Excerpts from

When Iron Gates Yield

By Geoffrey T. Bull

Published by Moody Press, Chicago, between 1954 and 1958. 

Skip down to Collective thought control






The blue italicized comments below have been added to highlight the key parallels with "learning" and control in American schools and churches as well as around the world.  For more background information read  Brainwashing in America and Brainwashing and Education "Reform"

Geoffrey Bull, British missionary to Tibet, was imprisoned when Chinese Communists conquered and occupied Tibet in 1950.  The brainwashing strategies used to conform his mind to Communist collective thinking is still used in China today. More sophisticated version of this Marxist-Hegelelian process are now used in schools, corporations and churches around the world.  [See note]

I thank God for using Geoffrey Bull to show us how to resist mind-dulling indoctrination and reminds us to stand firm in Christ no matter how great the pressure to compromise. [See also The Triumph of Truth]

The entire purpose of this written inquisition was to test the person's loyalty to the new regime and their attitude to the Communist viewpoint. I had already answered everything orally many times, except for the last part, which was headed 'Thought Reformation.' Here I was to fill in the changes of thought and outlook I had undergone, since being in contact with the new regime and its teaching. I decided to state truthfully what I thought, giving emphasis to the veils of aggression and tyranny.... [190]


This constant emphasis on the magnanimity of the People's Government became very aggravating at times. I was forever being reminded that I was being given meat every day, or that I had received a hand towel or a bar of soap. For these little comforts I was very thankful.... yet to use them as an endless spur to the confession of some guilt robbed the gift of any good will it might seem to possess. 191


About six, the doors of the cells were all bolted and padlocked. On retiring for the night I decided, that although in the prison, I would kneel to pray. I had only been on my knees a minute or two, when the guard spotted it. I ignored his protesting voice, which came shouting through the peephole. Minutes passed and then I heard the key being put into t he padlock. Two men entered and insisted that I lie down immediately. 199


For half an hour every morning, there was organized 'thought reform,' 199


Having nothing to do, and knowing it was useless to mope on my circumstances, I continued systematically to go over the Scriptures in my mind. The past six months I had been very busy. Beginning at Genesis, I had recalled each incident and story as best I could, first concentrating on content and then musing on certain points, seeking light in prayer. Gradually I had worked through the Bible until I had covered all I could remember. With the passing of time, whole sections were beginning to fade, but God still brought much to mind, and now I went through the word of God in this way for the second time. The strength received through this ordered [Biblical, not mystical] meditation was, I believe, a vital factor in bringing me through, kept in the faith to the very end.  200


When the guard was not looking and his footsteps had died away, I put my ear to the floor. I discovered a man was singing softly but clearly in a room below. I knelt listening with great excitement. My heart leapt at the words. 'Onward, Christian soldiers....' 200-1


I was appalled with the idea that I would be held forever to confess certain facts which did not exist. I did not know which was worse, constant threat of execution or to live in solitary confinement with no hope of release. After this the Government opened their second offensive against me. This took the form of series of carefully planned interrogations, conducted by Fan Ko Chang. Mr. Fan, I found out later, was the chief of the Interrogation Corps at this, the NO. 1 prison for counter-revolutionaries of the S.W. Military and Political Committee.  202


There were leading questions such as "What do you think are your crimes against the Chinese People?" ... If a man is arrested, it is because, according to the assertion of the Government, here is sufficient clear evidence to prove him guilty.... as soon as he arrives he is "objectively" guilty and, in New China, that is sufficient. The mind of the masses is forever preferred above the mind of the individual.... His task in the prison is first to reflect on his past life, to find in what way he has offended against the people.... Self-vindication is viewed as resistance. The crime is never told to the prisoner until he himself has stated it. ... 203


I was set 'examination' papers which I had to write in my cell. There were leading questions such as 'What do you think are your crimes against the Chinese People?' ... If a man is arrested, it is because, according to the assertion of the Government, there is sufficiently clear evidence to prove him guilty, that is to say that as soon as he arrives is he is 'objectively' guilt and , in New china, that is sufficient. The mind of the masses is forever preferred above the mind to the individual. ... He is told that he is an 'agent' or 'spy' and must recognize that fact with due submission. The tantalizing part is that the proofs are generally the written exposures which friend or foe have placed in t he hands of the government unbeknown to the prisoner. His task in the prison is first to reflect on his past life, to find in what way he has offended against the people, or what circumstances might be so interpreted. Some prisoners have no idea at all what they have done, so they go on f or months and might just pouring out every detail of their past lives to the officials....  Being guilty already, it is then a question of confession. Self-vindication is viewed as resistance. The crime is never told to the prisoner until he himself has stated it....  If he does not confess his crime, the future is unthinkable. for such there is only a life of endless mental torment... 204


