For the first time, a prisoner of The Church of Almighty God detained in China is “adopted” by the bipartisan Lantos Commission of the US Congress.
On September 24, 2008, H. Res. 1451 created the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, as a bipartisan body of the House of Representatives for the international advocacy of human rights. It was named after U.S. Democrat Congressman Tom Lantos (1928–2008), a well-known champion of human rights. Perhaps the most well-known activity of the Lantos Commission is the “adoption” of prisoners of conscience, which started in 2012. When a prisoner of conscience is “adopted,” the Lantos Commission, through one or more members of the House, releases information about him or her, urges the Department of State and the White House to prioritize the prisoner’s case, urges the government of the country to release the prisoner, and ensures that U.S. delegations traveling to the country in which the prisoner is detained raise concerns about the prisoner.
For the first time, on January 28, 2019, the Lantos Commission has adopted a prisoner of conscience of The Church of Almighty God (CAG), a Christian new religious movement banned in China and included in the list of the xie jiao.
The name of the prisoner is Mo Xiufeng. She was born on April 16, 1988, and is a native of Nanning City, Guangxi. She lived in No.8, Building 29, Qiaowang Community, Hecheng Town, Qingtian County, Lishui City, Zhejiang Province. In 2011 she became a Christian, and in 2012 she joined The Church of Almighty God.
At around 5 p.m. on July 2, 2017, six or seven plainclothes police officers from the National Security Brigade of the Public Security Bureau in Lishui City, Zhejiang Province burst into the rented apartment where Mo Xiufeng lived, and screamed at her and her husband that they were suspected of being members of a xie jiao. After ransacking the apartment, they confiscated several CAG books and other materials. The police then took Mo Xiufeng and her husband to the Wanxiang Police Station in Liandu District Branch, Lishui City, for interrogation.
At 9 o’clock in the morning on July 3, officers escorted Mo Xiufeng to the East West Rock Hotel in Shaxi Village, Laozhu Town, Lishui City, where they attempted to make her relinquish her beliefs, give up the names of co-religionists and the location where CAG funds were kept, and become an informant for the Chinese authorities so that they could arrest more CAG members and confiscate CAG assets.
When Mo Xiufeng refused to give any information, the police tortured her and prevented her from sleeping for several days. As soon as she started nodding off, they
would have her stand on a bench so that she dared not close her eyes. After 18 days of torture, the police had to conclude they had been ultimately unsuccessful. Mo Xiufeng will keep her faith and will not become an informant.
On July 21, the Liandu District Branch of the Public Security Bureau in Lishui City charged Mo Xiufeng with the crime of “organizing and using a xie jiao”. She was taken into criminal custody at the Lishui City Detention Center.
On March 1, 2018, the People’s Court of Liandu District in Lishui City sentenced Mo Xiufeng to nine years in prison (from July 21, 2017, to July 20, 2026) and fined her 30,000 RMB (about $4,500), having found her guilty of the crime punished by Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code. Article 300 makes “using” a xie jiao a criminal offense punishable with a 3 to 7 years “or more” jail penalty. The formula normally used in the court decisions is “using a xie jiao to undermine the enforcement of the law.” However, the case of Mo Xiufeng, like many others, confirms that no other crime is needed to apply Article 300 than being active in a religious group listed and banned as a xie jiao. Mo Xiufeng was sentenced to nine years having been recognized as a local leader of a xie jiao, but Art. 300 is routinely enforced also against members who are not leaders. In fact, 11 other CAG members who had been arrested on the same day as Mo Xiufeng, were also sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to eight years and fined between 5,000 RMB (about 730 US dollars) and 20,000 RMB (about $3,000).
To this day, Mo Xiufeng and six other co-religionists remain imprisoned in China. But the “adoption” of Mo Xiufeng by the Lantos Commission is a sign they have not been forgotten.