The crackdown in Xinjiang affects all religions. The world’s attention is focused on the Uyghurs, but the CCP also persecutes members of Christian movements.
by Xiang Yi
The Church of Almighty God (CAG) is the most persecuted religious movement in China. Xinjiang, well-known for its persecution of Uyghurs, is a dangerous place for CAG members too. They are arrested, sentenced, and detained for no other crimes than gathering for their regular religious activities or preaching their religion. In September this year, 68 CAG members in Xinjiang were given heavy sentences. 6 of them being sentenced to jail terms of 11 or 12 years.
On September 4 and 11, 68 CAG members were sentenced to imprisonment by the People’s Court of Kuitun, Xinjiang, by applying article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code, which is used to crack down on banned movements listed as xie jiao and is applied with special severity against the CAG. Three of these believers received a sentence of 12 years in prison, three 11 years, one 10 years, three 9 years, four 7 years, eight 6 years, and twenty-two 5 years.
The three who were sentenced to 12 years in prison served as church leaders in the areas of Yining and Kuitun respectively, and supervised several churches. They were punished more severely as they “actively recruited believers.”
The court verdict shows that, among those who were sentenced to more than 5 years in prison, 13 served as successive church leaders in the areas of Yining and Kuitun, and some took charge of editing articles on the life experiences of CAG believers, published on CAG’s official websites. Others took charge of delivering church letters and books, movies and hymn videos, and other materials to local believers. For these activities, they were identified by the court as CAG key members, who played crucial roles for the church’s development in the local areas, and received heavy sentences.
It is also the case that, if a CAG member who served time in jail is arrested again, she or he will be given a harsher sentence as a recidivist. Ouyang Qiuping was once sentenced to three years and six months as a CAG member by applying Art. 300. She was released in June 2016. Two years later, in November 2018, she, then 30-years-old, was arrested again and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The court verdict states, “Within five years after she served the sentence, Ouyang Qiuping committed another crime. As a recidivist, she should be sentenced to a punishment above a fixed-term imprisonment. She should be punished severely according to the law.”
Although CAG church leaders are the key targets of the CCP government, CAG common members are not spared. Huang Yongqiong, a CAG member, was sentenced to five years in prison for hosting a church leader and delivering messages for the leader (as the Internet and the cellphones are all monitored by the CCP, some church messages have to be delivered manually).
These cases prove once again that in China, being active in the CAG in any capacity is regarded as a crime, which results in a severe prison sentence according to Article 300.