On either side were pasted slogans outlining the policy of the Government towards the prisoner. 'Confess your crime and live! Hide it and you die! Suppression and leniency combined! Acknowledge your sin, reform your thoughts and strive for new life in the service of the people!' 204


The solitary confinement became increasingly oppressive. I was beginning to taste the other weapon which the Government used, the weapon of time. Interrogation meant hope. It meant, I was told, that People were striving to save me from doom and win me back into their ranks. If the prisoner will not 'strive' to gain pardon by frank and thorough confession then he must be left until he 'awakes,' until he becomes 'conscious.' He needs more reading and more time to realize his hopeless position as a reactionary in the People's State.  205


I , too, was beginning to taste something of the indescribable oppression of unbroken loneliness but, thank God, the terrors need never be mind for God was ever with me and I could talk with Him. I went over in my mind every official I could remember and prayed that God would save their souls. This was a blessing to me, I am sure, safeguarding against any bitterness of heart that might arise. Then I prayed for many Tibetans by name, especially for my teacher Gun Ga. God had spoken to him in  a remarkable way. 205


These times of prayer and meditation were of vital help and occupied many hours. In the evenings I would sit and pray until my eyelids drooped -- but there was still so much time to spare. Each day had sixteen waking hours to fill. I devised all kinds of methods to overcome this trial and gain some relaxation for the mind. I would give myself wholly to vivid imagination, reliving past holidays on the continent or visits to other pleasant places. Sometimes I would be away back amongst the Tibetans. I would study the mosquitoes. I found at least six types in my cell. 206


Truly there is no land where His voice is not heard and how manifold are His ministries. I began to cry out with greater intensity to my Redeemer. My last poem before the new and dreadful stages of the conflict began expressed something of the heart's anguish and desire, during those final days of solitude. 206-207


Chapter XVII: The Snake Pit


The second week in October 1951

... We were to call each other 'Tung Hsioh,' which means 'fellow-student,' but never forgetting that our status was a 'fan jen,' which means a 'criminal.' At the instruction of an official, we introduced ourselves to each other. 208


Our small cell now became crammed to capacity. Different Tung Hsiohs came and went but a complement of six prisoners was generally maintained. This meant that there was no room in which to walk about, so we just had to sit all day where we were. The first six weeks our cell leader, also a 'criminal,' was a man about my own age. He was a journalist and had even written progressive and pro-Communist articles.... He had apparently failed to make a full confession of his past connections with the Sino-American Co-operative organization, which he joined in the war against the Japanese. After a seven-hour interrogation, this question had been settled and now he was doing an indefinite period of 'thought reform.' His main task was to gain merit by 'helping others to confess their crimes.... One of his first tasks was the help me learn the prison regulations which were no w rigidly in force in our cell. It was very obvious that the government's tactics toward me had completely changed. 209


Rules help establish continual discipline and submission to authorities:


The prison regulations consisted of twenty rules to be obeyed implicitly. 209  They covered in principle every aspect of routine and 'reform.' A rough translation:


No. 1.  All orders... must be obeyed implicitly.

3. It is strictly forbidden to peer round corners, gaze through the windows, speak loudly sing, quarrel, spread rumors, whisper, converse in twos....

6. Carry out your "learning " with diligence. Reform yourself and thoroughly reflect upon your past crime.

7. Observe the discipline of prison work

11. Secret meetings of any kind are absolutely prohibited.

12. Personal correspondence is not permitted except under exceptional circumstances

14. Communication between cells is forbidden

18. Criminals have the mutual responsibility of watching over each other's actions and of reporting secretly to the Government authorities....

19. These regulations are liable to alteration at any time. 210-211


Mandatory participation in small cell groups:


...a routine meeting was held for the discussion of the 'daily life." .... Everyone was expected to take part. We were learning to live the communal life. Resolutions were passed regarding where to place the night urn in the one square yard available.... In some cells, these proceedings, by the time everybody had expressed his opinion and the mind of the "masses" had been obtained, would last almost an evening.  211-212

   The first step on the road to release in addition to confessing his crime, was for the prisoner to attain a sufficiently high standard of reform in his own thought and display such a willingness for labour in the prison itself, that the authorities would draft him to a "reform through labour camp....


.... the manner in which these tasks were carried out was always linked with the prisoner's condition of "thought reform" and his whole conduct brought weekly under review by a meeting for "criticism and self-criticism." 212


The Dialectical Consensus Process and mind-changing social studies:


The next day "learning" started. The "classic" indoctrination text-book which I had now read, "A Brief History of the Development of Human Society," was taken up seriously.... Each day, for three hours in the morning and two in the afternoon, we read and discussed the book, paragraph by paragraph.

