The local police forced entry into the house of a member of The Church of Almighty God, a Chinese Christian new religious movement, in the city of Cenxi, Guangxi Province, taking him into custody and holding him for a fortnight after searching his house.
Liu Zhong (68, pseudonym) was entrusted with safeguarding at home religious books for his chapter of The Church of Almighty God. On May 8, at approximately 8:30 a.m., in response to a tip-off, nine officers from a local police station raided Liu Zhong’s house without showing any credentials. During the house search, the police discovered the books that he had been safeguarding as well as two mobile phones. They forced Liu Zhong to point to the books and the phones while taking photos of him, then took Liu Zhong and the seized objects to a local police station.
At the station, officers were unsuccessful in coercing Liu Zhong to provide the names and addresses of leaders and members of the Church, as well as the providence of the books. That night at 11 p.m., the police cited “belief in Eastern Lightning” (an alternative name for The Church of Almighty God) as the cause for detaining Liu Zhong and keeping him in custody.
While in custody, the police interrogated Liu Zhong three more times, without any success to make him reveal information about his fellow believers. The police also forced him to sign and thumbprint a letter of repentance, a guarantee and a statement of breaking off ties with the Church, with blasphemous contents in the documents warning him “to stop believing in this stuff when you get home; we’ll be sending someone to keep an eye on you!”
On May 23, Liu Zhong was released, though the books and other confiscated items were not returned to him. To date, Liu Zhong remains under strict police surveillance, denied personal freedom.
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Bitter Winter plans to report on how religions are allowed, or not allowed, to operate in China and how some are severely persecuted after they are labeled as “xie jiao,” or heterodox teachings. We plan to publish news difficult to find elsewhere, analyses, and debates.
Placed under the editorship of Massimo Introvigne, one of the most well-known scholars of religion internationally, “Bitter Winter” is a cooperative enterprise by scholars, human rights activists, and members of religious organizations persecuted in China (some of them have elected, for obvious reasons, to remain anonymous).