Long Years in Prison
By Anning, China
One day in December, 2012, I’d been a believer for about a year, and a younger sister and I were on our way to share the gospel. Over a dozen police officers suddenly came up to us and got us down on the ground. It was my first time experiencing something like that, and I was terrified. I was praying nonstop. They brought us into a big room at the county government offices and left four officers to keep an eye on us. When I lifted my head and glanced at them, one of them came over and smacked me twice, then kicked me hard in the gut. My face was smarting and my stomach really hurt, too. I was just 21 years old, and the sister who’d been arrested with me was just 15 or 16. Seeing me hit, she started to come over and help me, but the officer made a fist and took a swing at her. I grabbed her to hold her tightly in my arms, and the other officers roughly ripped us apart. I’d always thought that the police were there to serve the people, that everything they did was for justice. I was shocked to see them being so evil, that they’d even be this way with two girls. I said this silent prayer: “God, please watch over me and give me faith so that no matter how they beat me, I’ll never sell out brothers and sisters, never be a Judas and betray You!”
After 6 that evening, they took me into a big courtyard where I could see more than 30 other brothers and sisters who’d been arrested. An officer came to question me at about 9 p.m. or so: “How long have you believed in God? Who converted you? Who else in your family believes?” I didn’t answer. Then they took me to a detention house the next evening. When I got there I saw row after row of metal gates and I felt really afraid, not knowing what the guards there would do to me. I prayed to God, asking Him for faith and strength. When we got to my cell, the guard told the boss of that cell to “take good care” of me. At the time I didn’t know what that meant. The boss made me sleep right on the floor, even though it was the middle of winter, freezing cold. First thing the next morning, they made me stand on the floor barefoot, making my feet so cold they turned totally red. But that wasn’t enough—they made me stand outside in a windy area, wouldn’t let me eat breakfast, and had me clean the floor on my knees. That’s when I realized that “take care of” meant mistreat. A little past 8 a.m., the boss asked me if I would confess, and I said, “No, having faith isn’t a crime.” She smacked me a couple times with the back of her hand. The police interrogated me plenty of times after that, but I kept my mouth shut by praying and leaning on God.
The police took me into court in May 2013, where the judge convicted me of “using a xie jiao organization to undermine the enforcement of the law,” and when he asked me if I had any objections, I asked him, “Why are you saying I committed this crime?” He responded, “You have the right to respond, not the right to ask questions.” I was indignant. The Constitution clearly grants citizens the right to enjoy freedom of religion, so having faith and sharing the gospel didn’t break any law, but they slapped that charge on me, and I couldn’t even ask a question. What about fairness? What about freedom? Four years. That moment I saw the verdict was incredibly difficult for me. I was just 22, still so young. I couldn’t believe I’d be spending those years in the prime of my youth in prison. Then it occurred to me that however long I spent behind bars was up to God, and I couldn’t complain or blame Him, but I had to submit and get through it by leaning on Him. That helped me feel a bit better. She was sentenced to 10 months.
I was taken to the women’s prison in August 2013 to serve out my sentence. I was put into the education unit first where the guards demanded information on the church and whether I’d acknowledge my crime. I said, “I won’t.” Then they had a few other inmates come keep an eye on me. Two inmates would “sandwich” me, always glued right next to me and wouldn’t let me speak with the other sisters there. They had me constantly studying prison rules and were brainwashing me, always talking about evolution. I was so angry, but I saw how useless arguing with them was, so I totally ignored them. The prison guards had other inmates punish me, too, making me drag a huge bag of trash down the stairs from the fifth to the first floor every morning. It was really heavy and smelled terrible, and moving it made me break out in a sweat. I’d never done such filthy work at home, and I felt really wronged and upset. Then I remembered a passage of: “If you wish to be perfected by God, you must learn how to experience in all matters, and be able to gain enlightenment in everything that happens to you. Whether it be good or bad, it should bring you benefit, and should not make you negative. Regardless, you should be able to consider things while standing on the side of God, and not analyze or study them from the perspective of man (this would be a deviation in your experience)” (“Promises to Those Who Have Been Perfected” in ). God’s words showed me that no matter what happens to me, it all contains God’s goodwill and I should accept it from God. The prison guards were pitting the other inmates against me, to get me to betray God. I couldn’t fall for it. I could never turn my back on God no matter how they tortured me. This thought really alleviated my misery.