     When I say discussion,, do not let it be imagined that this was discussion in the normal sense of the term. The pattern followed was that one should read and another explain the passage by extempore paraphrase. This would be followed by each member to the  cell in turn voicing his "opinion," which ... would most certainly always coincide completely with what the book said. 

     Whereupon the cell leader... would commence his little speech with: "What the last 'tung hsioh" has expressed I feel is most 'accurate' and find myself in complete agreement with him, except that I would like to add..." whereupon he would give some aspect that had been omitted. ....

     It was no more than going through the motions of rationalizing the authority of the text-book, which was always "right." The demand of the authorities was that there should be a unanimous conclusion at the end of a session of discussions.... a ratification of the "infallible" teachings of Marx concerning the particular point in question..... 213


Faith in evolution is key to the socialist transformation process


For about twenty hours of "learning time" the five cell members raged at me on the question of evolution. The Marxist development of the teaching of Darwin is the very core of their atheistic social concepts. Apparently to disbelieve he idea that Labour was solely responsible for man's position above the beasts was considered a most reactionary "heresy." 214

     ....how totally enraged they were at the words of this imperialist in the midst, who dared to resist indoctrination and reform by preaching Christian beliefs. The controversy stretched over days, and at night I lay down with my mind in a whirl. This was the beginning of the notorious "brain-washing." Warders... were always hard on people who were holding out against the "learning." All the prisoners now viewed me with a growing hatred. "'A backward element' in our cell holds us all up," someone said. 214


Universal participation in the collective "proletarian" process


Every prisoner must say something. If he does not take part in "learning" and all the meetings, that is taken as a symptom of some grave malady of mind which must be routed out. ...

     First there is "self-criticism."... This is a typical example: "As to the daily life, I must confess that this week in mopping the floor, I did not do so well as I might. This is because my thoughts are not sufficiently concentrated on the daily routine.... I must correct his in the future, as negligence to duty affects everyone. We are living communally and I must have due regard to the common hygiene. .. I must be forever struggling against self-centeredness, which is the besetting sin of the Bourgeoisie, and seek to establish proletariat thinking which emphasizes the 'masses.' ... In the future I promise to observe the prison rules more thoroughly, to 'learn' harder, relating principle to practice, and to seek to be of 'help'".... so that we can all progress together towards our 'new life.' I... will be glad for any opinions... in regard to may many faults." 215


Social evolution


The underlying emphasis of the criticism  was always rooted in the Marxist concept that in the progress of history there was a determining law of development. [social evolution] The Communist claimed by reason of their dialectical approach to the universe to be able to discern and co-operate with this law. In every society in history, there were contradictions [essential to the Hegelian dialogue] existing, that must result in a new society being born. Our indoctrination text-book outlined this to us in no uncertain terms.  At each stage of history there was the progressive class. These were the oppressed and those out for increased production for a higher standard of living. By siding with the progressive class... you caught on to that factor that sooner or later must be triumphant, overthrow the old, and establish the new. In New China this has been achieved.  215-216


It was fruitless, a prisoner would be told, to try and reverse history; you must march on, embrace the new regime and its ideology, or be for ever “backward”. There would come a time, when if you persisted in reactionary thinking and living, you would just be crushed by the onward march of the masses.

      In continually, Britain and America the capitalist system was said to have reached its highest form, namely imperialism, and thus was on the verge of collapse. The only thing for a Britisher, apparently, was to desert the sinking ship of the bourgeoisie and establish strong links with the proletariat world front for the establishing of a “people’s Britain.” 216

       This bombardment of abstraction was turned on at nearly every meeting.... It would be followed by a common plea that such a backward “tung hsioh” be compelled to review his attitude again, making use of the valuable opinions just offered him. ...

       With me at first they were more restrained, but as weeks went by these occasions became more exacting. The most virulent attacks were made on my faith, which was always identified with imperialism. Diao also expressed himself strongly. He criticized first my attitude regarding my crime. My main fault was “Cho Hsing Bing”, which means “the impatience sickness”. Only by patient and thorough reflection could my crime be fully confessed. He also gave a homily on the hindrance that my faith was to my progress towards the people’s standpoint. ... I became baffled and confused under the constant circus of this tragic tomfoolery. 216

      Diao naturally was not to be trusted. Under Regulation eighteen he was obliged to report my propagation of Christian teaching. 216-217

Absolute faith in the Government


... the Government viewed reform and one’s progress in it as inseparable from one’s crime. Thus a big criminal who reformed himself quickly and thoroughly in the prison would have his sentence reduced.... I saw an actual instance of this later on. ... 217

     On the other hand, a man who originally had a very small crime, should he resist indoctrination continually, would have no certainty that he would ever leave the prison. ...

