Letter smuggled from Chinese labor camp reveals suffering Christians


By Todd Nettleton

Todd Nettleton meets with underground church Pastor Li De-Xian in China in 1999. Photo courtesy of The Voice of the Martyrs / www.Persecution.com.
Todd Nettleton meets with underground church Pastor Li De-Xian in China in 1999. Photo courtesy of The Voice of the Martyrs / www.Persecution.com.

I read with great interest the story in the New York Times this week about a letter smuggled out of the Masanjia labor camp in China that revealed the terrible conditions of the prisoners. The story of the letter is fascinating in itself—it was smuggled out of the country tucked inside a package of mock tombstones that were sold by a K-Mart in Oregon as Halloween decorations.

But the words that caught my eye weren’t about the letter; they were about the camp the letter was written from: “According to former inmates, roughly half of Masanjia’s population is made up of Falun Gong practitioners or members of underground churches …”

The story then details some of the things prisoners endure, besides long days of labor creating goods for export to the West. One woman talked about being dragged around by her hair, or being shocked with electric batons until her nostrils filled with the odor of burning flesh. Others spoke of having their four limbs tied to four beds, which were then kicked farther and farther apart by the guards. “That place is a living hell,” said Liu Hua, a 51-year-old former prisoner at the camp.

China’s people can be sent into that living hell for up to four years without even having a trial. The article suggests that when more “workers” are needed, local police will find reasons to arrest people because the labor camp will pay them for prisoners.

Some of my brothers and sisters are in that living hell. Perhaps even now one of them is being shocked, or lying in misery tied to the beds. Perhaps some are whispering words of encouragement to each other during an endless day of heavy labor. Or maybe they are quoting Scripture in their minds while their lips mouth the communist slogans that are a part of their “re-education” sessions.

I’m reminded of Pastor Li De-Xian, whom I met in China in 1999. He was arrested many times for leading his unregistered church. In September 1998, VOM made public a secret Chinese government document outlining Public Security Bureau (PSB) efforts to control Pastor Li. I’ve always remembered a part of it:

“He has been arrested and educated many times, and yet his heart has not died and his nature has not changed.”

I pray for my brothers and sisters who are being “educated” in the Masanjia labor camp today, as well as those in other labor camps across China. I pray that their hearts will not die and that their suffering will only conform them more closely to the unchangeable nature of Christ.

Pray with me.


Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and The Voice of the Martyrs for 15 years. He has been interviewed more than 1900 times by various media outlets. He’s the author of Restricted Nations: North Korea, and served on the writing team for FOXE, Extreme Devotion, Hearts of Fire and other VOM books. Todd is scheduled to speak at upcoming VOM Regional Conferences in Tulsa and Wichita. This article was originally published on VOM’s blog, www.PersecutionBlog.com.