After a couple of months they transferred me to a place specifically used for brainwashing and conversion and put me under fully confined management. I had to eat, drink, sleep, and relieve myself all in one tiny room. Two or three instructors would perform brainwashing on me every day, barraging me with lessons on traditional culture, making me watch videos about it and then having me write reflections on them. I wrote things testifying to God instead. They also gave me a book that was full of nothing but lies blaspheming the church, and said that I was abandoning my family with my faith, refusing to take care of my parents, that I was heartless. That made me so angry, I retorted, “You’re confusing black and white. You’re the ones who took me here, how could I possibly go home to take care of my parents?” Then they said all sorts of things blaspheming God and wanted me to write letters of repentance and whatnot. When I refused, they hurled abuse at me and stopped letting me sleep. An inmate would yell loudly the moment I closed an eye. Later, an inmate grabbed my hand to force me to write those letters. At that point I was utterly spent, body and mind, and my heart was weakening, so I didn’t fight it. I thought, “Anyway it’s them forcing me to do this, I’m not the one doing it.” But then it occurred to me that God sees into our hearts and minds, and wasn’t I following Satan by doing that? Then I remembered this from God’s words: “In every step of work that God does within people, externally it appears to be interactions between people, as if born of human arrangements or from human interference. But behind the scenes, every step of work, and everything that happens, is a wager made by Satan before God, and requires people to stand firm in their testimony to God” (“Only Loving God Is Truly Believing in God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). This helped me understand that this was spiritual warfare. My every word and deed, my every movement was scrutinized by God. On the surface it was an inmate pushing my hand down to make me write, but if I didn’t resist, it would mean that in my heart, I had already given in to Satan. That would be a kind of betrayal before God. At this thought, I fought against her and two of the prisoners started pushing and shoving me, slapping me really hard. The brainwashing class director wouldn’t let them hit me, pretending to be nice. One of them said, “Look how nice she was to you—don’t be ungrateful, just write those statements.” I thought, “You guys are tormenting me and hurting me every day, trying to force me to write these, and you claim to be nice to me. Shameless!” Then right after that, the class director spouted all sorts of nonsense and fallacies right in front of me. They tormented me all the way until 2 a.m. that morning, but I still refused to write. The more they tormented me, the more I saw the Communist Party’s evil, anti-God essence. The instructors talked a lot about the six hallmarks of a cult. The first is psychological control, the second is physical harm…. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that the Party is the real cult. Later on, this is what I wrote in my reflection: “You’re forcing your atheistic doctrine and traditional culture on me every day, insisting that I turn my back on God. Isn’t that psychological control? At night you often deprive me of sleep, intentionally tormenting me. Isn’t that physical harm? …” When the guards read it, they tore it to shreds in anger.
They transferred me to a production unit after that. In the workshop, the guards would have the group leader give me extra tasks so I was constantly struggling to keep up, always on edge. I didn’t dare drink any water even when I was dying of thirst, afraid going to the bathroom would delay my work. Even so, I still couldn’t ever reach my quotas. I was constantly being punished. After wrapping up at night, I’d have to go back to my cell and just stand still for an hour as punishment. Sometimes really early in the morning when everyone else was still sleeping, they’d wake me up and make me stand as punishment. Every time I got up I felt so fatigued, and so sleepy I could hardly open my eyes. The guards were incredibly strict with those of us who were believers. We were constantly tormented and punished, and they’d even restrict our use of the bathrooms. When the others asked to go, the guards would let them, but no matter how much I’d held it, when I asked, they’d refuse and tell me to keep holding it. I’d have to bear it until work ended and I could use the toilet in my cell. Over that time, I’d grab the slightest chance to fellowship with a few other sisters, and we’d sustain each other. We’d copy down whatever words of God we could remember and secretly pass the paper between us. There was one that left a really deep impression on me. God’s words say, “No matter how God works, and no matter your environment, you are able to pursue life and seek the truth, and seek knowledge of God’s work, and have an understanding of His actions, and you are able to act according to the truth. Doing so is what it is to have true faith, and doing so shows that you have not lost faith in God. You can only have true faith in God if you are able to persist in pursuing the truth through refinement, if you are able to truly love God and do not develop doubts about Him, if no matter what He does you still practice the truth to satisfy Him, and if you are able to seek in the depths for His will and be considerate of His will” (“Those Who Are to Be Made Perfect Must Undergo Refinement” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words provided us with faith and strength. We all felt like we had to stay close to God, stay close to His words. I’d been a believer for just a year at the time, and I hated that I hadn’t read God’s words more. But before long, that paper we were circulating was confiscated by the guards, and then they kept an even closer eye on us. They had other inmates “sandwich” me when I was working to make sure I didn’t talk with the other sisters, and they were constantly turning our cabinets and beds upside down in searches.
