Source: Direct Reports from China
Date: June 22, 2018
Four members of The Church of Almighty God, a Christian new religious movement, were gathering in one of their homes in the city of Yuncheng, Shanxi Province when a neighbor reported on them to the police, resulting in their arrest.
At 3 p.m. on May 18, 2018, three policemen from a local police station burst into the house where the four women, two of whom were in their early seventies, were meeting, took their photos and filmed them. The officers did not allow the women to move, searched the entire place, messing it up in the process and confiscated MP5 players and other belongings, demanding to know where these things came from and how often the women met for religious gatherings.
The officers, then, took one of them, a 49-year-old, into a separate room and questioned her on personal and contact information as well as about her faith, saying, “The government is against those of you who believe in Almighty God. Since you’re the youngest of the group, you must be the leader. Tell us what we want to know!” The questioning did not yield any results, so the police took them all to the local police station for “illegal gathering.”
At the station, the officers forced the four women to read aloud their identity information and ordered them to walk back and forth, filming the whole time. After that, the police called in the security director of the village where one of the women lived and asked him to sign a letter of guarantee on women’s behalf. The police released them at around 5 p.m., warning that since the government considers gatherings of The Church of Almighty God to be illegal, they will be arrested if they continue to meet: the younger ones will be sent to prison and older ones will be fined. The four women continue to be under strict surveillance.
Bitter Winter reports 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 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).