Provincial governments implement brutal suppression policies, aided with propaganda and resulting in arrests of believers.
In 2018, nearly 24,000 members of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) across China were persecuted simply because of their religious beliefs and engagement in regular religious activities. Among them, at least 11,000 have been arrested and 20 tortured to death. This has been reported also by Bitter Winter. The government continues the suppression of believers through a new round of crackdown, placing CAG members in imminent peril.
Jiangxi: Indoctrination of the masses to aid suppression
The CCP designates any independent religious movement, regarded hostile to the regime or growing too rapidly, as a xie jiao or heterodox teachings. Being active in one is a crime, punishable by Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code with a jail penalty of three to seven years “or more.” The largest Christian new religious movement, the CAG, was included into the list of the xie jiao in 1995.
2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Under the banner of “creating a safe and stable sociopolitical environment,” the CCP is intensifying its “anti-xie jiao” propaganda and indoctrination of the public to mobilize the entire population against the CAG.
On April 15, a county in Pingxiang city, in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, issued a confidential document regarding a special campaign to suppress the CAG. Each government department is demanded to attach great importance to “anti-xie jiao” work: Apart from intensifying investigations of believers, they must also vigorously utilize the traditional and new media to conduct anti-xie jiao propaganda.
To expand the scope of propaganda and incite more people to shun the CAG, the Jiangxi document orders to incorporate “anti-xie jiao” work into activities during patriotic holidays, such as the National Constitution Day and National Security Day, as well as public events that promote “culture, science, technology, and health in rural areas” and could “enter villages, communities, schools, enterprises, and religious venues.”
The document also states that information about each CAG member identified during the investigation must be entered into the public security “xie jiao information management system” and incorporated into a “network management and public security intelligence platform.”
Three days after the document was issued, the police raided a local CAG meeting venue, arresting two Church leaders that remain in custody to date.
Henan: Quotas to arrest CAG members
On May 29, seven CAG members were detained in the counties of Lushi and Mianchi, both under the jurisdiction of Sanmenxia city in the central province of Henan. According to a Church member, all of the believers had previously been arrested because of their faith; the police already had files on them, making them the targets of surveillance.
According to a government official, the situation is dire for members of the CAG. Higher-level governments have held secret meetings to plan the arrests. The police are required to arrest all in gatherings of three or more, disguised as the campaign to “clean up gang crime and eliminate evil.” The official also revealed that a quota to arrest at least 500 CAG members had been set for each local government.
Bitter Winter obtained a confidential document, issued by a local government of Henan’s Jiaozuo city in March, launching a special year-long campaign to suppress the CAG. Nine county-level departments (including the brigades of National Security, Public Security, Economic Crime Investigation, and Network Supervision) are entrusted with implementing the crackdown jointly.
According to the document, from April 1 to August 31, during the “rooting-out phase” of the campaign, the foremost leaders of the CAG should be arrested and Church’s finances investigated.
Anhui and Gansu: Arrested believers and looted assets
In March, the United Front Work Department of the Provincial Committee in the eastern province of Anhui issued a confidential document entitled Special Campaign to Investigate and Deal with Christian Infiltration in Anhui Province in Accordance with Law, launching a campaign against the CAG from mid-March to the end of the year.
According to a CAG believer, at least six Church members in Huaibei city were successively arrested from May 23 to 30.
In Chuzhou city, the police raided five CAG meeting venues from May 11 to 13, arresting 20 believers and looting about 70,000 RMB (about $ 10,000) worth of church and personal assets.
On April 22, the Public Security Bureau of Lanzhou, the capital of the northwestern province of Gansu, established nine task forces to organize raids and arrest CAG members. According to the data provided by the Church, as of April 30, 14 people had been arrested in the city’s Anning district alone, the police had looted about 160,000 RMB (about $23,000) of church and personal assets.
“I called my daughter at 6:30 a.m. on April 22, but no one answered. Half an hour later, I went to her house to look for her. I found the police interrogating my daughter and son-in-law in the bedroom,” the mother of an arrested CAG member told Bitter Winter.
According to a public security source, a month before this arrest operation commenced, the police had been secretly deployed in the city to investigate covertly, track, and monitor CAG members to reach the planned arrest quota.
Religious persecution is getting worse
The harassment of the CAG and other believers in China continues despite the growing international condemnation of the actions by the CCP.
Presenting the 2018 report by the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China, its vice chair, Congressman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), described the Communist Chinese government under President Xi Jinping a “brutal dictatorship” that “has intensified its most severe crackdown on all religious faith since the Cultural Revolution.”
Religious liberty violations were denounced at the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of China in November 2018, mentioning that “during 2014-2018, the Chinese Communist Party’s monitoring, arrest, and persecution had caused at least 500,000 Church of Almighty God (CAG) Christians to flee their home, and several hundred thousand families had been torn apart.”
At an event about religious persecution in China, organized in the European Parliament on June 27, 2018, Aaron Rhodes, the president of the NGO FOREF (Forum for Religious Freedom Europe), said: “I consider the denial of religious freedom, including the persecution of members of The Church of Almighty God, and the denial of other fundamental human rights in China as paramount problems in the world today.”