In August 2015, a prisoner reported that I’d spoken with another believer, so the guards sent me into confinement in the “cubicle.” It was a cell about 10 feet by 10 feet with a wooden platform where you had to sleep, with a squat toilet at one end of it. The walls were covered with sponges below 10 feet so prisoners couldn’t kill themselves by banging against the wall when they couldn’t take it anymore. The female guards got their electric batons and told me to take off all my clothing in front of them. I refused, so they yanked on my clothing, forcing me to take it all off, and then made me to stand under the surveillance cameras and do squats. It felt terribly humiliating, so I instinctively used my arms to cover myself, wanting to shield myself while squatting. But before I’d even gotten all the way down, they yanked my arms away and mocked me, saying, “What are you clutching at? You’ve gotten here and still want your dignity!” I was so upset, but I just gritted my teeth and forced my tears back. Once they’d finished their “inspection,” they sent me to my cubicle, totally naked. When I got into it, I just couldn’t hold back anymore. I cried and cried. Later, the guard made me stand at attention in there from 5 a.m. till 10 p.m., and told inmates to watch me. I was beaten or yelled at for the slightest movement. After standing for a long time my feet would be swollen up like balloons. They were always finding new ways to punish me, and I’d get a beating if they just didn’t like the look of me. One time, four or five inmates squeezed in. One of them grabbed me by the hair, two of them started smacking me, and there was another pinching my breasts really hard. It was incredibly painful. They were all laughing at me, saying, “Have your God come save you!” I was filled with hatred for those demons, and I had no idea how long they’d keep torturing and humiliating me like that. I didn’t want to be there for another minute and even thought about bashing my own head to die, but the walls were covered with sponges, so there was no way to do that. The inmate in the cell next to me had tried to slam herself against the wall to commit suicide, but hadn’t succeeded, so they’d put a hood over her head and even gagged her. If I wasn’t successful, I’d have to suffer something even worse. This thought made me even more miserable. At my weakest moment, I remembered thisof God’s words: “Today, most people do not have that knowledge. They believe that suffering is without value, they are persecuted for their faith and renounced by the world, their home life is troubled, and their prospects are bleak. The suffering of some people reaches an extreme, and their thoughts turn to death. How does this show a God-loving heart? Such people are cowards, they have no perseverance, they are weak and powerless! God is eager for man to love Him, but the more man loves Him, the greater man’s suffering, and the more man loves Him…. Thus, 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” (“Seek to Love God No Matter How Great Your Suffering” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). Thinking over God’s words, I saw how cowardly I was, that with a little suffering and humiliation I was already seeking death. Where was my testimony? I had to stand up and live, stand witness to satisfy God, and humiliate Satan! I did away with any thoughts of death and just wanted to pray and lean on God to get through that.
Then the prison guards started making us wear labels with all sorts of blasphemous things written on them. I refused. They had other inmates force me to sit on a bench that was really hard, really uncomfortable and then tied up my hands and feet with restraints so I couldn’t move at all. Then they put that sign on me and said, really pleased, “Aren’t you wearing it now? We have our ways!” So they kept me tied up like that from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., for 17 whole hours. My bottom was aching so badly and my hands were incredibly swollen. I was completely exhausted and sleepy. I couldn’t even open my eyes. The inmates were threatening me, they wouldn’t let me close my eyes. If I did, they’d spray chili powder right into them. I tried so hard to keep them open, but after a bit, I really couldn’t take it anymore. They’d just close on their own, and then the inmates would pry my eyes open with their fingers. They wouldn’t even untie me for meals. There wasn’t much food to begin with, but then, they’d just stuff a couple bites into my mouth and then take it out before I could finish. And sometimes they’d just cram it into my mouth and I didn’t have time to swallow, then they’d yell at me. Later on, I stopped eating because I didn’t want to be humiliated by them that way, and when I refused to eat, they’d just smack me. I had to hold it until I was in pain because they wouldn’t let me use the bathroom, and then I had nerve problems in my urinary tract from holding it for too long, so when the time came, I couldn’t even go. That was the first time I really understood why people might say that death would be a relief.
While I was in the cubicle, the guards would torture me with food deprivation a lot. They’d just give me a bite of steamed bread as big as an egg and a little spoonful of soup. Sometimes they’d pull a chunk off of that bit of steamed bread. I was so careful while I was eating, terrified that the crumbles of bread would fall on the floor. I felt hungry all the time, my stomach was growling and always hurt. When I heard the inmates next to me chewing their food, I thought, “When will I get a bowl of real food like them?” Sometimes they’d dump out some of their food into the trash or toilet, and wouldn’t let me eat it even if it was ruined. Sometimes I’d gaze at the food in the trash, really wanting to scoop it out, but then I’d see all the surveillance and the other prisoners around me and wouldn’t dare. I was afraid I’d get a beating before I even got it into my mouth. I had hunger pangs all the time, and I’d have dreams about eating a full meal. Not just that, but even drinking water was restricted. I’d just get water in the morning, and very little. It was August, the hottest month, so I was dying of thirst. One time they put armpit hair in my drinking water. It was really gross. Then they stood there in the doorway watching me, and if I didn’t drink it, they were going to stop giving me water altogether. I forced myself to drink it. Seeing that, they humiliated me for it. On top of the daily physical torment, they were constantly hurling abuse at me, saying all sorts of crude things and things blaspheming God. It was really painful and I really wanted to cry, but I was afraid they’d stuff something into my mouth, so I didn’t dare make a sound. I could just silently cry. The prisoner watching me yelled at me loudly, “What are you crying for? If you keep it up, I’ll take you into the main square and strip you bare so everyone in the prison can see you.” Hearing her say this really scared me. That pack of demons really was cruel and evil. How could I possibly bear it if they really did take me to the square and take all my clothing off? The prospect of this scared me into not crying anymore.
