Psychological Torture: Worst Scars Are in the Mind

By Joan Delaney, Epoch Times
March 14, 2019 Updated: June 17, 2019

Editor’s note: The Epoch Times is publishing a number of articles exposing the use of torture by the Chinese regime against the groups it targets, and the suffering and harm it causes to those subjected to it.

A doctor with the International Committee of the Red Cross who has visited numerous detention centres around the world says psychological torture can have extremely negative effects.

“Torture during interrogation often includes methods that do not physically assault the body or cause actual physical pain—and yet entail severe psychological pain and suffering and profoundly disrupt the senses and personality,” Dr. Hernan Reyes wrote in an article titled “The Worst Scars Are in The Mind: Psychological Torture.”

According to Amnesty International, sleep deprivation and solitary confinement are two methods of psychological torture commonly used in China, but there are many more, including threats against family members, periods of intense grilling, and instilling fear.

Victims include those from the Tibetan and Uyghur ethnic minorities suspected of “separatism,” human rights lawyers, political dissidents, Falun Dafa adherents, democracy activists, and members of underground churches.

China has a huge system of re-education centres, commonly called brainwashing centres. Possibly the biggest such centre—which has been described as a concentration camp by rights groups—is the one in the Xinjiang region, where at least a million Uyghurs and other Muslim groups are held and subjected to psychological indoctrination, including being forced to attend political re-education lessons and sing political songs.

Masanjia labour camp
Falun Dafa practitioners are shown in Masanjia labour camp watching a video meant to “re-educate” them during a propaganda tour arranged by the camp authorities on May 22, 2001. (AP Photo/John Leicester)

According to the U.K.’s Independent, Muslims have been forced to denounce Islam and swear loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. A hearing of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China last July was told that detainees are often kept in isolation without food and water and prevented from sleeping, as well as interrogated about their religious practices and about having made trips abroad.

A report by the International Campaign for Tibet found that the level of violence directed at Tibetan political prisoners is frequently extreme and results in Tibetans being left not only with permanent physical injuries but also with serious psychological trauma. A 2018 report by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy found that since 2012, monks and nuns expelled from various temples and monasteries have been held in re-education centres for weeks or months without any access to due legal process.

For years, Christians in China have faced ongoing psychological pressure as a whole due to authorities arresting pastors, shutting down churches and congregations, burning bibles, and removing crosses from churches.

In the latest development, Mission Network News reports that there are plans afoot to rewrite parts of the Bible to make it more compatible with the state ideology. According to The Christian Post, authorities are also pressuring up to 20,000 underground house churches to either close or join the state-sanctioned church as Beijing seeks to tighten control over religious groups.

Use of brainwashing centres to incarcerate Falun Dafa adherents is particularly widespread in China. According to human rights watchers, ever since the Chinese regime announced in 2013 that it is abolishing the forced labour camp system, brain washing centres have become the main facilities to persecute Falun Dafa practitioners. In these centres, adherents are subjected to constant verbal abuse and threats, as well as physical torture. They are also often force-fed or injected with drugs that damage the nervous system to try to force them to give up their belief.

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