13. Spending the Prime of Youth in Prison
By Chenxi, China
Everyone says the prime of our youth is the most splendid and purest time of life. Perhaps for many, those years are full of beautiful memories, but what I never would have expected was that I spent the prime of my own youth in the labor camp. You might think me strange for this, but I do not regret it. Even though that time behind bars was full of bitterness and tears, it was the most precious gift of my life, and I gained a great deal from it.
One day in April of 2002, I was staying at a sister’s home when the arrest happened. At 1 a.m. in the morning, we were suddenly awakened by some loud, urgent bangs on the door. We heard someone outside yelling, “Open the door! Open the door!” No sooner had the sister opened it than several police officers abruptly pushed the door open and swarmed inside, saying aggressively, “We’re from the Public Security Bureau.” Hearing these three words, “Public Security Bureau,” made me immediately nervous. Were they here to arrest us for our belief in God? I had heard about some brothers and sisters being arrested and persecuted over their faith; could it be that this was now happening to me? Just then my heart began to beat wildly, and in my panic, I didn’t know what to do. I therefore hurriedly prayed to God: “God, I implore You to be with me. Give me faith and courage. No matter what happens, I will always be willing to stand witness for You. I also beseech You to give me Your wisdom and grant me with the words I should say, and please keep me from betraying You and from selling out my brothers and sisters.” After praying, my heart gradually calmed down. I saw the four or five evil policemen rifling through the place like bandits, searching through the bedding, through each cabinet and box, and even what was under the bed until finally they came up with some books of God’s words as well as some CDs of hymns. Then they took us to the police station. When we got to the office, several burly officers came in after us and stood to my left and right. The chief of the group of evil policemen bellowed at me, “What are you called? Where are you from? How many of you are there altogether?” I had just opened my mouth and was in the middle of responding when he lunged at me and slapped me twice in the face. I was stunned into silence. I wondered to myself, “Why did you hit me? I didn’t even finish answering. Why are you being so rough and uncivilized, completely different from what I’d imagined the People’s Police to be like?” Next, he went on to ask me how old I was, and when I answered honestly that I was seventeen, he twice smacked my face again and scolded me for telling lies. After that, no matter what I said, he indiscriminately delivered slap after slap to my face to the point where my face was on fire with pain. I recalled having heard my brothers and sisters say that trying to reason with these vicious policemen wouldn’t work. Having experienced this for myself, from then on I didn’t utter a word no matter what they asked. When they saw that I wasn’t talking, they screamed at me, “You bitch! I’ll give you something to think about, otherwise you won’t give us a truthful account!” As this was said, one of them punched me fiercely two times in the chest, causing me to stagger and fall heavily to the floor. He then kicked me hard a couple of times, pulled me back up from the floor, and yelled at me to kneel down. I did not obey, so he kicked me a few times in the knees. The wave of intense pain that swept over me forced me to fall to my knees on the floor with a thump. He grabbed me by the hair and pulled downward forcefully, and then suddenly yanked my head backward, forcing me to look up. He cursed at me while slapping my face a couple more times, and my only sensation was that the world was spinning. Presently, I fell to the floor. Just then, the head of the evil police suddenly spotted the watch on my wrist. Staring at it covetously, he shouted, “What are you wearing there?” Right away, one of the policemen grabbed my wrist and forcefully pulled the watch off it, then gave it to his “master.” One of the vicious policemen grabbed me by the collar as if he were picking up a little chicken, and raised me up from the floor to roar at me, “Oh, you’re so tough, aren’t you? This is what you get for staying quiet!” As he said this, he hit me fiercely a couple more times, and I again was beaten to the floor. By then my whole body was aching unbearably, and I no longer had any strength to struggle. I just lay on the floor with my eyes closed, not moving. In my heart, I urgently supplicated to God: “O God, I don’t know what further savage acts this gang of evil policemen is going to do to me. You know I am small in stature, and that I am physically weak. I implore You to protect me. I would rather die than be a Judas and betray You.” After my prayer, God gave me faith and strength. I would sooner die than be a Judas by betraying God and selling out my brothers and sisters. I would resolutely stand witness for God. Just then, I heard someone next to me say, “How come she’s not moving anymore? Is she dead?” After that, someone deliberately stepped on my hand and pressed down hard on it with his foot while bellowing ferociously, “Get up! We’re gonna take you somewhere else.”
