As part of the campaign aimed at eradicating the movement, jail terms have been substantially increased.
by Li Mingxuan
Within the context of a three-year plan aimed at destroying the presence of The Church of Almighty God (CAG), the largest and most persecuted Christian new religious movement in China, in 2020 many sentenced CAG members were given heavier penalties than in precedent cases. Some local CAG leaders were sentenced to 10 years in prison, some CAG members to 4 years in prison for providing residence to fellow members, and some to 3.5 years in prison just for writing faith-related articles.
Most of these verdicts are published by the Chinese authorities themselves on the online data base China Judgements Online, and are based on Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code. As scholars have demonstrated based on hundreds of cases published by China Judgements Online, the crime mentioned in Article 300 of “organizing and using a xie jiao organization to undermine law enforcement” encompasses any religious activity performed for a religious group included in the list of those labeled as xie jiao and banned, including participating in worship meetings, trying to convert relatives or co-workers, or keeping at home forbidden religious literature.
On November 27, 2020, the People’s Court of Zhangdian district of Zibo city in the eastern province of Shandong collectively tried Xu Hong and 39 other CAG members for the crime mentioned in Article 300. The verdict shows that six of them were sentenced to seven years or more in prison; Xu Hong, who was in charge of local church affairs, was sentenced to nine years in prison, and fined 30,000 RMB (about $4,500), and her co-worker was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Two CAG members, 80 and 90 years old respectively, were both sentenced to one year and six months in prison with two years’ probation and fined 5,000 RMB (about $ 750). A 66-year-old CAG member was sentenced to four years in prison and fined 12,000 RMB (about $ 1,800) for providing residence to fellow members.
Bitter Winter learned that Zibo city’s police carried out a unified arrest operation against CAG members on August 17, 2019, after surveilling and tracing them for several months. Within one day, more than 100 CAG members were arrested. On July 7, 2020, the procuratorate indicted Xu Hong, Bao Xiangmin, and other CAG members. On the morning of July 9, Bao Xiangmin died in the detention house for “unknown reasons,” at the age of 67.
319 CAG members in Shandong Province alone were given prison sentences. The website China Judgements Online reveals that CAG members in other provinces were also given heavy penalties.
On January 14, the People’s Court of Ganyu district of Lianyungang city in the eastern province of Jiangsu collectively tried 15 CAG members. Among them, Cao Fengying, Wu Qian, Lu Qing, and Yan Zhaoyun were sentenced to 7.5 years in prison and fined 8,000 RMB (about $ 1,200) merely for preaching to non-members or taking charging of local church affairs. Wei Chunqin was sentenced to 7 years in prison and fined 7,000 RMB (about $ 1,050) for serving as the leader of a meeting venue.
Only middle-level CAG leaders were sentenced to seven years or more in prison before 2018. In the last two years, however, courts applied heavier penalties to CAG members. According to documents published by Bitter Winter, the CCP plans a “final solution” for the CAG “problem,” and CAG leaders have become key targets of the crackdown.
The verdict by the People’s Court of Ganyu district about the collective trial of 15 CAG members
On May 25, 2020, the Intermediate People’s Court of Yichang city in the central province of Hubei delivered hefty sentences against 13 CAG members. They were all sentenced to three years or more in prison (three of whom were given probation). Among them, Wang Chunxiang, local church leader, was sentenced to ten years in prison and fined 30,000 RMB (about $ 4,500); Tang Yunfang, Luo Kemei, Yang Ziyu, Yang Cuifeng, and Kong Xiaoling were fined and sentenced to seven years in prison for serving as local church leaders or co-workers.
The verdict by the Intermediate People’s Court of Yichang city about the hefty sentences of 13 CAG members
On July 14, the People’s Court of Yuan’an county in the central province of Hubei delivered heavy sentences against eight CAG members. They were all sentenced to three years or more in prison (one of them was given probation). Among them, Chen Yinxi, who was in charge of local church affairs, was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison and fined 35,000 RMB (about $ 5,300) after he refused to deny his faith. The verdict shows that two of them were sentenced to 3 years or more in prison (one of them was given probation) for providing meeting or residence venues, and another was sentenced to three years in prison for proactively writing testimony articles about her experience.
The verdict by the People’s Court of Yuan’an county about the hefty sentences of eight CAG members.
On September 28, the People’s Court of Rui’an city, under the administration of Wenzhou city in the eastern province of Zhejiang, collectively tried 23 CAG members. Before that, they had remained in pre-trial detention for two years (which is beyond the legal time limit). Two of them were sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 23,000 RMB (about $ 3,400) for serving as local church leaders. Another two members were sentenced to three years for voluntarily repairing fellow members’ players used to listen to sermons. The 23 members were fined 241,000 RMB (about $37,000) in total.
Bitter Winter learned that on September 11, 2018, the CCP carried out a unified arrest operation targeting the CAG in Zhejiang Province. As a result, CAG leaders and members in Wenzhou city were arrested one after another. Among them, Liu Lanying was persecuted to death during her detention in a mandatory indoctrination center.
According to the 2020 Annual Report on the Chinese Communist Government’s Persecution of The Church of Almighty God, at least 1,098 CAG members were sentenced to prison in 2020 on the charge of “using a xie jiao organization to undermine law enforcement,” i.e., in most cases, for attending religious activities or keep faith-related materials at home. Among them, Jiang Yanghua, from Aqsu city in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, was sentenced to 15 years in prison merely for “gathering others for meetings,” and even three minor members were sentenced to three years or more in prison after being detained beyond the legal time limit.