Labeled as a dangerous cult, this Chinese new religious movement has been banned by the CCP for nearly 30 years. In 2019, it suffered more persecutions.
by Yuan Wei
The Association of Disciples or Mentuhui was banned in China in 1990, the next year after it was founded, and was included in the list of the xie jiao five years later. Although it is believed that the size of the movement has been significantly reduced after the death of the movement’s leader, Ji Sanbao, in 1997, the CCP has never stopped persecuting members of the Association of Disciples.
According to a report by the Xining Evening News, in October 2019, under the unified command by the Ministry of Public Security, the police across the northwestern province of Qinghai carried out an operation, arresting 329 members of the Disciples and confiscating 860,500 RMB (about $ 120,000) and loads of valuables.
A police officer told Bitter Winter that arrests of believers from the Association of Disciples started in September. “This is an organized nationwide arrest operation. No one knew about it beforehand,” the officer said, adding that on September 21, 38 believers were arrested overnight in the province’s Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
A resident in the prefecture reported to Bitter Winter that on that day, he saw four police officers take a woman to a house, where they took her photos as she was forced to stand against a wall with her hands cuffed. They later took her away. About two hours later, the officers returned to the house with the woman’s son, also in handcuffs. A source who knows the woman said she and her son were arrested for being members of the Disciples.
On the same day, arrest operations were also carried out in the surrounding areas. In one of the villages, four members of the Disciples were arrested. An insider revealed that 42 believers from the village were listed to be taken into custody, but he could not confirm if all of them had been captured.
A grass-root government official in Xining city was arrested during the operation, following a tip-off that he was a member of the Disciples. He was dismissed from his post while in detention, and he had to flee home after his release to evade further harassment and suppression.
Using the tactics applied in suppressing other banned religious groups, the police arranged surveillance of the believers prior to carrying out the arrest operation.
According to mainland China media reports, a ten-month investigation of the Association of Disciples was carried out in Qinghai’s Haixi Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture last year. Jointly carried out by the provincial and prefecture-level public security bureaus, the operation resulted in the arrest of 58 backbone members by October 12. A local government official revealed to Bitter Winter that during the investigation stage, the authorities continuously monitored the believers and listened to their phone conversations. More than 20 members of the movement were arrested on September 16 in Golmud, a county-level city in the prefecture.
An officer from the Public Security Bureau revealed that about 50 officials from the provincial Public Security Bureau had formed a special investigation team to crack down on movements identified as xie jiao. They are planning to investigate more than 1,000 believers in Huzhu county, administered by the prefecture-level city of Haidong, in order to collect information and suppress members of the Disciples.
Throughout 2019, the CCP reinforced the suppression of religious groups included on the list of the xie jiao. According to a confidential document from the northwestern province of Shaanxi, accessed by Bitter Winter, the critical point of “anti-xie jiao work” in 2019 was to “reduce reserves, prevent changes, and curb the growth of the banned religious groups” by “waging proactive attacks and striking at first sight.”
As a result, other religious movements on the list of the xie jiao, like All Sphere Church or The Church of Almighty God, suffered severe crackdowns in 2019, ensuing in the arrest of significant numbers of believers.
Last update: January 12, 2019.