Later, I was escorted to the County Public Security Bureau. When we got to the interrogation room, the head of those evil policemen and two others surrounded me and questioned me repeatedly, pacing back and forth in front of me and trying to force me to sell out my church’s leaders and my brothers and sisters. When they saw that I still wasn’t going to give them the answers they wanted to hear, the three of them took turns slapping me in the face over and over. I don’t know how many times I was hit; all I could hear was the smacking sound as they hit my face, a sound that seemed to ring out against the quiet of the dead of night. Their hands now sore, the evil police began to hit me with books. They beat me until I finally couldn’t even feel the pain anymore; my face just felt swollen and numb. In the end, seeing that they weren’t going to get any valuable information out of me, the vicious policemen took out a contact book and, pleased with themselves, said, “We found this in your bag. Even if you won’t tell us anything, we still have another trick up our sleeve!” Suddenly, I felt extremely anxious: If any of my brothers or sisters answered the phone, it could lead to their being arrested. It could also implicate the church, and the consequences could be disastrous. Just then, I recalled a passage of God’s words: “Of everything that occurs in the universe, there is nothing in which I do not have the final say. Is there anything that is not in My hands?” (“Chapter 1” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “That’s right,” I thought to myself. “All things and events are orchestrated and arranged in God’s hands. Even whether or not a phone call goes through is entirely up to God to decide. I am willing to look up to and rely upon God and submit to His orchestrations.” I therefore repeatedly prayed to God, imploring Him to protect these brothers and sisters. As a result, they dialed through those phone numbers, and some of the calls rang out without anyone answering while others could not get through at all. In the end, spitting curses in frustration, the evil cops tossed the contact book on the table and stopped trying. I could not help but express my thanks and praise to God.
Nevertheless, they had not given up, and continued to interrogate me about the church’s affairs. I did not answer. Flustered and exasperated, they came up with an even more despicable move to try to make me suffer: One of the evil policemen forced me to maintain a half squat position, and I had to hold my arms out level with my shoulders and was not allowed to move at all. Before long, my legs began to tremble and I couldn’t hold my arms out straight anymore, and my body involuntarily began to stand back up. The policeman took an iron bar and glared at me like a tiger eyeing its prey. No sooner had I stood up than he brutally beat me on the legs, causing so much pain that I nearly fell back onto my knees. Over the next half hour, whenever my legs or arms moved even the slightest bit, he would immediately beat me with the bar. I don’t know how many times he hit me. Due to having maintained this half squat position for such a long time, both of my legs grew extremely swollen, and they hurt unbearably as though they had fractured. As time went by, my legs were shaking even harder and my teeth were chattering continuously. Just then, it felt like my strength was going to give out. However, the evil police just mocked and ridiculed me, constantly sneering and laughing nastily at me, like people cruelly trying to get a monkey to do tricks. The more I looked at their ugly, despicable faces, the more hatred I felt for these evil policemen. I recalled God’s words, “When people are ready to sacrifice their lives, everything becomes trifling, and no one can get the better of them. What could be more important than life? Thus, Satan becomes incapable of doing any more in people, there is nothing it can do with man” (“Chapter 36” of Interpretations of the Mysteries of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). So I suddenly stood and said to them in a loud voice, “I will not squat anymore. Go ahead and sentence me to death! Today I have nothing to lose! I am not even afraid to die, so how could I be scared of you? Such big men you are, yet all you seem to know how to do is bully a little girl like me!” To my surprise, after I said this, the group of evil police shouted a few more curse words and then stopped interrogating me.
