Families of Church of Almighty God members who fled abroad are pressured to join CCP’s efforts to make their relatives return to China, where they will be hounded.
by Jiang Tao
Facing suppression and persecution at home, many members of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) have fled overseas. To make them return to China, where they most probably will be imprisoned and tortured, the CCP organizes so-called “relative search groups” to the countries where CAG members have fled, for example, South Korea. Family members of believers are dragged abroad through manipulations, threats, and coercion, to take part in fake demonstrations, supervised by South Korean bigot and pro-CCP activist, Ms. O Myung-ok, to fabricate public opinion and pressure the South Korean government to extradite CAG believers.
Regardless that all such attempts have ended in disgrace so far, the Chinese regime continues to pressure families of CAG members to help them bring their loved ones back to China. Some of them shared with Bitter Winter their experiences.
Promises of monetary rewards
A woman whose brother had fled to South Korea has been approached many times by government officials to go “looking for him.” Had she agreed, she would be given tens of thousands of RMB, and all her travel expenses would be covered.
“It seems that these officials have power everywhere in China. To persuade me to go, they promised to help solve any issue that could arise in my life, including my business,” the woman said, believing that these officials were not just from regular government departments. The idea that the people who approached her are from some special state units made her worry about her brother’s situation even more.
The officials also told her that her brother is a CAG leader in South Korea, and bringing him back to China is an important task. Fearing that her brother would be arrested when he returns, the woman refused to cooperate.
Forced to “search for relatives”
Last year, the police arrested and interrogated a CAG believer, who was pressured to disclose information about her son, also a CAG member, who had fled abroad. The woman refused to say anything.
After nine months in detention, she was released on bail on the condition that she would persuade her son to return to China or act as a CCP spy overseas and collect information about fellow-believers abroad. She refused again and was taken back to a detention facility two months later to await her trial.
The entire family of another CAG member from the central province of Henan had to flee home under the CCP’s suppression. Since last year, the head of the family has been pressured by local government officials to go abroad “looking for his son.” Knowing that he would be brutally tortured and imprisoned after returning to China, the father refused, giving an excuse that he couldn’t leave because of his business. The officials, however, persisted, putting more and more pressure, so the family decided to flee home.
A relative of another CAG believer who has fled abroad told Bitter Winter that government officials have been to his work unit more than eight times, attempting to force him into joining one of the “family search groups.” They threatened that he would not escape them even if he tried to find a new job.
“Once, many personnel from the State Security Bureau and the Public Security Bureau came to my work, scaring me and my superiors,” the man remembered. These visits had a negative effect on his work and life in general. Unable to withstand growing pressure and not knowing how to deal with it, the man is considering to go abroad to “search for his relative.”
Unable to see their loved ones
The father of a CAG member who has gone to South Korea with a government-organized group recounted that upon getting off the plane in Seoul, the group of relatives was picked up by specially designated persons. An accompanying official explained to him that they had “relative search groups” around China and also a liaison office in Korea.
According to CAG members who have escaped to South Korea, their relatives who “came to look for them” refused to see them when they went to pick them up at the airport. Regardless of repeated invitations by the believers to meet their relative in the premises of the Church in Seoul, the visiting group stood outside and shouted anti-CAG slogans, commanded by Ms. O Myung-ok.
The father of the CAG believer said that before their trip to South Korea, officials had asked the whole group not to go to their loved ones’ homes or meet them in the Church without permission. If they were photographed reuniting with their CAG relatives, it would not be good for the image of the demonstrations, the officials explained.
“In reality, each time the CCP organizes a ‘relative search group’ for demonstrations in South Korea, it deliberately creates an illusion that CAG believers abandon their homes and relatives, and fabricate rumors that the CAG is controlling its members, in an attempt to put pressure on South Korea government to extradite believers to China,” a CAG believer who currently resides in South Korea explained to Bitter Winter.
While in South Korea, the relatives’ remarks and acts are entirely controlled by Ms. O Myung-ok, a family member of a CAG believer who has gone to South Korea revealed.
“Officials told us that there would be persons guiding us, and we’ll be interviewed,” he added. “We will be told what to say, like that the CAG controls my relative in Korea.” The government also made them sign a confidentiality agreement, as per which they would be held accountable or even imprisoned should they reveal anything about the “relative search groups.”
(all photographs have been provided by The Church of Almighty God.)