After I Was Arrested
By Zhou Li, China
One noon in February 2013, I was on my way to a gathering with three other sisters when we realized there were two cars following us. Realizing it was probably the police, we quickly turned around and took a small alleyway, but we didn’t get far before four people got out of the cars and chased us down. Then they pushed and shoved us into the cars and took us to an interrogation room at the county Public Security Bureau. Four or five officers came in and roughly searched me, taking my cellphone and notebook, plus my earrings, watch, and my ring. A couple of female officers came in and took me to another room where they made me strip for a search and made me squat multiple times while they watched. It was really humiliating. They are really evil, so I was pretty worried about how they were going to torture me. I got more scared as I thought about it, so I said a prayer, asking God to watch over my heart, to give me faith and strength. Then I thought of these words of God: “Be not afraid; with My support, who could ever block this road? Remember this! Do not forget! All that occurs is by My good intention, and everything is under My observation. Can you follow My word in all that you say and do? When the trials of fire come upon you, will you kneel down and call out? Or will you cower, incapable of moving forward?” (“Chapter 10” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in). filled me with faith. God rules over everything and the police were in His hands, too. With God behind me, what did I have to fear? I knew no matter how they interrogated me, and whether they applied torture or not, I couldn’t betray God or sell out brothers and sisters. After searching me, an officer handcuffed me to a tiger chair and asked me, “What’s your name? Where do you live? When did you become religious? Talk!” I didn’t make a sound. He kept asking questions: “Are you a church leader? Where does the church keep its money?” When I refused to answer, he walked out in a huff.
By noon the next day, they had left me handcuffed to the tiger chair more than 20 hours straight, and my feet were swollen and numb, without any feeling. Then an officer came in and said, seeming pleased, “Do you know why we’re coming to question you now?” I had no idea, and didn’t know why he’d ask me that. Then before long I saw three officers bringing my husband to the doorway and I realized they’d searched my home and brought my husband in, too. After 9 p.m. that night, the police put me, my husband, and the three sisters I’d been arrested with in their car and drove to the detention house. One of them said, “You give it careful thought. Your kids are pretty little and there’s no one there to make food or watch after them. Tell us everything you know and we’ll let you go.” I knew this was a trick from Satan. It wanted to get me to betray God and sell out the others because of my feelings for my kids. I ignored him.
At the detention house, four or five officers took us for strip searches and then put us into cells. Seeing the iron doors with police standing watch was eerily frightening, and I felt like I’d entered into hell. I could smell a strong odor of feces as soon as I entered my cell, and I had to sleep on a damp concrete platform at night. Each of us just had one thin blanket and the head of my bed was up against the toilet. Eating, drinking, and relieving ourselves was all in one room. I’d gotten sick and had a fever after being handcuffed for two days and one night in the interrogation room and the doctor who did my physical examination said I was at 102. But the cops said I was faking it and didn’t give me any medicine at all.
