In Inner Mongolia, those who want to denounce banned religious movements for a reward are told how they should be trained and become more skilled.
by Massimo Introvigne
Every job requires a training. If you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, you should get appropriate education and training. Even if you want to be a thief, you should learn the trade by thieves more experienced than you are. Being an informer of the police in China is perhaps not a very honorable job—but it requires some skills too.
In Inner Mongolia, the CCP has good reasons to be nervous about the unrest—which is of its own making, since it decided to promote a cultural genocide against Mongolian language and culture. The CCP has also decided to blame the unrest on xie jiao, a term translated by the CCP itself as “evil cults,” but in fact meaning “heterodox teachings.” The CCP identifies religious groups that have grown rapidly but remain out of its control, and bans them as xie jiao. Being active in these religious groups is considered a crime. Members are sentenced to three to seven years in prison or even heavier punishment according to Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code.
To arrest members of xie jiao, the CCP largely relies on informers. These informers are rewarded with cash awards. But they are not very skilled, or the CCP is not totally happy with their performances. So, the CCP decided it needed better informers, and published in Inner Mongolia what we can call a “Manual of the Informer.” It was launched in the Dongsheng District of the prefecture-level city of Ordos, but is being advertised nation-wide.
The official title of the “Manual” is “Announcement on the Reward for Reporting Xie Jiao’s Illegal and Criminal Activities by People in Dongsheng District, Ordos City, Inner Mongolia.” The text reminds citizens that informing on xie jiao is a good deal. “After the clues are verified, the clues will be graded according to their importance, and the role played in the investigation of the case. If a public security administrative case is prosecuted based on the clues, the informer will be rewarded with RMB 500 for each case. If a criminal case is prosecuted based on the clues, a reward of 2,000 yuan will be given to the informer, If a major criminal case is prosecuted based on the clues, a reward of 10,000 yuan will be given to the informer.”
How would the informer recognize a xie jiao? The manual uses the standard anti-cult rhetoric, proclaiming that “xie jiao carry out illegal activities under the banner of religion,” “xie jiao organize activities sneakily,” “xie jiao tout their leaders as the supreme ‘god’.” By these standards, all religions may be identified as xie jiao if the CCP so decides. Christianity in general regards Jesus as God. Protestant house churches and Catholic conscientious objectors who refuse to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association also technically “carry out illegal activities” in China. Devotees of “illegal” religions are compelled to gather secretly because of the CCP’s persecution. They would be glad to be allowed to practice their religions freely and openly. And obviously the CCP itself, while not using the word “god,” has made extravagant claims and promoted the personality cult of its leaders, from Chairman Mao to Xi Jinping. Statues of CCP leaders have been even enshrined in temples. By applying its own standards, it would not be difficult to argue that the CCP is itself a xie jiao.
To avoid that its readers determine by themselves which organization is a xie jiao, the manual explains that the CCP is mostly interested in combating three groups, Falun Gong, The Church of Almighty God, and the Association of Disciples.
The manual then proceeds to train those who aspire to become informers (and pocket the rewards) in spotting whether their neighbors may be members of the Association of Disciples. First, they should “check whether somebody believes in the Third Redemption of Christ. Second, check whether a red cross (the Desheng Banner) is hung at home. Third, check whether, when they are sick, they pray for healing. Fourth, check whether they have blessed grain or rice, Fifth, check whether they come to preach the gospel “under the guise of Christianity.” Sixth, check whether they pray in a kneeling position.” Of course, some of these features are common to Christian groups other than the Disciples.
The manual may be less useful for Falun Gong, as informers are instructed to look for “fraudulent use of the name of religion and qigong,” worship of the leader, “brainwashing,” requests for money, and “harm to society.” This is how anti-cult propaganda describes “cults” in general, and the suggestions are not particularly useful to identify whether a neighbor is a Falun Gong practitioner. Again, “worshiping the leader,” “requesting money” in the shape of bribes, psychological pressure and indoctrination, and “harming the society” are more obvious characteristics of the CCP than of any religious group active in China.
The manual starts in the same vein for The Church of Almighty God, stating that it “fraudulently uses Christian doctrines,” which is again standard propaganda but not especially useful for the informers. It is also strange that an atheist party such as the CCP claims to be competent to decide which Christian doctrines are “genuine” and which ones are “fraudulent.” The Church of Almighty God has its own peculiar interpretation of Christianity, but most of those who have studied it, in the words of American academic Holly Folk, “support the conclusion that the CAG is indeed ‘Christian.’”
Informers receive more practical advice when they are told to “look for the logo. The symbol of ‘The Church of Almighty God’ is a pattern composed of a cross, a crescent, and a star.” Also useful is the suggestion to look for the titles of books published by The Church of Almighty God, including their scripture “The Word Appears in the Flesh,” and for some expressions commonly used by devotees, such as “performing the duty,” the “Great Red Dragon,” and others,. The manual also explains that The Church of Almighty God’s meetings are organized in private homes, and members use pseudonyms or religious names. These features are not exclusive to The Church of Almighty God.
In general, this is a sordid business, where informers are trained to report, for money, against people who may be their neighbors or friends, and who will be arrested, detained, and tortured. The manual shows that the CCP carries on this business openly, and without shame.