“Transformation Centers” to Detain Chinese Christians Exist but Not the Norm

04/13/2021 China (International Christian Concern) – Recently, it is reported that Christians in China are being detained in secretive, mobile “transformation” facilities where they are subject to brainwashing, torture, and beatings to force them to renounce their faith.

Radio Free Asia shared the experience of a house church member in the southwestern province of Sichuan. He said he was held in a facility run by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s United Front Work Department, working in tandem with the state security police, for 10 months after a raid on his church in 2018.

The Christian was held in a windowless room in a mobile facility for nearly 10 months, during which time he was beaten, verbally abused and “mentally tortured” by staff, eventually resorting to self-harm by throwing himself against a wall.

“They threaten, insult and intimidate you. These were United Front officials, men, women, sometimes unidentified, usually in plain clothes. The police turn a blind eye to this,” he said. Along with his fellow inmates, who were also people who had been released on bail during criminal detention for taking part in church-related activities, they were forced to admit their “mistakes” and go through brainwashing process.

A lawyer surnamed Zhang from the northern province of Hebei also said he had represented a number of former detainees in this type of “transformation” facilities, who are Catholics. In Baoding, many disappeared underground Catholic clergy were put into these camps for years before their release, if they returned at all.

While these facilities do exist in China for years, the scale is relatively small when compared to the notorious Uyghur “re-education camps.”

A Chinese Christian scholar who is a religious freedom expert on China told ICC, “The crackdown against house churches in China has a major difference from the ‘re-education camp’ in Xinjiang – there is no large-scale detention of house church Christians in China, and the likelihood of that is very low.”

He added, “The large-scale I am referring to is somewhere from tens of thousands to millions. The detention of house church pastors in China is in [relatively] small number. The government’s policy is to ban and shut down house churches, instead of targeting individuals and detain them. The Xinjiang government, on the other hand, targets the Uyghur crowd, every single Uyghur, which is very different.”

His analysis is that house churches in China are attended predominantly by the Han Chinese. It is hard to imagine that the local governments in China dare to detain tens of thousands of Christians. With that, their [affected] family member and friends would be in the millions. If things like that were to happen, there would have been a riot in China.

Since 1949, the CCP has never detained tens of thousands of Christians, even during the Cultural Revolution, where the class struggle was most prominent. But in Xinjiang, the number of Uyghurs detained in these ‘re-education camps’ is great. Yet since they are ethnic minorities, the mainstream population Han Chinese are indifferent about their situation.

He concluded, “If the Chinese government wants to set up these ‘transformation camps,’ they would target other groups who are more dangerous to the regime, such as anti-government liberals, rights lawyers, and people who are connected to overseas…etc.”

For interviews, please contact Alison Garcia: press@persecution.org.

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