     It was quite clear that the situation for me was even more hopeless than I had imagined. Not only did they want my confession but they wanted my soul. In my mind great conflicts arose. I found myself speaking straight out, but sometimes beginning to fence off my persecutors. The environment was so inescapable, Compromise haunted me but I fought on. The iron grip of Satan was determined to crush my faith and my spirit. ... 217

     Diao searched out special articles in the communist magazine called “Learning”, to give scientific backing to what he propounded. ...

     My mind recalls a picture of a Chinese torture, in a book of my childhood days. There the victim was placed in a small wooden box which must have crushed and crippled him. The lid was shut fast and, through a tiny hole, food was put in his mouth. In this way he would live but become hopelessly deformed. It seemed to me that this was what was happening now. In the Satanic framework of Marxism, I was being closed up but yet kept alive. What would it mean? Deformity, apostasy, or insanity? If one said one wanted to live, then there was only the threat of death. Yet if one was prepared to die, and I had told them, “Settle my case as you please,” then, in perversity, they would insist that I live and that I learn to live as they demanded I should. 217-218


To a man without convictions, this process was not necessarily painful, but to one in whom by God's grace Christ and His Word had found their place, it was excruciating. 218


Assumed guilty until proven innocent (which rarely happens since the Government in never wrong)


Diao pointed out that the People's Government never arrested a person unless there was a definite proof of guilt. With the masses organized, nothing could remain unnoticed. Chang Li ... cried out in defiant mockery: “Yes! I am a secret agent, so is my wife and so are all my children!” This came to the ears of the officials under the unfailing system of Regulation x8 and his case became more severe. I was astonished. ... Then at night, when it was cold, hardly anybody dared cover him with his bedding, lest they should be found sympathizing with such a “stubborn” reactionary. I did so on one occasion and a prisoner said: “You did that as standing on religious ground.” 218-219

      Once Mr. Hu had me out and asked me point blank: “Do you sympathize with Chang Li? Do you think he deserves this treatment?” I murmured something about if he were guilty of hiding a crime against the people, then of course he deserved it. The Government came to detest my evasive answers, as indeed I did myself. There was hardly a day without new mental conflicts. 219

     Now followed the most awful act of all, eight days and seven nights of continuous interrogation. ... It was maintained by different interrogators right round the clock. 219

In "learning," I had tried to emphasize that I did condemn imperialism, and when I said that much modern Christianity in the west had departed to a great extent from t he original teachings of Christ and had even at times condoned British expansion abroad, they felt I had made a big step forward. I said that.... I wanted to get back to the original Spirit of Jesus Himself. .... 220



Thought warfare


This was a signal for their new offensive. All the pressure of the recent events plus a certain slight yielding on one point of indoctrination meant that the time was ripe. 221

      My whole history from before I left England right up to the tie o capture was scrutinized, in a way never done before. Every detail was covered in both t he cell and the court. I had to writ out a complete statement of my activities and contacts. ....

      Much of this was the product of 'ch'i fa... what some have called seduction.... the process of provoking another by apposite suggestions to think of things, which on his own he would have found difficult or ;perhaps impossible to recall. In the prison setting, 'ch'i fa' of course became a sinister force. There was a definite seductive significance to it and it was a big instrument used, both by officials and prisoners to obtain a confession..... Allurement by perhaps, auto-suggestion might be a better definition of the communist's ch’i fa. English seems to be devoid of a suitable word.

       Each paragraph had to be read to the prisoners and then criticized, analyzed and often scrapped, then rewritten until finally passed by the whole cell. Each thing had to be stated from the people’s standpoint until, instead of being a missionary, who in certain points may have slipped up or been compromised politically, I became an international spy carrying on espionage under the cloak of religion. We had some terrible scenes. Black became white, white became black and moral and spiritual values a blur of words.
       The first statement was eventually passed and I was told by the official that it showed some progress but not enough. New pressure began. A fortnight’s struggle meetings were convened by my interrogators. After the year alone and all that it meant, followed by these last strenuous months of thought-warfare, this latest effort was a severe blow. In the cell I had to review my attitude and go over all sorts of obscure points in my case, while the other prisoners goaded and provoked me.

       When I simply sat and said nothing, which I found a good weapon for parts of the time, the 'tung hsohs' would become almost like raving lunatics, and one ever spat at my face. ... It was a nightmare from start to finish....

