Source: Direct Reports from China
Date: June 26, 2018
The Police interrogated primary school children in Jurong, Jiangsu Province, seeking to find out if there were believers in their families. Officers took some of the children to a police station where one of them fainted after eating a candy given by the officers. Wang Xiu, a member of The Church of Almighty God, a Christian new religious movement, from the city of Jurong, Jiangsu Province, told Bitter Winter what happened in the primary school that her granddaughter, Zhou Xin, attends. Around 9:00 a.m., one day in late December 2017, three Jurong City police officers came to the school and asked the pupils to complete a questionnaire that contained many questions, for example:
- Do your parents have MP5 players?
- Do people come to stay at your home for some time?
- Do women in your home call each other “sisters?”
- Does anyone in your family believe in God?
- What do your family members usually do?
- Have they ever attended any religious gatherings?
- Do your family members go out at specific times on Saturday or Sunday?
Because of the Chinese Communist government’s consistent and long-standing persecution of religious beliefs, Wang Xiu had previously instructed her granddaughter not to tell anyone about her faith so she would not get into trouble, so the girl did not say about her grandmother’s faith in the questionnaire.
One week later, the police returned to the school a few more times and twice asked the pupils to fill out more questionnaires. They went from class to class, directly asking children if their parents were religious, three or four officers present at each investigation. One officer was responsible for asking questions while others observed their expressions.
The police came back to the school the next week as well and took eight fourth-grade pupils the police station, including Zhou Xin and Li Xue, a granddaughter of a woman who used to belong to The Church of Almighty God. At the station, the officers questioned two children at a time. Zhou Xin and Li Xue were shut into a poorly-lit room that, according to Zhou Xin, felt like a place for questioning criminals, so the girls felt very scared. A female officer came in said brightly, “It’s great that you two came. Here, have some candy.” She gave each of them something that looked like a milk candy. Li Xue didn’t eat and instead gave the “candy” to Zhou Xin who ate both pieces. She then started to feel dazed and vaguely heard the female officer say to a male officer: “These two kids are really suspicious.” Before long, little Zhou Xin was unconscious.
The female officer asked Li Xue why she had not eaten any candy, to which she responded that the wrapper did not look like candy, so she did not eat it. About an hour later, Li Xue pinched Zhou Xin to wake her up, and the eight students were sent back to the school. When they were back on campus, Li Xue told Zhou Xin that when she had been asleep, the female officer had asked Li Xue, “You and Zhou Xin are friends, so you must know about her life. Doesn’t her grandmother believe in God?” Li Xue answered that she did not know. A young boy, whose grandparents believed in God, was also brought to the police station that day. He told Zhou Xin that the police gave him a “candy” to eat as well.
The names of the people are pseudonyms.
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Bitter Winter plans to report 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 plan to 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).