Since April 2018, the Chinese authorities have been implementing a national campaign against The Church of Almighty God. In Jiangsu Province alone, at least 350 Church members have been arrested to date.
As Bitter Winter has reported earlier, the mas operations against The Church of Almighty God, a Chinese Christian new religious movement, has been implemented in other provinces, such as Henan, Shandong, and Liaoning, currently totaling almost 1,000 of arrested believers.
Sources report that on June 25 alone, 64 members of the Church in Jiangsu’s Suzhou city were arrested. In 15 days, over 30 were captured in the city of Changzhou. According to insider information, plainclothes police officers had secretly installed trackers in the electric bicycles of more than 100 believers in the city. Xuzhou’s Public Security Bureau also issued an order to mobilize the entire city’s police force to patrol every intersection and arrest members of the Church, and each officer was required to arrest at least two believers.
The arrests quite often take place at night, police officers are stationed at the set locations from 8 to 10 p.m.; afterward, they are sent to search the homes of believers. The leaders of the Church may be later sentenced to 7 years, while regular members – from one to three years of imprisonment.
According to the preliminary calculations by The Church of Almighty God, as of July 31, in the south-central region of Jiangsu, more than 350 Church members have been apprehended and more than 4,000 lost their congregation sites; 169 were tracked and subjected to surveillance; 103 were forced to flee their homes; 63 had their homes searched, and their personal property seized, totaling in 474,320 RMB (around 69,000 USD) of confiscated property; and church donations were seized in a total amount of 1,299,722 RMB.
Below are some accounts about the arrests of believers in Almighty God in Jiangsu Province. Pseudonyms are used to preserve the anonymity of the people.
On April 30, more than a dozen plainclothes police officers from Bali town, Yangzhou city, broke into the home of Chen Cheng and arrested her along with fellow religionists Jin Shengqin and Qiu Jingye. The police seized the Church’s property found in her home worth a total of 60,000 RMB and 40,000 RMB worth of Ms. Chen’s personal valuables. On the same day, Chen Cheng was taken to the local police station and wasn’t released until May 15. Qiu Jingye and Jin Shengqin were taken to Chunxiao Hotel in the town for secret interrogations. To this day, the whereabouts of Ms.Qiu and Ms. Jin remain unknown, and their relatives are afraid that they may not be alive.
On May 11, Liu Yuanfeng and his wife, a couple from Nanjing, was arrested and is still held in detention. The police took Church valuables worth over one million RMB, which Liu stored at his home.
On May 12, the police apprehended Wang Tao and his wife from Nanjing’s Jiangning district, seizing the goods that belonged to the Church worth 213,000 RMB.
On May 13, the leader of a local Church in Taixing city, Li Hui, and the fellow believer that she was about to visit was arrested by the police. Officers later raided Ms. Li’s residence and confiscated more than 3,000 RMB of church money and her valuables worth over 22,000 RMB.
On June 25, An Xin and her husband from the port city of Zhangjiagang were arrested, the police taking 400,000 RMB in cash and bank savings. According to the couple’s relatives, the police had monitored An Xin’s home for two months before arresting her.
On June 26, three police stations in Changzhou city dispatched about 40 officers to arrest He Mei. Officers confiscated books on faith in God and detained her at a local police station, prohibiting He Mei’s husband from visiting her; her whereabouts remain unknown to this day.
According to informed sources, before the launch of the operation, the authorities had acquired information about their targets through a network of surveillance cameras. The central government has previously demanded that each township established a network-based surveillance management system, which enables to ascertain personal information of every transient and long-term resident in each town and community, including the details about their place of work and worship. All the collected data is promptly transferred to a local administrative office that specially handles religious affairs.
Reported by Jiang Tao
Jiang Tao (uses pseudonyms for security reasons), aged 42, is from Henan Province. He previously served as a magazine editor and has long been concerned about vulnerable groups that are being persecuted in China. He has written a variety of commentaries probing human rights issues in China, and his articles have been published in international journals. After leaving his magazine job in 2015, he started visiting and interviewing persecuted religious groups and other vulnerable groups and gathering information about incidents. He joined Bitter Winter in 2018, and since then is dedicated to reporting the persecution incidents in Henan, Shanghai, Anhui, and other regions.