This pack of evil policemen had tormented me most of the night; by the time they stopped, it was daylight. They had me sign my name and said they were going to detain me. After that, an elderly policeman, feigning kindness, said to me, “Miss, look, you are so young—in the flower of your youth—so it is best if you hurry up and tell us all you know. I guarantee that I will make them release you. If you have any trouble, do not hesitate to tell me. Look, your face has swollen up like a loaf of bread. Haven’t you suffered enough?” Hearing him speak in this way, I knew he was just trying to lure me into making some sort of confession. I also recalled something my brothers and sisters had said during meetings: In order to get what they wanted, the evil police will use both carrot and stick and resort to all manner of tricks to deceive people. Thinking of this, I replied to the elderly policeman, “Don’t act like you are a good person; you’re all part of the same group. What do you want me to confess? What you’re doing is called extorting a confession. This is illegal punishment!” Hearing this, he put on an innocent expression and argued, “But I haven’t hit you once. They are the ones who hit you.” I was grateful for God’s guidance and protection, which allowed me to once again prevail over Satan’s temptation.
After leaving the County Public Security Bureau, straight away they locked me up in the detention house. As soon as we walked in the front gate, I saw the place was surrounded by very tall walls with electrified concertina wire on top of them, and in each of the four corners was what looked like a sentry tower, within which armed policemen stood guard. It all felt very sinister and terrible. After passing through iron gate after iron gate, I arrived at the cell. When I saw the dilapidated, linen-covered quilts atop the freezing cold kang bed, which were both dark and dirty, and smelled the pungent, foul scent coming from them, I could not help but feel a wave of disgust pass through me. At mealtime, each prisoner was only given a small steamed bun that was sour and half-raw. Even though I had been tortured by the police for half a night and not eaten anything, seeing this food really made me lose my appetite. On top of that, my face was so swollen from being beaten by the police, and it felt taut as though wrapped in tape. It hurt even just opening my mouth to talk, let alone to eat. Under these circumstances, I was in a very gloomy mood and felt much wronged. The thought that I would actually have to stay here and endure such an inhuman existence made me so emotional that I involuntarily shed some tears. The sister who was arrested together fellowshiped God’s words with me, and I understood that God had allowed this environment to befall me, and this was Him trialing and testing me to see if I could stand witness. He was also using this opportunity to perfect my faith. Realizing this, I stopped feeling wronged, and within me I began to resolve myself to endure my hardship.
Two weeks went by, and the head of those evil policemen again came to interrogate me. Seeing me remain calm and composed, without any fear at all, he shouted my name and yelled, “Tell me truthfully: Where else have you been arrested before? This is certainly not your first time inside; otherwise, how could you act so calm and seasoned, as if you’re not afraid in the least?” When I heard him say this, I could not help but thank and praise God in my heart. God had protected me and given me courage, thus allowing me to face these evil policemen with complete fearlessness. Just then, anger welled up from within my heart: You are abusing your power by persecuting people for their religious beliefs, and you arrest, bully, and injure those who believe in God without reason. You abide by no law, neither earthly nor heavenly. I believe in God and I walk the right path, and I have not broken the law. Why should I be afraid of you? I will not succumb to the evil forces of your gang! I then retorted, “Do you think everywhere else is so boring that I’d actually want to come here? You have wronged me and pushed me around! Any further efforts of yours to extort a confession or frame me will be useless!” Upon hearing this, he grew so angry that smoke seemed about to billow out of his ears. He screamed, “You’re too goddamned stubborn to tell us anything. You won’t talk, will you? I’m going to give you a three-year sentence, and then we’ll see whether you start behaving. I dare you to keep being stubborn!” By then I felt beyond indignant. In a loud voice I replied, “I’m still young, so what is three years to me? I’ll be out of prison in the blink of an eye.” In his anger, the evil policeman stood abruptly and growled at his lackeys, “I quit. You go ahead and interrogate her.” He then left, slamming the door behind him. Seeing what had happened, the two policemen did not question me any further; they just finished writing a statement for me to sign and then walked out. Seeing how defeated the evil police looked made me very happy, and in my heart I praised God’s victory over Satan. During the second round of interrogation, they switched tactics. As soon as they walked in the door, they pretended to be concerned about me: “You’ve been in here for so long. How come none of your family members have come to see you? They must have given up on you. How about you give them a call yourself and ask them to come visit you?” Hearing this made me feel sick at heart and upset. I felt lonely and helpless. I was homesick and missed my parents, and my desire for freedom was growing more and more intense. Involuntarily, my eyes brimmed with tears, but I didn’t want to cry in front of this gang of evil policemen. Silently, I prayed to God: “O God, right now I feel so miserable and in pain, and I feel very helpless. Please help me. I do not want to let Satan see my weakness. However, right now I cannot grasp Your will. I beg You to enlighten and guide me.” After praying, an idea suddenly flashed through my mind: This was Satan’s cunning ruse; their trying to make me contact my family might well have been a trick to get them to bring ransom money, thus achieving their goal of raking in some money; or perhaps they might have known that my family members all believed in God and had wanted to use this opportunity to arrest them. These evil policemen really were full of schemes. Had it not been for God’s enlightenment, I might have telephoned home. Would I not then have indirectly been a Judas? So, I secretly declared to Satan: “Vile devil, I simply will not allow you to succeed in your deception.” I then said nonchalantly, “I don’t know why my family members haven’t come to see me. I don’t care no matter what you do to me!” The evil police had no more cards to play. After that, they didn’t interrogate me again.