I had come, by reason of the hell on earth which the 'learning' and various meetings had meant to me, to that most abnormal state of mind in which to die would be a glorious escape. ... 222

     Up to now I had continued in prayer, but the meditation of Scripture had become almost impossible. On Sundays I had tried to go over portions in my mind, as that day was mostly left free fro reading and needlework, but the pressure of my circumstances so wearied and hurt the mind that I gradually found myself unable to concentrate. Now the devil launched another attack. One day I gave thanks for food, as was my custom. I was mercilessly attacked. ' It is not God, Who give you that. It is the toil of the hard-working Chinese people.' 222-223


It was reported and the official informed me very forcibly that in this prison no expression whatsoever of religious faith in one's daily life was allowed.  On another occasion when I mentioned the Name of Jesus, the university lecturer cried out in blasphemy. They would give no peace even to His name. When they found out I still prayed, they called the warder and I had to stand up. This was a common form of humiliation. The prisoner might have to stand for an hour or two amongst his sitting cell-mates like a naughty boy in school until told to sit down.


'You are not to pray,' the warder ordered. 'There is no religious freedom for you here, that is reserved for the people. Do you understand." 223


The patience God gave me to go on day by day in quietness before my accusers and tormentors is a marvel to me now... Satan was being held at bay. My armor was still on me and the shield of faith in my hand. His love, which predestined and foreknew, had called me and justified me and according to His promise would glorify me.... This unbreakable chain of five great links stretching from eternity to eternity must outlive all the chains of men and Satan. No indoctrination could thwart His redeeming love. 223

Chapter XVIII: Straight-Jacket the Sane


Officials encouraged us to learn "Article fourteen," which said that those who make a frank confession and showed true evidence of repentance would receive lenient judgment and in some cases even be exempt from judgment. If we "strived" for the fourteenth article we had nothing to fear. On this ground and new drive for prisoners' confessions was initiated throughout the prison.

    The official came to our cell and asked me before the others: 'What do you think your punishment should be, according to the Law?"

   "At the lightest eleven years... and the heaviest, execution," I said in all seriousness. From the standpoint of the People's Government this was in fact the position. 225


Conflict Resolution


Some meetings were carried on until four in the morning, the unfortunate victims being taken form the cell to another to allow the exhausted 'chi fen tzu," that is, zealous prisoners, to rest, while a new group continued the pressure. .... These (indignities) were mostly the prisoners' ideas.... Chains, handcuffs and manacles were a common sight. ... 226


Each one of us had to rack our minds for all the details of our past movements in the prison and the then make a confession to the others in the cell, receive their criticism and judge ourselves. ... inadequate confessions usually resulted in struggle meeting tactics being applied.... After a hectic two or three weeks, a big struggle meeting was held in the courtyard, at which some two hundred or more attended. Eight major offenders were hauled up.... So the pressure on the mind was maintained.  If it was not one thing it was another.....227


Propaganda & communal reading and discussion


Originally no newspapers had been allowed in the prison, but the official Chungking paper, the New China Daily News, was now a subject for communal reading and discussion. 228


... if I did not keep abreast of the other prisoners in the knowledge of the indoctrination material, the meetings became intolerable and my persecution more acute. At twelve the other prisoners returned from the newspaper reading, held in another big cell, and reported on the news to us. In Communist papers all news is for “education”. It is primarily printed not to report events but for political instruction.


Tyranny through collective thought control


    I began to get an insight into the new society as described by its own masters. The achievements and statistics claimed in reconstruction were most arresting.... The impressive water conservancy projects, the laying of railways, erection of factories, the increased production in cotton and rice and the general stabilizing of the country’s economy, were great strides forward.... The whole nation was being energized....

It was evident, from what I learned and read, that this vast nation of some five hundred million souls, by means of a deter­mined, well organized program of propaganda, conducted on a scale unprecedented in history, was being re-orientated in its whole thinking to accept the Marxist way of life. In the rise of Mao and his Communist party, a philosophy and an administration had been welded into a single authority. In such a state “heresy” is but a step to “treason”, disloyalty to the “ideal” the seed of disloyalty to the realm. Here is ground for the direst tyranny in the name of the greatest good. The rule and religion of Muhammad, the authority and creed of the inquisition and the god-king and mamism of Tibet.... illustrate the same principle. 229-230

       All these human kingdoms follow the same pattern and are but Satanic counterfeits of the Kingdom of Heaven.... Now, in China, by the government-backed agencies of the press, radio, education, entertainment and, most important of all, the discussion group, the indoctrination was proceeding. In university, factory, school and office, town and village, yes, even in the church and the home, by means of “learning” discussion groups, basic lessons in Marxism were being thrust upon the people.

       Under the fierce glare of the nationwide campaigns, failure to attend, disinterestedness or stubborn resistance to reception of the new teaching would arouse a dangerous suspicion. Such a coolness or antagonism, if related to some thoughtless word of criticism in the factory, an error at work, or a failure in duty, could all too easily bring forth the cry from the “enthusiasts” of “saboteur” or “counter-revolutionary”. It is here that the freedom of thought and faith receives a death­blow.

