Source: Direct Reports from China
Date: June 22, 2018
An 80-year-old member of The Church of Almighty God suffered a nervous breakdown after continued threats and harassment from the police. The constant intimidation, which continues for over five years, is putting a lot of pressure on the elderly woman who, like other followers of The Church of Almighty God, have become “enemy number one” for Chinese authorities in their war against religious beliefs.
Zhen Xin and her 45-year-old son, Liu Shunyi (both pseudonyms), from the city of Hefei City in Anhui Province, are both members of The Church of Almighty God, a Christian new religious movement. Because of his belief, Liu Shunyi was arrested and detained for 15 days on December 20, 2012. After his release, the local police visited their home multiple times hoping to coerce information about other members of their church. During the visits, officers took photos and were forcing Liu Shunyi to renounce his faith threatening to arrest him if he continued to do so. In April 2017, Liu Shunyi, who continued to believe in Almighty God, was forced to leave home to avoid another arrest, leaving his 18-year-old daughter and 80-year-old mother behind whom the police continued to threaten and intimidate attempting to discover his whereabouts.
At around 4 p.m. on March 4, 2018, two officers burst into Zhen’s home. One officer sternly questioned her about the son’s whereabouts while the other took photos. They left without any information but returned early the next morning. Taking turns, the officers interrogated the old woman who, scared and tired, told them that her son was in Chengdu. They stayed for another hour and continued to take photos of the house further intimidating the already frightened woman.
Two days in a row, on March 6 and 7, the village accountant came to Zhen’s home under the pretext of distributing quotas for “low-income households,” and asked to have her son go back home for an in-person talk. Zhen Xin, upset and terrified, started feeling worse, her health declining.
Since then, the police started visiting her almost every day, and, on March 25, Zhen Xin had a nervous breakdown: she began to cry and yell her son’s name, saying that she wanted to see him, and started throwing things around, unable to control herself. That afternoon the family called a doctor, who gave her medication. Her condition improved and eventually stabilized when her son, worried about the mother’s condition, returned home from his hiding place.
At 10 a.m. on May 15, two armed police officers came to their door again and demanded to see Liu Shunyi. Zhen Xin pleaded the officers to leave her son be because he did not break any laws, but the officers turned to her granddaughter, asking, “Where’s your dad? Is he still preaching the gospel?” The women did not say anything and were left frightened again. To intimidate them even more, the officers took photos of them.
Despite her advanced age and ailing health, Zhen Xin had never had any psychological problems before; she had always been very sharp. Her granddaughter is convinced that continuous interrogations by authorities caused Zhen Xin’s mental health issues. The police still continue to look for Liu Shunyi and visit his home on a regular basis, causing more distress to his elderly mother.