A month went by. One day, my uncle suddenly came to visit me, saying he was trying to get me out of there, and that I should be released a few days later. When I walked out of the visitation room, I felt extremely happy. I thought I would finally be able to see the light of day again, as well as my brothers, sisters, and loved ones. So I started daydreaming and looking forward to my uncle coming to get me. Every day, I kept my ears open for the sound of the guards’ calling to me that it was time to leave. Sure enough, a week later, a guard did come calling, and my heart felt about to beat right out of my chest. I joyously arrived at the visitation room. However, when I saw my uncle, he hung his head down. It was a long time before he said in a dispirited tone, “They’ve already finalized your case. You’ve been sentenced to three years.” When I heard this, I was stunned and my mind went completely blank. I fought back the tears, and managed to keep from crying. It was like I couldn’t hear anything my uncle said after that. I walked out of the visitation room in a trance, my feet feeling as though they were filled with lead, with each step heavier than the one before. I had no recollection of how I walked back to my cell. When I got there, I collapsed to the floor. I thought to myself, “Each day of the past month or so of this inhuman existence has felt like a year; how will I be able to make it through three long years of this?” The more I dwelled on it, the more my anguish grew, and the more indistinct and unfathomable my future began to seem. Unable to keep them back any longer, I burst into tears. I’d thought that as a minor I would never be sentenced, or at most would only be locked up for a few months. I’d thought I’d just have to endure a little more pain and hardship and stick it out a bit longer, and then it would be over; it had never even occurred to me that I might actually have to spend three years in prison. In my grief, I again came before God. I opened up to Him, saying, “O God, I know that all things and all events are in Your hands, but right now my heart feels like it’s been completely hollowed out. I feel like I’m about to fall apart; I think it’s going to be very difficult for me to endure three years of suffering in prison. O God, I beg You to reveal Your will to me, and I implore You to grant me faith and strength so that I can completely submit to You and bravely accept what has befallen me.” After this prayer, I thought of God’s words: “During these last days you must bear testimony to God. No matter how great your suffering, you should walk until the very end, and even at your last breath, still you must be faithful to God and at the mercy of God; only this is truly loving God, and only this is the strong and resounding testimony” (“Only by Experiencing Painful Trials Can You Know the Loveliness of God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words gave me faith and strength and I was willing to submit. Regardless of what might befall me or how much suffering I might undergo, I wouldn’t blame God at all; I would stand witness for Him. Two months later, I was transported to a labor camp. When I received my verdict papers and signed them, I discovered that the three-year sentence had been commuted to one year. In my heart I thanked and praised God over and over. God was orchestrating all of this, and within it I could see the immense love and protection He had for me.
