People that are not even members of prohibited religious groups can be persecuted only because of their religious relatives or as a result of random events.
A book and a piece of paper lead to persecution
In April, a man who lives in Liaoyang city in the northeast province of Liaoning was investigated by the local police and personnel from the community he lived in for being associated with Falun Gong – a banned and severely persecuted religious movement in China. Not even a member of the organization, the man was still harassed by the authorities because he was noticed at a place where Falun Gong practitioners were exercising two years ago – he went there to urge his mother to stop practicing Falun Gong.
“I feel a bit scared. At our old age, things will be over after we die. But the police said that this would impact my young grandson’s schooling. When he takes the university entrance exam, his file will be looked at,” said the man’s wife with great concern.
A nursing center employee in Tianshui city in the northwestern province of Gansu faced many problems after he handed over a Falun Gong book, which he picked up on the roadside, to an official at the nursing center in May 2018. Unexpectedly, however, he was reported to the authorities. Soon after that, the police forcibly searched his residence. Although no evidence was found, the nursing center still deducted his salary for that month and immediately fired him.
A man from the eastern province of Jiangsu, spent the 2019 Spring Festival sitting on a tiger bench – a torture chair – in an interrogation room.
“What have you been doing lately? Are you organizing any faith-related activities at your home?” the police questioned him.
The man kept repeating that he had never had any religious beliefs, but the police continued to interrogate him. He was released after officers photographed him and took his fingerprints and footprints as well as a sample of his blood.
More than ten days later, the man left the local area for business when the police called him, asking: “Where are you now? Why did you leave the city?” On February 28, the police came to his home again to question him.
The sole reason for such an intense police investigation was a piece of paper with his name and address, which his mother – a member of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) – gave her church friend inviting her to share their faith with her son three years ago. The friend was arrested unexpectedly, and the police found the piece of paper among her things. The man was arrested for the first time shortly afterward.
“During these years, I’ve received frequent phone calls from the police. Whenever I leave the local area for a few days, the police will come to my home to question me,” the man said with a sense of helplessness. “I’m like a prisoner now. Wherever I go, I’m always being monitored.” The surveillance continues even though he has never been religious.
A police officer from the northeast province of Liaoning who participated in the Operation Thunder that targeted members of the CAG, arresting 700 of them in just three days last year, said: “The government is going after CAG and Falun Gong most aggressively now. They would rather make a thousand wrongful arrests than let off a single person.”
The CCP places religious groups like Falun Gong and the CAG on a list of xie jiao and carries out the most severe crackdown against them. Meanwhile, the CCP misleadingly conflates xie jiao with those religious groups in Western countries that are called “cults” as a way to justify its actions.
Subjected to strict control for life
Even more worrying is the fact that the groundless monitoring and suppression, for which there is no legal basis, is likely to accompany people for the rest of their lives.
On April 17, an 81-year-old woman who lives in a village in Liaoning’s Shenyang city was questioned by the police because she was a member of Falun Gong for four months more than 20 years ago. “They come to question her every year. It still hasn’t ended?” the woman’s daughter said helplessly.
A woman from Henan has been subjected to government control for 18 years. In 2001, she was sentenced to imprisonment for practicing Falun Gong. She later gave up her faith because of the vigorous persecution, but the CCP’s control over her was by no means lessened.
To date, her ID card still labels her as a “xie jiao member.” She needs to show the card every time she travels by train or bus. When she goes out of town to stay at her daughter’s home for a few days, the police come to question her. What she is most unable to accept is that after her nephew was admitted to a naval academy in 2016, his admission was revoked because of her faith, which has left her with a heavy psychological burden.
The woman feels uncomfortable being mocked by neighbors and friends, and even more afraid of implicating other people. She often spends time alone and is unwilling to be in contact with others.
It seems that the label of “xie jiao member” will stick with her for the rest of her life.
Last updated on June 4, 2019.