Two courts in Sichuan sentenced a group of Church of Almighty God members to prison – from four and a half to 11 years – and punished them with exorbitant fines.
by Yao Zhangjin
On September 11, the People’s Court of Daying County in Suining city, the southwestern province of Sichuan, sentenced 12 members of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) for “organizing and using a xie jiao organization to undermine law enforcement.” Four of them were given from nine to eleven years in prison. The believers didn’t commit any crimes; the hefty sentences were given merely for practicing their faith.
Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code states that being active in a xie jiao organization may result in a prison sentence of three to seven years. The article is often used in China’s courts against religious groups that have been included in the list of the xie jiao. In fact, the CCP lists as xie jiao any independent religious group that grows too fast or is regarded as hostile to the Party. In the case of the CAG, which has been included in the list since 1995, the verdicts are much stricter, and many Church members, especially leaders, receive lengthier sentences.
Chen Ju, who was in charge of the CAG affairs in the provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan, was sentenced to 11 years in prison and given an exorbitant fine of 100,000 RMB (about $ 14,200). Zhong Qiong, Liu Shuhua, and Li Fangli – all mid-level co-workers in the Church – received prison terms ranging from nine to ten years and fines from 80,000 to 100,000 RMB (about $ 11,300 to 14,200).
On the day of the trial, Chen Ju objected to the court’s ruling to send her to prison for 11 years, but the judge claimed that the judgment was given according to the mandatory minimum sentence and threatened her with severe consequences if she continued opposing.
The verdict mentions that 11 of the 12 CAG members were arrested in September and October 2017. The police ransacked the residences of several of them and looted at least 1,400,000 RMB (nearly $ 200,000) in church assets and more than 1,000,000 RMB (about $ 142,000) in their personal assets. The 12th member was arrested in August 2018.
According to an eyewitness, when police officers raided the residence of one of the arrested CAG members, they claimed that they had come to seize the money and valuables of The Church of Almighty God.
The day after the trial in Suining city, 18 members of the CAG were sentenced for the same “crime” by the People’s Court of Fushun County in Sichuan’s Zigong city. Two of them were sent to prison for four and a half years.
An inside source revealed that the trial was very short, it lasted only for 20 minutes, because the court already made the decision on August 28, and the hearing on September 12 was nothing but a formality.
The parents of one of the sentenced said that they are apprehensive about their daughter, her health and mental state while she serves her time in prison. They added that almost all of her hair had turned grey during the time she was kept in detention ahead of the trial.