A National Security Brigade officer came to question me a couple days later. He started out making chit-chat and talked about his own family, saying we could be friends. He advised me, “Even if you don’t think of yourself, you have to think of your kids. Three generations of your family will be affected if you’re sentenced. Your kids won’t get into college or join the army. Just think, is your faith worth dragging in generations of your family? Your family is ripped apart right now. Would it be that way if you weren’t a believer?” That made me really angry, and I thought, “Is it my fault that my family can’t be together? We’re believers on the right path, but you’re the ones arresting us, ruining a perfectly happy home. You’re the culprit tearing families apart.” But thinking about my kids not getting into college and the impact on their future, I wondered if they would hate me. This was hard for me, so I silently prayed to God and asked Him to watch over my heart. Then I thought of something God said: “At all times, My people should be on guard against the cunning schemes of Satan, guarding the gate of My house for Me; … so as to avoid falling into Satan’s trap, at which time it would be too late for regrets” (“Chapter 3” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). That was enlightening, helping me see that what that officer had just said was Satan’s trick, trying to threaten me with my children’s future so that I’d betray God and sell out my brothers and sisters. I couldn’t fall for it! He tried another tactic later on to get something out of me, but I still refused to talk. After a while, he said, “We’ve been to your house. Your kids are adorable. We have a video—want to see?” This really hit a soft spot for me. I just couldn’t let go of my worries about my two kids. My son was 14 and my daughter was just 9. They must have been terrified when the police were searching our home. And with my husband and I in police custody, how were they going to get by? Would someone do something to bully them? Who would take care of them if they got sick? If the police went over to go intimidate them, what sort of state would it put them in? Would they still be able to go to school? Would they end up at the mercy of the dregs of society? This train of thought left me increasingly miserable, so I quickly prayed to God, “Oh God! Please protect my heart so that I don’t fall for Satan’s tricks and I can stand witness for You.” Then I thought of this in 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). I gradually calmed down as I turned this over in my mind. Whatever anyone goes through, however much they suffer is in God’s hands. In China, this ghost town, anyone who has faith and follows God is sure to be oppressed, and none of us can help each other. With my husband and I arrested and suffering in jail, and our kids at home, also suffering, all the worrying in the world couldn’t change anything. I said a prayer, leaving our kids in God’s hands, asking Him to watch over and protect them. So I said to the officer, “Just keep the video and enjoy it yourself!” The police didn’t have anything more to say after that.
I had to keep sleeping on that concrete platform in the detention house for a long time, and by July, my hands and feet were sore, swollen, and tingling. Not long after that, my joints were hurting so much that I couldn’t handle any cold water, and the slightest drop of it felt like being stabbed with a needle, in too much pain to sleep at night. Then things started getting more and more blurry and everything was flickering. I was really dizzy. I made an illness report to the chief, but he didn’t care if I lived or died. I was feeling so weak and miserable—what would I do if I went blind? I was constantly calling out to God in my heart while humming thisof God’s words: “Do not be discouraged, do not be weak, and I will make things clear for you. The road to the kingdom is not so smooth; nothing is that simple! You want blessings to come to you easily. Today, everyone will have bitter trials to face. Without such trials, the loving heart you have for Me will not grow stronger and you will not have true love for Me. Even if these trials consist merely of minor circumstances, everyone must pass through them; it’s just that the difficulty of the trials will vary from one person to another” (“The Pain of Trials Is a Blessing From God” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). I knew that it wasn’t God’s will for me to live within weakness and negativity, but it was to perfect my faith and love for God through hardships and trials while also helping me develop discernment, and clearly see the great red dragon’s evil and vileness so I could hate and reject it from the bottom of my heart. All of my misery vanished once I understood all of this.
I was taken to the municipal detention house in October. There was a cooler climate over there, so my joint pain got even worse, and I was getting constant headaches. I went to correctional officers for medicine, but they wouldn’t give me anything. I was getting worse by the day, and then one day around noon, my head hurt so much that I passed out in my cell. Sometime after 4 p.m. the prison guards finally had a couple other prisoners drag me into the infirmary for a transfusion. When it was nearly a third done, the two policewomen on duty went to go eat and just took the needle out, sending me straight back to my cell. My headache came back after 9 p.m. that night and the guards sent a couple prisoners to keep an eye on me, but still wouldn’t give me any medicine. The next day, I passed out again. I was feeling some weakness, thinking about how I’d been tormented