Mass arrest operations were planned across China before the coronavirus outbreak. If it were not for the pandemic, even more people could have been detained.
by Gu Xi
As Bitter Winter has previously reported, some local governments throughout China intensified social stability maintenance measures amid the coronavirus outbreak, particularly targeting the banned religious groups. According to the data provided by The Church of Almighty God (CAG)—the largest Chinese Christian new religious movement—in the first six months of 2020, the CCP arrested 1,634 of its members and looted 4.94 million RMB (about $ 710,000) of Church and personal assets.
In the central province of Henan, 211 Church members were arrested. A government employee from Sanmenxia city told Bitter Winter that the municipal government had adopted a plan to crack down on the CAG before the coronavirus outbreak, issuing arrest quotas to subordinate localities. Had it not been for the pandemic, even more CAG members would have been arrested.
In early June, six police officers stormed into the home of a CAG member in Xinxiang city and arrested three Church members who were in a meeting. The officers claimed that they had secretly installed a listening device by the door to conduct real-time monitoring.
On May 26, Xinyang city police arrested a couple from Zhumadian city, both CAG members, who worked in the area. According to a source, the officers disguised themselves as couriers and obtained the couple’s address by claiming that they had a package for them.
On May 24, the police arrested a CAG member in her home in Kaifeng city. During interrogation, officers showed the woman surveillance footage of her and explained that she had been monitored for a long time. They then tried to coerce her into becoming an undercover agent to help them arrest CAG leaders.
According to a government insider from Zhumadian city, the provincial government arranged a massive arrest operation targeting CAG members for May and June. Any Church-related materials found in the homes of believers were later used as evidence to imprison them.
In the southeastern province of Jiangxi, the police arrested 116 CAG members and confiscated 378,000 RMB (about $ 54,000) Church and personal assets. In Ji’an city alone, 23 believers were arrested on June 1.
In the eastern province of Shandong, 151 CAG members were arrested, and 218,500 RMB (about $ 31,000) of Church and personal assets were confiscated. In the neighboring Jiangsu Province, at least 157 CAG members were arrested, and 28,800 RMB (about $ 4,100) were seized before July.
With the easing of coronavirus restrictions, local governments throughout the country started adopting measures to carry out anti-xie jiao activities, inciting “every person to participate and all population to report” on banned religious groups. Informants were promised awards as high as 100,000 RMB (about $ 14,000), paving the way for more arrests of believers from the groups labeled as xie jiao.
Some 400,000 members of the CAG, considered the single most persecuted religious group in China, have been arrested from 2011 to 2019, and 146 Church followers have been persecuted to death since the founding of the CAG in 1991. According to a 2018 report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the CCP persecution has caused at least 500,000 CAG members to flee their homes.