During that time, I often felt like I was in a total daze, and like I was on the verge of collapse. I didn’t want to spend a single second longer in there. I remembered something the brainwashing director had said: “Would you be suffering all this if you didn’t believe in God?” I was feeling really weak at the time, so I thought, “She’s right. If I weren’t a believer, I wouldn’t be going through this.” When I had that thought, I felt incredibly dark inside and I suddenly realized that I was falling for Satan’s trick. I was arrested by the Chinese Communist Party for having faith and taking the right path. This was very clearly them torturing and hurting me, but they said I was suffering because of my faith. Blaming God for my suffering was incredibly vile and shameful! I didn’t just not loathe them, but I even believed their lie. I was selling myself to the enemy! I quickly came before God in prayer: “Oh God, I believed one of Satan’s lies because of my fleshly weakness. I’m so rebellious! I wish to repent to You, and I beg You to guide me to understand Your will.” I remembered this passage of God’s words after praying: “The greater God’s refinement, the more people’s hearts are able to love God. The torment in their hearts is of benefit to their lives, they are more able to be at peace before God, their relationship with God is closer, and they are better able to see God’s supreme love and His supreme salvation. Peter experienced refinement hundreds of times, and Job underwent several trials. If you wish to be made perfect by God, you too must undergo refinement hundreds of times; only if you go through this process and rely upon this step will you be able to satisfy God’s will and be made perfect by God. Refinement is the best means by which God makes people perfect; only refinement and bitter trials can bring out the true love for God in people’s hearts. Without hardship, people lack true love for God; if they are not tested within, if they are not truly subjected to refinement, then their hearts will always be floating around outside. Having been refined to a certain point, you will see your own weaknesses and difficulties, you will see how much you are lacking and that you are unable to overcome the many problems you encounter, and you will see how great is your disobedience. Only during trials are people able to truly know their real states; trials make people better able to be perfected” (“Only by Experiencing Refinement Can Man Possess True Love” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words reminded me that being arrested and tortured was something God allowed, and it contained His goodwill. He was refining me through trials and hardship, letting me see my own shortcomings. Before I’d always said I wanted to seek to love and satisfy God, and submit to His arrangements, but in the face of that physical suffering, I just wanted to escape, and I complained and blamed God. I saw that I didn’t have any love or faith in God. I was so lacking in stature. If I hadn’t been exposed in that environment, I wouldn’t have understood myself at all. I didn’t feel as miserable when I thought about that and I was willing to pray and lean on God to get through it. I said a prayer to God, “God, I know everything You do is for my own good. I won’t try to escape from this anymore. I’m willing to stand witness for You.” Singing the hymns of God’s words that I could remember over and over in my heart gave me faith and strength. I knew this was God’s protection and love, and I gave thanks to Him nonstop. Later, I heard an inmate say that generally people really can’t take it anymore after seven days in the cubicle, and by then I’d been there over 20 days. I knew that I was able to hang on entirely because of God’s protection and guidance, and I thanked Him over and over. They kept me in there for 45 days before letting me out. When I got back to the ward, the sisters there wept for me when they saw that I’d turned into a bag of bones. They snuck me milk powder and biscuits so that I could build my strength back up. I could feel this was God’s love. They caught us fellowshiping on God’s words again after that, so the ward chief sent me back to the cubicle. They tortured me in all the same ways for 37 days that time, and when I got out, I was hardly even recognizable.
In December 2016, I’d served my time and I was released. If it hadn’t been for praying and relying on God, there’s no way I would have gotten out of that hellscape alive. When I got out, I found out that my fiancé had broken off the engagement, unable to take all the gossip. The police kept coming by to harass me after I went back home, asking me if I still believed, so I left my hometown to go do my duty. After being put through this by the Communist Party, I clearly saw how evil and vile it is, that it’s a God-hating, God-resisting demon, and I’ve forsaken and rejected it from the bottom of my heart! Even more, I tasted God’s love. It was His guidance that helped me see through all of Satan’s tricks, and it was God’s words that gave me faith and strength, allowing me to overcome those demons’ abuse. This experience gave me a personal taste of the authority and power of God’s words and gave me even more faith. No matter how much pain and hardship I go through in the future, I will unswervingly followand do my duty to repay His love!