to the point I was racked with illness, and wondered when it would all end. I wondered if I would die in there. These thoughts left me feeling weak and helpless, so I called to God over and over, asking Him to protect me so I could overcome all of this. Then I remembered a hymn of God’s words, “Trials Call for Faith”: “While undergoing trials, it is normal for people to be weak, or to have negativity within them, or to lack clarity on God’s will or their path for practice. But in any case, you must have faith in God’s work, and not deny God, just like Job. Although Job was weak and cursed the day of his own birth, he did not deny that all things in human life were bestowed by Jehovah, and that Jehovah is also the One to take them all away. No matter how he was tested, he maintained this belief. In your experience, no matter what refinement you undergo through God’s words, what God requires of mankind, in brief, is their faith and their love for Him. What He perfects by working in this way is people’s faith, love, and aspirations. God does the work of perfection on people, and they cannot see it, cannot feel it; under such circumstances, your faith is required. People’s faith is required when something cannot be seen by the naked eye, and your faith is required when you cannot let go of your own notions. When you do not have clarity about God’s work, what is required of you is to have faith and to take a firm stance and stand witness. When Job reached this point, God appeared to him and spoke to him. That is, it is only from within your faith that you will be able to see God, and when you have faith God will perfect you” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). Thinking of this, I saw that God was allowing my health to suffer to perfect my faith. It was a blessing from God. I thought of when Job went through trials and his whole body was covered with boils. He really suffered a lot, but he sat on the ash heap, scraping his body with pottery shards, never blaming God. He ultimately relied on his faith and gave testimony for God. I wanted to be like Job, and get through this with my faith, too. I knew that very breath had been given to me by God, so if He allowed me to die, I’d be willing to submit. As long as I had breath in me, I was ready to stand witness and humiliate Satan. To my surprise, once I was ready to submit, my joint pain and headaches started gradually getting better. It showed me how real God’s love is, that He’s always by my side watching over me. This really bolstered my faith in Him.
In December 2013, the Communist Party charged me with “organizing and using a cult organization to undermine the enforcement of the law” and sentenced me to four years. I was sent to a women’s prison in January 2014 to serve out my sentence. I was constantly on edge in prison. Someone watched me do everything—eating, working, sleeping, even using the bathroom. Each cell had 12 people who all kept an eye on each other, and if anyone messed up, everyone was punished. When it was serious, we were placed in confinement. But the worst was the heavy manual labor. The guards treated us like money-making machines, making us sew, iron, and package all sorts of clothing day in and day out. We had to make hundreds of thousands of outfits, including police and military uniforms, and China Railway employee clothing. Our work quotas were too much for half of us to finish. My eyesight was just 20/200 at the time, so it was hard to see clearly and the guards were constantly yelling at me. The two of us on the ironing team had to hang the clothing from six industrial-size ironing tables, running back and forth all day, working over 10 hours. I constantly had blisters on my feet that would ooze pus and stick on my socks. No matter how much it hurt, I had to keep on working the next day, and I’d be beaten when I couldn’t finish. After three months, the guards made me start doing the ironing, so I had to carry a 6.5 lb iron and iron clothing over 10 hours a day. And after so long of working late, until 11 or 12 p.m., my health really started deteriorating. I fainted twice in the workshop, and when I came to, I had to keep on working. Being in there really made me feel like I had gone down into hell—it was horrible.
I spent a lot of time thinking about God’s words and His love. One passage I thought of was: “Have you ever accepted the blessings that you were given? Have you ever sought the promises that were made for you? You will surely, under the guidance of My light, break through the stranglehold of the forces of darkness. You will surely not, in the midst of darkness, lose the light guiding you. You will surely be the master of all creation. You will surely be an overcomer before Satan. You will surely, at the downfall of the kingdom of the great red dragon, stand up amid the myriad throngs to bear witness to My victory. You will surely stand firm and unwavering in the land of Sinim. Through the sufferings you endure, you will inherit My blessings, and will surely radiate My glory throughout the entire universe” (“Chapter 19” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). That helped me understand that overcomers are made within trials and tribulations, and no matter what sort of pain and misery they go through, they can submit to God and be devoted to Him till the very end. Having the chance to stand witness for God was His grace and blessing for me, and no matter how much physical weakness and suffering I went through, I had to lean on God to stand witness and bring shame to Satan! It was the guidance of God’s words that gave me faith and strength, and I was finally able to get through that horrible time in prison.
