Bitter Winter has uncovered information that the preparations for the massive arrests of believers in Almighty God in Liaoning, on June 26-28, had been taking place since early spring.
A large-scale “Operation Thunder” in Liaoning Province resulted in the arrest of more than 500 members of The Church of Almighty God, a Chinese Christian new religious movement, in just three days, from June 26 to 28. The Liaoning Public Security Department conducted massive stakeouts, using the information they had previously collected by monitoring and tracking members of the Church. In some cases, they entered homes pretending to be plumbers or couriers.
Bitter Winter has received information that as early as February this year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government released numerous confidential documents ordering staged, comprehensive arrests and punishment of believers in Almighty God. In preparation for the crackdown on June 26, a major investigation into religious beliefs has been launched in the province’s city of Dandong, with people specially deployed in the city and its villages, residential communities, schools, and other locations to seek out believers.
According to an inside source, on March 26, the secretary of a community committee in Dandong convened an emergency meeting of its members, requiring them to look into believers in their communities and report back with their exact numbers. Managers of residential buildings were instructed to personally investigate and monitor their inhabitants. The targets of the investigation were members of house churches, particularly The Church of Almighty God.
Bitter Winter’s sources revealed information on numerous instances of authorities collecting information about believers.
On April 20, Ms. Fu from the city of Dandong received a phone call from the person in charge of her community, requiring her to find out immediately how many in the community were believers and report the information back to him as soon as she had collected it.
On April 23, a village secretary from Shihugou township in Dandong went to the home of a village team leader to personally investigate into the number of believers for a report to his superiors.
On May 8, Dandong’s investigation of believers expanded to schools. In the local Zhanqian elementary school, principals and academic dean, during breaks between classes, questioned lower-grade students on whether there were believers in their families. The teachers in that school repeatedly questioned and intimidated their students trying to force them to disclose information.
On June 2, a young CCP cadre, Liu Gang, was dispatched to a village in Yiquan town in the city of Donggang to hold a meeting for local team leaders. He ordered them to thoroughly investigate and secretly surveil believers in their respective areas, and then report back to him with the information they had collected. The particular targets of interests were preachers and leaders of The Church of Almighty God. Liu Gang stressed, “Get the leaders and don’t let any word get out.”
On June 7, a village in Hongshi town in Dandong reported the information of all local believers and set up a three-person patrol team headed by a village team leader. They were responsible for checking on believers in the evenings twice a week to see if they were going out to attend gatherings or spread the gospel.
The CCP government gained information on Christians through this large-scale investigation. They also carried out monitoring of believers by unlawfully following them, taking their photos, and monitoring their phones.
The large-scale searches, arrests, and persecution of house churches provide more proof that the CCP government is implementing a thorough campaign to eradicate religious beliefs in China in total disrespect to human rights and personal freedoms of its citizens.
Update May 16th, 2020: According to the information received after publication, the number of arrested has risen to 700.