In 2018, Li Yuese spent 10 months locked inside a windowless room in a facility run by the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department. Officials at the “transformation” center beat and tortured him, Li told Radio Free Asia. “I could not sleep,” he said. “After you’ve been in there a week, death starts to look better than staying there.”
Authorities detained him during a crackdown on a house church in the southwestern Sichuan province. Li, who goes by a pseudonym, is one of several Christians reportedly held in brainwashing camps because of their faith. Some have compared their detention to the ongoing crackdown on Uighur minorities in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
Li said officials and plainclothes workers from the United Front Work Department held the prisoners in a basement in a secret location. Many of them, he said, were arrested for church-related activities that didn’t warrant criminal prosecution.
People who refused to “admit their mistakes” were taken into solitary confinement for extended periods. Li said suicide attempts were common at the facility: “I bashed myself against the wall to self-harm.”
China has continued to crack down on unregistered churches in an effort to “Sinicize” or reshape religion to support the Chinese Communist Party. Authorities criminally detained Zhang Chunlei, an elder at Love (Ren’ai) Reformed Church in the southwest Guizhou province, after raiding a retreat at a privately rented property earlier in March.
Beijing has also engaged in systematic oppression in Xinjiang, where some 1 million Uighur Muslims are reportedly in reeducation camps. Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom joined the European Union last month to impose sanctions on senior Chinese officials in Xinjiang.
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