Two women, both members of The Church of Almighty God, share their memories of humiliation and torture while held in custody for their faith.
International human rights law forbids to take nude photos of prisoners, except in rare cases, or degrade their dignity. These regulations do not apply to China, apparently, since the practice of deliberately exposing naked prisoners to others as a form of torture and punishment is widespread in its prisons.
Bitter Winter interviewed two female members of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) from Guangdong Province in southern China who were both stripped off their clothes in front of other inmates, a degrading and humiliating experience that has left emotional scars for the rest of their lives.
“Upon arrival in the detention center, I was taken to a room where a female officer demanded me to remove all my clothes for a body search. The door to the room wasn’t closed, and three male officers were standing outside. But I didn’t dare to resist. I had no choice but to strip off my clothes and crouch to the side,” the woman remembered.
This was just the beginning of her nightmare. When she was sent to her cell, the “prison boss” – the leader of inmates – also forced her to remove all her clothes. “All 45 prisoners in the cell were woken up. They all sat up and looked at me. I begged the prison boss to keep my clothes on,” remembered the woman, shuddering from the humiliation of that moment. The “boss” replied that this was being done by the orders from the guards, so she had no choice but to strip naked in front of all. To humiliate her even more, she was told to jump up and down five times.
The use of such “prison bosses” is a common tactic by prison guards, used to intimidate and torture people of faith kept in custody. CAG members that have been detained recall that guards often tell other inmates that “this person is a member of The Church of Almighty God who needs special care.”
“More than 40 pairs of eyes were staring at me,” the woman continued. “There were several high-definition cameras in the cell, so guards, including men, could see everything clearly in the surveillance room. After jumping, I didn’t even dare to raise my head; I felt too ashamed to live. If there were a hole in the ground, I would have wanted to disappear in it.” The humiliation had a severe psychological impact on her, and she is in agony whenever she recalls the incident.
The Church of Almighty God is the largest Christian new religious movement in China that has continuously suffered from the brutal suppression at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since its founding in 1991. According to numerous cases that Bitter Winter has received, most CAG members are brutally tortured while in detention; females are especially humiliated or abused by prison guards or other prisoners.
The other interviewed woman also suffered a similar ordeal: she was demanded to remove all her clothes to undergo a body search and be photographed when she was taken to prison after her sentencing. She refused to comply, stating that this was violating her human rights, but she gave in after guards raised their fists to intimidate her.
Shortly after, the guards ordered her to walk stark naked from the first to the third floor in front of everyone and then forced her to do ten squats, as they took photos. She was so scared that all she could do was cry incessantly.
“If it weren’t for God looking over me at the time, I might have had a nervous breakdown and become a lunatic,” the woman is still unable to forget the psychological trauma and pain that she had suffered, although it has been many years since her release from prison.