       It is not so much through any law, for that asserts such freedom, but by the social pressure brought to bear upon each member of the community, where good citizenship is measured solely by loyalty to the Marxist ideal. This authority claims to stand for the peoples’ highest good and views all thought foreign to its own system and ideals with hostility, and in fact, though veiled at present, has every intention of achieving or expediting its obliteration.
      Mao Tse Tung stated that one of the prime duties of the state, following the military success of the revolution, was to carry out the thought reform of the intellectuals. In the papers, the clever, though often very stilted, “self criticisms” of some of the more prominent intellectuals were held up as examples for us. By a prolonged and most penetrating campaign in the colleges and universities, all thought independent of Marxism was so de­nounced and traduced as to intimidate all but the most courageous into silence.


Excerpts from "China strives to curb population growth through reward," People's Daily, China, 8-5-04

Notice the compliant statements and confessions by those who had violated social rules. "Thought reform" and peer pressure still reign in China!

      "Unlike most other Chinese women farmers her age, 64-year-old Lian Zhengfang only has child. And because of that, Lian is rewarded by the government. From this year on, Lian will be granted 600 yuan (72.55 US dollars) in subsidies by the government each year until her death.

      "'I never expected that I would be rewarded for having only one child,' said Lian, a farmer in Yongfeng Village, Dingxi in northwest China's Gansu Province, where it is quite common for a woman of Lian's age to have four to six or even more children. Li said, 'I will persuade my grandchildren to have fewer children.' ...

      Xie Houyuan, 49, a farmer of Jinping Village, Dingxi City of Gansu, had had three girls before getting the son he expected long ago. According to state policies, the last two children of Xie's were born in violation of state family planning policies. He was fined severely. He scrabbled for many years to support his six-member family, but their living standard did not improve a lot. 'At that time, I desperately want to have a son to take care of me in my remaining years,' said Hou. 'But now, I admire those who have fewer children and are rewarded by the government.... If only I knew that having fewer children would be rewarded, I wouldn't have had so many children.'"

Home and church conform to government purpose -- sealed with signed contract


One other factor was the Government-directed “reform” of the Church, whereby “imperialist” influences were purged out and, needless to say, principles of the Communist version of nationalism brought in. In the home, all life and production was being brought to centre on Mao Tse Tung and the state, by means of his portrait and a “patriotic pact” signed by the family.

       I was deeply conscious, as I came in contact with all this material, of the great spiritual and intellectual perils that seemed to be overwhelming so great a nation. In the prison I regretted more and more how I was being tempted to speak in their language and view so much from the Communist standpoint. I am convinced, after more than three years in their hands, that

Today in China it is through the ever increasing claims of the state that the Christian who is determined to stand can yet find himself seduced.

      Let us also remember it is of course just as unthinkable for a Christian to serve imperialism as Communism. ...
      In our review of the articles in the papers, everything had to be discussed with reference to our particular political needs. This was hard for me, because in the eyes of the “tung hsiohs” I was an imperialist diehard. The alleged U.S.A. bacteriological war­fare, American aggression in Korea and maltreatment of Chinese nationals by the Hong Kong Government, etc., all needed a self-criticism on my part, as being allied in political outlook to these affairs.



My main purpose was to keep off the philosophical side of “thought reform”. Every person was supposed to become a materialist. Once we started on this line life became impossible, and my crime was aggravated. All opposition was viewed not as a testimony, but as

persistence of the imperialist standpoint and a refusal to come over to the people’s side. My soul’s arms and legs were gradually being forced into a mental strait-jacket.


When my prayer life had been attacked so viciously, I had found it necessary to stop praying in the normal way, and just hold myself before the Lord, lifting my heart to Him without utterance, knowing He understood my dilemma.... I remember lying on my bed one night, when sud­denly, like a mighty flood rising behind a dam of logs and refuse on the reach of some river, the power of God’s Spirit rose up within me and, breaking all before Him, caused a torrent of passionate words to pour forth from my heart to God upon His Throne.

 Conflict Resolution


In October a new terror presented itself. ... It was New China’s National Foundation Day. In Peking nearly half a million people were parading before the “Gate of Heavenly Peace” to cry:  “Long live Mao Tse Tung!”

