Throughout the province, arrest operations have been implemented since spring. New details on the planning, implementation of this suppression, and its victims.
by Zhang Wenshu
The CCP launched several special arrest operations against The Church of Almighty God (CAG) throughout China in 2018, resulting in the arrests of over 11,000 believers. The persecution is continuing in 2019: According to the Church’s statistics, the eastern province of Shandong is currently one of the areas where its members are persecuted most severely. More than 300 CAG members have been arrested throughout the province since the beginning of the year. Among them, nearly 150 are still being detained, and at least 550,000 RMB (about $ 80,000) worth of church valuables taken away by the authorities.
The Church of Almighty God is the largest Christian new religious movement in China that has continuously suffered from brutal suppression at the hands of the CCP since its founding in 1991. CAG members may be arrested, detained, and given a hefty prison sentence just for possessing literature of the Church.
As Bitter Winter reported earlier, municipal governments across Shandong launched a full-scale operation against the CAG in April. In the cities of Dezhou, Tai’an, and Liaocheng, over 50 CAG members were arrested in just three days between April 16 and 18.
The launch of the operation has been preceded by investigative work on believers and preparatory meetings of government agencies to coordinate the activities. As elsewhere in China, the crackdowns against the people of faith in Shandong are carried out as part of the nationwide campaign to “clean up gang crime and eliminate evil” and the implementation of anti-xie jiao work.
More reports have come about the arrests of believers during the operation in Shandong.
On the evening of June 7, the police in Qingdao city dispatched several teams to conduct a uniformed arrest operation against the CAG, resulting in the arrest of at least 14 people within 24 hours. A member of the Church said that, in reality, the number of arrestees is much higher. Because of the unprecedented levels of surveillance and persecution against members of the CAG, the information is hard to collect.
In June, CAG members in the provincial capital Jinan and other cities, like Binzhou and Heze, came under attacks by the police with more than 120 people arrested as a result. Among them, 52 were arrested in Heze on June 15 alone.
According to a police officer from a township under the jurisdiction of Heze, after the preliminary investigation, the names of more than 300 residents have been included on the list of believers in the locality. The officer confirmed that anyone from The Church of Almighty God was targeted during the operation; those who were arrested had been surveilled and followed by the police for months. The officer is sure that all of them will receive prison sentences.
The mother of an arrested CAG member told Bitter Winter that her daughter also fell into the CCP’s clutches during the operation. She has been sent to a detention house in Qingdao on the charge of “using a xie jiao organization to undermine law enforcement.”
Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code punishes people for participating in and/or “using” a xie jiao with 3 to 7 years of imprisonment “or more.” The vagueness of the “more” is used by the authorities to decide on the sentences of their choice. Last year, Bao Shuguang and four other CAG members from Shandong received heavy sentences, with prison terms ranging from 10 to 13 years.
The crackdown against CAG believers in Shandong doesn’t seem to ease down, which will most likely bring about more arrests. An officer from a police station in Qingzhou, a county-level city under the jurisdiction of Weifang city, revealed that according to a document entitled Registration Form for Gatehouse Signs and Real Units, issued by the Public Security Bureau, law enforcement officers are to enter residents’ homes to investigate them and register their information.
The officer revealed that the main aim of these investigations is to search for Falun Gong practitioners and CAG believers. The police officer also said that if during the inquiry of rental properties, they come across gatherings of a large number of people or suspect anything out of the ordinary, they are authorized to carry out arrests.