The day I got out, they took me to the local judicial office where the deputy secretary said that my husband had been released after just 40 days in jail, then was arrested again in September 2014, when he was sentenced to 3.5 years. He told me, “Now that you’re out, just take care of your kids and forget about God. They’ve been on their own because you two are believers, and they’ve had to stay at your brother’s house these last years.” I was so annoyed to hear him say this. We were arrested, sentenced, and our family was split apart just because the two of us were believers, nothing else. The CCP even set us up, and said that since we were believers, we didn’t care about our family or our kids. They were distorting the truth!
When I got home, I saw the courtyard was overgrown with weeds, and the tables, chairs, and plates had been randomly thrown into the grass. I went over to pick the table up, and it fell apart the moment I touched it. At the living room entrance, when I pushed open the door, I saw the sofa and cabinets were all upturned, and there wasn’t even space to walk. There was a thick layer of dust covering everything, and the entire foundation in the kitchen had sunk down nearly an inch. There was a crack in the wall about the width of a finger. Seeing all of this was really hard for me at the time, and I cried and cried. When I saw my son, I asked him how he’d been these last few years, and he choked up and said, “Mom, people in our village saw me and intentionally asked about you two. I just tried to avoid them and not answer. I tried not to go out or see anyone. Lots of my classmates made fun of me and said that I was the son of convicted criminals. I didn’t want to go to school anymore.” I had to force my tears back when I heard him say this. He was still a child, but he had to face discrimination by the other villagers and mocking by his classmates just because I was a believer. I hated the Party with everything in me!
I hadn’t been home for long when a National Security Brigade instructor and a couple of local officials brought two videographers into my house who started filming the moment they got to the door, without my permission. They turned their footage of my house into a video with voiceovers of nothing but lies. They said believers didn’t do any work in the fields, that we didn’t look after our families, take care of the elderly, or raise our children, and that our child, who was just in middle school, had had to drop out and was out trying to make it in the world, living off of odd jobs. Then they took the video and displayed it on the big open-air TVs out on the streets, and showed it on a big screen on a vehicle that would drive around town. It was displayed wherever the car went. After being the target of these rumors and slander, nearly everyone in town knew that we’d been arrested and imprisoned for believing in. My family and friends would all avoid me and didn’t dare talk to me. The Communist Party took this video and played it at my kid’s school, too, and the teachers told the students that if any of them saw someone share the gospel with their parents, they should call the police to report them. My daughter came home crying, saying the other kids were making fun of her for being the daughter of convicts. She hid at home crying for two or three days, and wouldn’t go back to school. She had always been really cheerful and talkative, really happy and energetic, but now she’d become really withdrawn and never wanted to talk. My son was also really depressed. That wasn’t all. They also convened a village meeting under the guise of discussing households in need and said that since we’d been convicted for disrupting the social order because of our faith in Almighty God, we had no way to support our family, and needed donations from other villagers. Some were taken in by it, and criticized us for not taking care of our responsibilities. They also used my brother and his wife, our neighbors, and the village head to keep an eye on me, to track me. I had no way of seeing brothers and sisters during that time, so I couldn’t lead a life of the church or do my duty. It was just like being under house arrest. I was so miserable and I hated the Party with every fiber of my being.
After all of that, I read this in God’s words: “For thousands of years this has been the land of filth. It is unbearably dirty, misery abounds, ghosts run rampant everywhere, tricking and deceiving, making groundless accusations, being ruthless and vicious, trampling this ghost town and leaving it littered with dead bodies; the stench of decay covers the land and pervades the air, and it is heavily guarded. Who can see the world beyond the skies? The devil tightly trusses all of man’s body, it veils 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). It was through this oppression and hardship that I truly saw that the Party is just a pack of demons that hates God and devastates people. I came to utterly despise it and truly break with it. And at the same time, I came to see God’s love. When I was being abused and tortured by Satan, it was God’s words giving me faith and strength, guiding me through it step by step. I also personally experienced the power and authority of God’s words, and my faith in Him grew. Gaining all of this was nothing but God’s love and His blessing! Thanks be to God!
1. “Making groundless accusations” refers to the methods by which the devil harms people.
2. “Heavily guarded” indicates that the methods by which the devil afflicts people are especially vicious, and control people so much that they have no room to move.