      We in the prison also had a “celebration”. ... we received a lecture on our thoughts. After the lecture we had a joint meeting and a campaign began. This time it was to be “Thought examination”. It lasted six weeks. ... Each man was required publicly, before the group, to relate the stages of his “thought reform” (232) since arrest, the gradual influences brought to bear upon him, and the measure to which he had been brought to stand with the people. 232-3

      Past thoughts concerning the Communists must be exposed and criticized, outstanding problems aired and the future of one’s means of “striving” clearly stated. A record was taken of the salient points of each speech and the criticisms voiced by those listening. This was a searching procedure for everyone. 233

      There was no way of escape, as far as I could see.... I jumped in quickly before the campaign rose to its height, and delivered a carefully planned and tabulated statement of my arrest and my changing impressions of the Communist Policy and the P.L.A....  233

 Conforming cliques


      During this “thought examination” campaign and at other times, certain instances came to light of the corruption and distortion of prisoners’ minds in their desperate efforts to gain merit and be thought “progressive”. ... 234

       Then several men might gradually form into a clique and attack another prisoner constantly with vicious criticism, whilst among themselves they would criticize very lightly, thus gradually seeking to give the impression that the other prisoner or prisoners were backward, but they themselves making progress in reform. This practice, very common in different forms in the prison, was termed, “Hit others, elevate yourself”. ... This malady, rooted deep in the corrupt nature of the human heart in departure from God, they have been unable to cure. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creation” is unthinkable to them. 234

On returning from signing such a document of divorce, he would be expected to make a review or criticism of his feelings in the cell, to the other prisoners. The content of this would be something along these lines. “In my past life, when my people were struggling against the oppression and tyranny of the Chiang Kai Shek clique and the imperialists, I actively engaged in serving the interests of the ruling classes. This is a great crime and I can only thank the People’s Government for arresting me before I committed further crimes and thus giving me a chance to reform. It is obvious now that my wife is very progressive, has embraced the cause of the people and is in active production in
the reconstruction of our country. I would not for one moment stand in her way.

For the Chinese to-day “Long live peace” is synonymous for “Long live the U.S.S.R.” For them she is the head of the “peace camp” of the People’s Democracies and champion of the peace-loving peoples of the world. To them Lenin’s mandate “Power to the Soviets, Peace to the peoples” is the sum of it all. During this month and later all “wrong” thinking about Russia had to be corrected not only in the prison but throughout the whole country. 236

In December I made a bad mistake. I was caught glancing at the cell in which I believed Ford to be living and I also passed the door of the courtyard when he was exercising. This was disastrous. I had “peered round corners”, thus breaking Regula­tion No. 3. ... An official enquiry was opened on my conduct. I had to be cross- examined on all matters pertaining to Ford since my arrest. It was futile in the extreme. Zealous prisoners were mobilized and the sessions soon reached struggle meeting proportions. I would be shouted at for a while, then sent out into another cell, while the prisoners decided on tactics, then brought back for more questioning. This would mean more shouting as I failed to comply with their wishes. The whole proceedings lasted three weeks, during which time I had to spend my little spare time mooning about, reflecting on my thoughts and everything I had heard or done or thought, concerning Ford, since arrest. At last the “hunt” was called off without a verdict. ...

      Some might be tempted to ask what was the most exhausting factor? Was it the nagging, the noise, the scrutiny, or what was it? In a word, it was the combination of the whole circumstances of the prison, upon a man with no real possibility of relaxation. Firstly, there was the maintained suspense of the threat of execution or life imprisonment 236-7


This was made more excruciating by tantalizing the prisoner with promises of pardon, if only he would reform himself more wholeheartedly and acknowledge his “crimes” more deeply. This state of tension was aggravated by almost incessant provocation and baiting, by attacks on his integrity and self respect in regard to his political default, and by investigation into his daily thought, conduct and observance of the regulations. From morning to night, day after day, month after month and year after year, it was “learning”, mutual haranguing, criticism and struggle meetings, in one form or another. Every physical and mental movement was maintained under vigilant scrutiny by official, warder or fellow prisoner, all of whom, for fear of their own future would not dare to relent.

      By the system of reciprocal spying and reporting all ideas of friendship or exchange of confidence were excluded. Living constantly in this atmosphere of conflict, distrust and lack of love from any quarter, life for many became unbearable. In this unthinkable environment, interrogation often continued unabated, together with searching interviews as to the prisoner’s reaction and attitude, and with exacting demands to remember the minutest details of actions and events.... These sufferings were in addition to the usual heartbreak of being shut within four walls, kept under strict discipline and feeding on a diet which was too deficient in vitamins to maintain full vitality. All of course is designed with one end in view, to bring the mind into absolute submission to the will and indoctrination of the Marxist way of life. 237

...together with a somewhat aggressive and forthright statement that I held to my Christian faith and would never be able to “reform” my thinking in that realm caused the Government to arrange their most diabolical and veiled attack on my faith in God. It happened at the end of May, 1953.
I was now in such a state of mental fatigue that I had become frightened of my symptoms. It seemed, at times, as if a great knot was fixed in my forehead and could not be untied, or as if some big clot had become stuck there and could not be removed. When I spoke or was questioned my whole face flushed and I felt my cheeks burning like fire.
I felt unable to meditate on the Scriptures or pray except with the greatest difficulty.

