Local authorities claim this is a fruit of their model policy of offering large rewards to those who denounce devotees of banned religious groups.
by Yang Feng
The Association of Disciples (门徒会, Mentuhui) is one of the Christian religious movements banned in China and labeled as xie jiao (“heterodox teachings,” sometimes incorrectly translated as “evil cults”). It was founded in 1989 by Ji Sanbao (季三保, 1940–1997), a former preacher for the True Jesus Church. The name Mentuhui, Association of Disciples, came from the fact that he appointed twelve disciples (门徒, mentu), modeled on the twelve apostles.
The CCP and the Three-Self Church claim that the Disciples worship Ji as god. Actually, the Disciples’ theology is more complicated, and Ji is regarded as “the stand-in for God” (神的替身) as part of the “teachings of the Third Redemption” (三赎教), which claim that the movement offers the third sign of salvation, after Noah’s ark and Jesus Christ’s cross.
According to the CCP, Ji died in December 1997 when his car tried to force a road block, while his successor Yu Shiqiang (蔚世强) died of cancer in 2001, and was succeeded by Chen Shirong (陈世荣), who is currently serving a 13-year jail sentence.
The harsher repression of xie jiao during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis has also targeted the Association of Disciples in different areas of China. A large operation was carried out in the last months of 2020 and at the beginning of 2021 in the northwestern Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. 181 members of the Association of Disciples were arrested, and they are now being committed to trial under Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code, for being active in a xie jiao.
The authorities told local media that this is a major fruit of the new policy for granting rewards to those who denounce their neighbors or acquaintances as members of a xie jiao. Similar policies exist almost everywhere in China, but Ningxia authorities believe theirs is a model one.
In April 2018, they passed the “Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region Interim Measures for Rewarding the Masses for Reporting Clues About Xie Jiao” (宁夏回族自治区群众举报邪教线索奖励暂行办法). By calling number 110, those who report on xie jiao member can obtain a maximum reward of 50,000 yuan ($7,682). Police officers involved in successful anti-xie-jiao operations also receive bonuses. Not surprisingly, the number of arrests of xie jiao members is booming in Ningxia after the “Interim Measures” started being implemented.