Over 100 Church of Almighty God members were arrested during a nationwide crackdown before the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.
by Zhao Mingzhe
As the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), marked on October 1 approaches, the communist regime is confronting its mortal enemy – the religious –with the police in each area conducting “stability maintenance” operations. Some religious groups, like The Church of Almighty God (CAG), are especially targeted.
Believers monitored ahead of the arrest operation
A local government official from Linfen, a prefecture-level city in the northern province of Shanxi, told Bitter Witter that the crackdown against certain religious groups had intensified before the anniversary of the PRC. “The situation is dire now. The state has ordered local governments throughout China to arrest a large number of religious people prior to October 1,” the official said.
According to sources, in July, local governments throughout Shanxi Province launched a thorough investigation of each known household with people of faith.
The CAG had the highest number of arrests. The Church of Almighty God is the largest Christian new religious movement in China, which, since its founding in 1991, has continuously suffered brutal suppressions at the hands of the CCP. In 2018 alone, 685 CAG members were cruelly tortured and underwent forced indoctrination; at least 20 people died as a result of persecution. Many victims perished as a result of torture, like a CAG believer in Xinjiang who died on the 12th day of her detention in early 2019.
According to incomplete statistics, on July 19-20 alone, at least 31 CAG members were arrested in Shanxi’s Taiyuan city. Even non-religious relatives of CAG believers were implicated or also arrested, authorities forcing them to write “statements of guarantee,” promising to ensure that their religious family members give up their faith. Otherwise, they will be “fined and imprisoned.”
According to a local public security source, the CAG believers arrested in this operation had long been monitored ahead of it. The main CAG leaders face potential prison sentences. The source also revealed that the arrest operation is ongoing, as the police have compiled a list of nearly 500 CAG believers to be arrested.
A police officer from Taizhou city in the eastern province of Zhejiang confirmed that the government ordered to conduct a mass operation to arrest CAG believers ahead of the National Day. “We have to carry out mass arrests before October 1. The campaign to ‘clean up gang crime and eliminate evil’ targets those who believe in Almighty God. The government wants to arrest all CAG believers in one go,” the officer explained, adding that trackers had been installed in the vehicles of many CAG members.
A local CAG believer found a tracker while doing maintenance work on his car. Although he threw it out, a surveillance camera has now been installed outside his home. The man’s fellow Church member also found a tracker in his car.
According to CCP insiders, the streets and busy areas in big cities, like bus and railway stations, are now filled with plainclothes police officers tailing people. In rural areas, the task of surveilling the religious has been assigned to local Party members.
Orders come from the central government, operation kept secret
In the early hours of September 6, at least 13 CAG meeting venues in Wuhu, a prefecture-level city in the central province of Anhui, were raided and closed down. Subsequently, 42 Church members were arrested.
An eyewitness told Bitter Winter that in the early hours of September 6, she saw through her window how about 20 police officers stormed into an apartment of her neighbors, who she later found out were CAG believers. Officers were combing through the apartment with detection instruments, the woman said, as if they were looking for something. Afterward, the two people in the apartment were handcuffed and taken away with black hoods placed over their heads. Some police officers remained on site until dawn.
According to a Public Security Bureau insider, the arrests were part of a secret operation jointly conducted by the provincial and municipal Public Security Bureaus, in conjunction with local police stations.
Similar operations were carried out in the southeastern province of Fujian. Twelve CAG believers were arrested in its capital Fuzhou on September 5. Their families have not received any news of them to date.
In August, 41 CAG believers in the cities of Fuzhou, Putian, and Sanming in Fujian were arrested, and 10,200 RMB (about $ 1,400) in personal assets were looted. The eldest among the arrested is 85 years old, and the youngest is only 17. Meanwhile, during the same month, nearly 30 CAG believers in the southern province of Guangdong were taken into custody.
In early July, Tangshan city in the northern province of Hebei deployed about 300 police officers for an organized crackdown on The Church of Almighty God. According to the information provided by the CAG, this operation resulted in the arrests of at least 41 believers, including one pregnant woman. Approximately 50,000 RMB (about $ 7,000) in church and personal assets were seized.
According to a source in the local public security forces, this arrest operation was launched based on orders from the central government and was secretly arranged by the provincial inspection team and the municipal National Security Brigade. Before the operation, the police had been secretly investigating and surveilling CAG believers for several months. To stop news from leaking and prevent any believer from escaping, hundreds of police officers who took part in the operation were blocked from accessing information on the arrest targets until the last minute. The officers’ contacts with others outside their units were also limited ahead of the crackdown.
A CAG believer told Bitter Winter that during one of the raids, a police officer showed him a list of data and records of more than 100 CAG members.
The officer also warned the believer to “behave and be obedient,” or “face tough days ahead,” adding that the Communist Party will punish anyone who is disobeying it.