In the labor camp, I saw an even meaner and more brutal side of the evil police. Very early in the morning we would get up and go to work, and we were severely overloaded with tasks to do each day. We had to labor for very long hours every day, and sometimes would work around the clock for several days and nights in a row. Some of the prisoners got sick and needed to be hooked up to an IV, and the drip rate was turned up to the fastest notch so that, as soon as it was finished, they could quickly return to the workshop and get back to work. This led to the majority of convicts subsequently getting some illnesses that were very difficult to cure. Because they worked slowly, some people were frequently subjected to verbal abuse from the guards, their foul language simply unbearable to hear. Some people violated the rules while working, so were punished. For example, they were “put on the rope,” which meant they had to kneel on the ground and have their hands tied behind their backs, their arms forcibly raised up painfully to neck level. Others were tied to trees with iron chains like dogs and were flogged mercilessly with a whip. Some people, unable to bear this inhuman torture, would try to starve themselves to death, only to have the evil guards put cuffs on both their ankles and wrists and then hold their bodies down tightly, forcing feeding tubes and fluids into them. They were afraid these prisoners might die, not because they cherished life, but because they were worried about losing the cheap labor they provided. The evil deeds committed by the prison guards really were too many to count, as were the horrendously violent and bloody incidents that occurred. This all made me see very clearly that the Chinese Communist Party government is the earthly embodiment of Satan who dwells in the spiritual world; it is the evilest of all devils and the prisons under its regime are hell on earth—not just in name, but in reality. I remember the words on the wall of the office in which I was interrogated: “It is forbidden to beat people arbitrarily or subject them to illegal punishment, and it is even more forbidden to obtain confessions through torture.” Nevertheless, in reality, their actions were in open defiance of these rules. They had wantonly beaten me, a girl who was not even an adult yet, and subjected me to illegal punishment; what’s more, they had sentenced me merely because of my belief in God. All of this had enabled me to see clearly the tricks used by the CCP government to hoodwink people while presenting a false appearance of peace and prosperity. It was just as God had said: “The devil tightly trusses all of man’s body, it puts out both his eyes, and seals his lips firmly shut. The king of devils has rampaged for several thousand years, right up until today, when it still keeps a close watch on the ghost town, as if it were an impenetrable palace of demons; this pack of watchdogs, meanwhile, stare with glaring eyes, deeply fearful that God will catch them unawares and wipe them all out, leaving them without a place of peace and happiness. How could the people of a ghost town such as this ever have seen God? Have they ever enjoyed the dearness and loveliness of God? What appreciation have they of the matters of the human world? Who of them can understand God’s eager will? Small wonder, then, that God incarnate remains completely hidden: In a dark society such as this, where the demons are merciless and inhumane, how could the king of devils, who kills people without batting an eye, tolerate the existence of a God who is lovely, kind, and also holy? How could it applaud and cheer the arrival of God? These lackeys! They repay kindness with hate, they have long since disdained God, they abuse God, they are savage in the extreme, they have not the slightest regard for God, they plunder and pillage, they have lost all conscience, they go against all conscience, and they tempt the innocent into senselessness. Forefathers of the ancient? Beloved leaders? They all oppose God! Their meddling has left all beneath heaven in a state of darkness and chaos! Religious freedom? The legitimate rights and interests of citizens? They are all tricks for covering up sin!” (“Work and Entry (8)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
After experiencing the evil policemen’s persecution, I was utterly convinced of this passage of words spoken by God, and now had some real knowledge and experience of it: The CCP government is truly a demonic legion that hates and opposes God, and that advocates evil and violence, and living under the suppression of the satanic regime is no different from living in a human hell. At the same time, in the labor camp, I had seen with my own eyes the ugliness of all kinds of people: the repulsive faces of those smooth-talking opportunistic snakes who curried favor with the head guards, the devilish faces of ferociously violent people who ran amuck bullying the weak, and so on. For me, who had not yet begun life as an adult, during this year of life in prison, I finally saw clearly the corruption of humanity. I witnessed the treachery in people’s hearts, and realized how sinister the human world could be. I also learned to distinguish between positive and negative, black and white, right and wrong, good and evil, and between what is great and what is despicable; I saw clearly that Satan is ugly, evil, brutal, and that only God is the symbol of holiness and righteousness. Only God symbolizes beauty and goodness; only God is love and salvation. Watched over and safeguarded by God, that unforgettable year passed very quickly for me. Now, looking back on it, I see that although I underwent some physical suffering during that year of prison life, God used His words to lead and guide me, thus enabling my life to mature. This suffering and trial is God’s special blessing for me. Thanks be to Almighty God!