The second in a series of three articles about an incident used by CCP propaganda to justify its persecution of The Church of Almighty God.
by Li Bei
As we have seen in the first article in this series, this June, Chinese media reported a case involving the unusual deaths of Qian Xude and three of his family members from Xinzhuang village, under the jurisdiction of Nanjing city in the eastern province of Jiangsu. The bodies of Qian Xude and two others were found hidden in a freezer in a rental room in Shenzhen city in the southern province of Guangdong, while Qian Xude’s daughter, Qian Limei, committed suicide by jumping off a building in Shangqiu city in the central province of Henan. However, the police never filed a case after investigating the deaths, attributing some to natural causes and others to suicide.
On October 17, The Beijing News, owned by the Beijing municipal Party Committee, and Southern Weekly, a well-known newspaper owned by the Guangdong provincial Party Committee, simultaneously published an article, repackaging and sensationalizing this sensational case, placing the blame on The Church of Almighty God (CAG). Afterward, this fake news story was widely reported by the official media, in an attempt to create a new public opinion campaign against the CAG.
After investigating and conducting interviews regarding the matter, Bitter Winter published an article on October 23 exposing this fake new story that was fabricated to justify the persecution of the CAG.
Apart from the numerous holes in the story, the timing of the case also provides food for thought.
Internal documents from Liaoning, Shandong, Henan and other provinces that Bitter Winter has obtained show that in 2019, the CCP called for intensifying “counter-propaganda” work against the CAG on a nationwide basis, and launched intensive “propaganda days,” “propaganda weeks,” “propaganda months,” and other counter-propaganda activities. In particular, the CCP sought to use counter-propaganda work to create a “good atmosphere of mass prevention and mass governance” for the 70th National Day celebrations.
Several of the aforesaid internal documents call for fully leveraging the role of radio and television, newspapers and magazines, web portals, and various new media to conduct focused media propaganda, with mutual cooperation, to create a wider counter-propaganda atmosphere.
Publications and TV stations are required to publish or broadcast a certain number of counter-propaganda articles or programs. Each media outlet is also given a fixed quota for producing related case analyses, news reports, art and cultural shows, push-notification articles, and so on. At the same time, various forms of on-the-street and in-home counter-propaganda activities have been organized to achieve “household-name, known-to-all” status.
Some local governments have even developed tables to quantify propaganda tasks, directly linking the efficacy of propaganda with the political achievements of officials.
Clearly, fabricating rumors has become a political task for the CCP. It can be said that the emergence of such outlandishly fake news stories is inevitable – both in terms of timing and opportunity.
Not coincidentally, the case of the Shenzhen Family, which occurred in May, was dug up in October, and, after undergoing superficial changes, became a typical case of counter-propaganda.
Why did the CCP attack the CAG with such great fanfare?
The CAG is a rapidly-growing new Christian movement with millions of believers, and this has clearly made the CCP uncomfortable. In several internal documents, the CCP lists the CAG as one of the CCP’s key crackdown targets that pose a threat to its regime.
In order to suppress the CAG, the CCP previously falsely attributed to it the McDonald’s Murder of 2014 and accused it of other crimes. International scholars and respected NGOs debunked the accusations as fake news. The CCP now urgently needs to fabricate more “public opinion” to justify its further suppression of the CAG. The Shenzhen family case is not isolated.
A CAG member in Tai’an city in the eastern province of Shandong told Bitter Winter that she was astonished to find her photo on a negative propaganda brochure attacking the CAG that was produced by the local government. The government claimed that she died while taking part in evangelical activities.
“The photo in the brochure is me. I’m alive and well. How could they say that I died?” she said.
Some CAG members have even been threatened and required to pose for photos or give false testimony, which, after post-editing, is used to make so-called anti-xie jiao propaganda films. There have been numerous similar cases.
The use of these methods to frame and suppress religious groups has become “normal behavior” for the CCP. For example, in order to suppress Falun Gong, the CCP successively fabricated a series of horrifying, absurd and bloody fake news stories, including those that became known as the “1,400 cases,” the “Beijing murder case,” the “Zhejiang beggar poisoning case,” the “Tiananmen self-immolation case,” the “Vietnamese murder and corpse concealment case,” and the “case of cutting open his own abdomen to find the Wheel of Dharma.”
Ma Jianmin—the deceased person in the “case of cutting open his own abdomen to find the Wheel of Dharma”—previously suffered from mental illness, and would practice whatever form of qigong was popular at the time. In fact he practiced over a dozen different types of qigong. However, the CCP media falsely portrayed him as a man obsessed with Falun Gong who cut open his own abdomen to look for the Wheel of Dharma in a bloody and sensational case. How the fake news was constructed in the Ma Jianmin case and the Shenzhen family suicide case is similar.
This isn’t the first time that the CCP has framed a religious group for a strange, horrific death case involving murder, self-immolation, or cutting one’s belly open—nor will it be the last time. As long as these religious groups make the CCP feel uneasy and threatened, the rumors will get increasingly horrific over time.