enormous grace and compassion God was showing to me that I—born in China, in such a dark, evil, filthy land—could escape from Satan’s claws and come to walk the path of faith and seek the light in life! I also experienced the authority and might of God’s words. His words truly can become a person’s life, and they can save people from Satan’s influence and help them overcome the strictures of death. I also genuinely experienced that only God is capable of true love for people, and true salvation of people, while all Satan and demons can do is deceive people, harm them, and devour them. I give thanks to God for using the CCP government’s oppression to allow me to distinguish between right and wrong, to clearly see good and evil. From this day forth, I wish to seek to understand and gain more of the truth in order to achieve true knowledge of God, and to actively spread the gospel of God and bear witness to His name so that more people may come before God and worship Him!
1. “Accomplices” are of the same ilk as “a band of hoodlums.”