Crackdowns continue nationwide against believers of this Christian movement that has been suffering severe persecution ever since it was banned in 1988.
by Li Guang
All Sphere or All Range Church (全范围教会), also called the Born Again movement (重生派) and the Weepers (哭派), is a Christian religious movement founded in the 1960s in the central province of Henan by Xu Yongze (徐永澤), known in the West as Peter Xu (he now lives in the United States). Chinese authorities evaluate the movement’s following at “several thousand,” while some Western Evangelical journalists have suggested an unsupported figure of twenty million.
Due to its large membership and independence from the CCP’s control, as well as Xu Yongze’s criticism of the state-run Three-Self Church, the movement was labeled as a xie jiao in 1988, even before the first modern list of the xie jiao was published in 1995. The church has been brutally persecuted ever since.
A church elder and co-workers arrested, facing sentences
According to a member of an All Sphere church in Suqian city in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu, about ten co-workers from his church were holding a gathering when the police stormed into the venue and took them away. Later, police officers searched the residences of each believer. In one home, a receipt for church offerings with the name of a church elder from an All Sphere church in Henan’s Sanmenxia city was found. The authorities decided that the man, who is in his 70s, was one of the top leaders in the church.
On September 26, national security personnel from Jiangsu and Henan joined forces to raid the elder’s house, which was also used as a meeting venue for the church. They rampaged through the site and took the elder to the local police station, where he was put under administrative detention on suspicion of “concealing crime-related income.” Three days later, the elder was transferred to a detention house in Jiangsu. His family members are prohibited from visiting him.
The elder’s attorney revealed that he is still kept in detention and that he is very likely to be sentenced. He believes that other congregation members could also be implicated.
“They regarded him as the head of the church. The government always tries digging out the root; so, they won’t let him go, in an attempt to eradicate the church in one swoop,” a congregation member from Jiangsu told Bitter Winter. He added that three of the arrested co-workers remain in custody, and their cases had been handed over to the court, which will most likely sentence them.
“You can’t reason with the CCP. It’s very easy for them to get you into trouble. In case of religion, they arbitrarily define what is legal and what is not,” an All Sphere Church co-worker from Henan said helplessly. “They declared that our gatherings are illegal and the church offerings constituted ‘illegal fundraising.’ We have no way to seek justice.”
Two female preachers from an All Sphere church in Xixia county of Henan’s Nanyang city are also kept in detention after they were arrested during a gathering in March. Their families are too denied to see them.
On September 8, six police officers harassed a group of All Sphere Church believers, most of whom are over 60 years old, at a gathering in Nanyang’s Xichuan county. The police searched the meeting venue thoroughly. When a believer asked them if they had a search warrant, one of the officers replied that they were entitled to arrest them without special authorization. He added that they had come here after a tip-off and that it was their official duty to fight xie jiao.
The officers confiscated the Bibles they found on the premises and escorted over ten believers to the local police station. Three of the believers were detained for ten days for organizing “illegal gatherings,” the rest were released the next day.
Massive arrests in Yunnan
On June 2, the police targeted four meeting venues of an All Sphere church in Jianshui county of Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture in the southwestern province of Yunnan. A congregation member told Bitter Winter that Bibles and hymnbooks were confiscated, and believers who were in gatherings – over 100 in total– had been taken to local police stations for questioning. The police also raided their houses while threatening to sentence the believers to prison if they continued practicing their faith.
“The CCP rules China as a one-party dictatorship. They can suppress people at random by imposing dubious charges against them. It’s a frequent occurrence for us,” explained an All Sphere Church co-worker from Henan. “The CCP doesn’t allow differing thoughts or religions to exist. It aims to eliminate Christianity and other religions. Faced with the government’s suppression and their inhumane and irrational law enforcement, we feel helpless.”