         In the prison were various prisoners in different stages of nervous disorder. Two were considered insane, another just eccentric and several just on the verge of breakdown. 238

Whilst they failed to destroy my faith, yet the outcome was that I had to agree to consider the claims of materialism objectively. For me this was a retreat as, up to that time, although I had read so much and heard so much, I had wholly refused to do this. I felt I could hardly go on under the strain any more. I was now brought to the verge of collapse and began to tread the very brink of apostasy. My mind seemed unable to cope with the thoughts and the circumstances that now surrounded me. I could only wish for death.

       Then it was that God on His Throne, in answer to the prayers of what must have been, by that time, the ten thousands of His people in all the five continents, intervened. It seemed as if throughout the heavenly places, where the great spiritual warfare was in progress, His great commandment went out: “Thus far and no further.” In utter faithfulness to His own promises, He would not suffer me to be tempted above that which I was able. The three weeks came to an end and the pressure ceased.  239


Chapter XIX: When Iron Gates Yield

THE life of the prisoners in the Chunking prison was even more intense than in the one in the hills. Indoctrination was incessant. The “learning” periods were very long and lasted all day except Sunday. The guards’ scrutiny was constant and every movement checked. Our cell was gloomy but peaceful. In all the other cells in the same block as ourselves, the war against “reactionary” thought waged unceasingly. ...

      Although the light was so poor and the eyestrain severe, yet we kept our noses to the books provided for our “self education”, otherwise it only meant falling foul of the warders....

     Days went by and then an official came to see me. “What is the state of your ‘learning’?” he enquired. “Still in the investigation stage” I replied. “I have not yet accepted your ‘Dialectical Materialism’.” I wondered what this would bring forth, yet I believed the Lord would have me say it, lest they should imagine they had broken me at the last session of struggle meetings. 243

The indictment was read out. Conspiracy with traitors of China. Rumor mongering and the photographing of military objects. I was not asked to sign it, but to sign another paper that ratified the indictment as fact. Under indoctrination I had come to my rationalized conclusions of their phraseology. “Facts” were things viewed from the proletariat standpoint.Crime” was transgression of their law. According to their own phraseology and as judged in their court under their law, the indictment was in complete keeping with the circumstances. I signed it for what it was worth. 246


Note: The testimony in this book (When Iron Gates Yield) corresponds to recent news from China. The Communist government still uses imprisonment, non-stop interrogations and continual demands for "confession" in preparation for "re-learning" and mental transformation. All are signs of willingness to set aside the old "capitalist" or "cultish" ways of thinking and embrace Communist ideology:

  "Chinese Christian leaders... present new documentary evidence of religious persecution in China"

        "The violent persecution of unregistered Protestants and Catholics in China is the subject of a meeting in the context of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights ... in Geneva  (April 2, 2004) ....

       "Documentary evidence will be presented for the first time of the official Chinese policy of harsh measures against religious believers. This includes the sentences: 'Those self-claimed preachers, leaders and core members of secret gathering places who are stubborn and refuse to be transformed shall be detained and dealt with through different means.  Each shall be brainwashed into giving up his wrongdoing.  He who transforms himself well shall write down his confession and sign a pledge of correctionHe who sticks to his wrongdoing [or wrong thinking] shall be seriously punished according to law.”

       "Video testimonies will be given from women tortured and sexually assaulted in order to force them to incriminate Gong Sheng Liang, the founder of the South China Church. ..."

       "Despite efforts to increasingly benefit from international recognition and engagement, China continues to pursue a policy of religious repression. The ongoing and consistent reports of torture, financial extortion, harsh detention and subjection to forced labour in grueling conditions under administrative procedures places China in serious breach of many of the core guarantees of human rights. The use of the classification of cults against harmless religious groups is a decisive downward turn in the respect for religious freedom in China. ...

       "All religious activity must take place within one of the five official religious bodies: the Chinese Buddhist Association, the Catholic Patriotic Association, the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM, the Chinese Islamic Association and the Chinese Taoist Association. Each association is responsible to the government's Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB). All unregistered religious activity is held to be illegal.
        "The registration policy has been particularly rigorously implemented over the last few years, making it the main vehicle for
state control and oppression of religious activities.....
        "The registration campaign is accompanied by destruction and confiscation of property, imposition of fines, arrests, beatings, torture, imprisonment and
're-education through labour'. ...
Teaching on certain topics is prohibited, including the Second Coming and judgment day, the gifts of the Spirit and creation. There are also restrictions on working with certain classes of persons, including those under 18 years of age.


Soviet Education in the 1930s compared to U.S. Education in 2001

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