CHINA: Over 11,000 Church of Almighty God believers arrested, 20 died from mistreatment in 2018
Annual report documents escalation of oppression by authorities
345 escapees have applied for refugee status in South Korea
SEOUL, March 20, 2019– Over 11,000 members of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) were arrested in China last year and 20 died as a result of mistreatment, seven of them killed in extrajudicial interrogation units as part of a crackdown on unapproved faiths, according to an annual report for 2018 published by the church.
Some 6,757 were held in detention centers and 685 undergone torture orforced indoctrination, the report says.
The report, published in English as “The 2018 Annual Report on the Chinese Communist Government’s Persecution of The Church of Almighty God,” says that at least 400,000 CAG Christians were arrested between 2011 and 2017, and that there are 101 well-documented cases of believers who have died as a result of persecution since the Church’s establishment.
“The suppression of The Church of Almighty God, along with the persecution of members of Falun Gong and the forced indoctrination of Chinese Moslems, represents a disturbing level of contempt for human rights,” said Massimo Introvigne, the founder of the Center for Studies on New Religions(CESNUR) and an expert on new religious movements around the world. “As improving lifestyles and a greater desire for freedom challenge the orthodoxy of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, the repression isgetting worse.”
Dr. Introvigne said that while he was not able to independently confirm the figures, he found the report credible. “Given the situation in China, figures are impossible to verify. However, in my considered opinion they are believable. Chinese media report almost weekly that hundreds of members of the Church have been arrested in one province or another. In December 2018, the Chinese financial newspaper Caixin Global Newsreported that “within the past eight months, 1,500 police officers have been deployed in anti-cult projects that target The Church of Almighty God” in Qinghai province only.”
In its summary of the escalating persecution in 2018, the report says:
- Some 23,567 CAG believers were directly persecuted in 30 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities in Mainland China
- Of these, 12,456 suffered harassment, including having their personal information collected, and being forced to sign “statement of guarantee” renouncing their faith.
- At least 11,111 were arrested
- Some 6,757 have been held in detention for varying periods
- Of this number, 685 experienced torture or forced indoctrination
- Eight people were sentenced to prison terms of 10-13 years
- At least 20 have died as a result of mistreatment
- Of these, seven died at extrajudicial interrogation units, such as “transformation through indoctrination” centers
- At least 300 million RMB (about USD 44 million) of church finds and personal assets was unlawfully seized
Authorities in China have used the country’sSharp Eyes Projectemploying the network of surveillance cameras to monitor and track CAG believers. Among the sweeps conducted, 700 people were arrested from June 26-28 in Liaoning Province and 521 were arrested in a single day in September in Zhejiang Province.
Members are taken to forced indoctrination centers established in mountain villa resorts and hotels and attempt to pressure them to renounce their faith and hand over all information on the Church. This involves sleep deprivation, intense interrogation and in some cases torture.
The report documents international reaction to the worsening human rights plight of CAG members in China.
Notably in 2018, during the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of China, 13 NGOs submitted reports concerning human rights and demanded China stop its persecution of CAG members. The US State Department’s Human Rights Report 2018, released this month, notes the “systematic torture”of members reported by The Church of Almighty God. The bipartisan US Congress Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission adopted CAG figure Mo Xiufengas a prisoner of conscience.
An untold number of CAG members, believed to be several thousand, have fled overseas and applied for refugee status. New Zealand and Canada have accepted 100 percent and 90 percent of these applications respectively.
Around 1,000 CAG members are in South Korea applying to be accepted as refugees and permitted to stay. So, far, none of their applications have been accepted.
The report claims that the authorities have also resorted to fake newsand other means in a bid to influence asylum applications by CAG members who have fled to Korea and other democratic countries.
|About The Church of Almighty God
The Church of Almighty God is a new Chinese church. Since its establishment in 1991, the church has grown rapidly and now has members throughout China. As a new religious movement outside of those approved by the Chinese Communist Party, the church has suffered severe persecution. The church has four congregations in South Korea.
Please find the 2018 Annual Report here:
About the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR)
Established in Italy in 1988, CESNUR is the largest international organization of scholars specialized in the study of new religions and religious movements. It maintains a library of some 70,000 volumes in Italy and has organized so far 31 yearly international conferences in all continents, including one in South Korea. It is the editor of the bi-monthly academic journal The Journal of CESNUR, which has published several articles on Korean new religions and by Korean scholars. While founded by a Roman Catholic sociologist, Massimo Introvigne, its international board includes scholars of all faiths.
An academic rather than an advocacy organization, CESNUR has however raised its voice in defense of religious liberty and human rights, when they have been threatened by the actions of both some governments and religious movements that have committed real crimes.
About religious liberty and human rights in China, see the CESNUR publication Bitter Winter:
Bitter Winter is an online magazine published in English, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, Spanish and German.
It was launched in May 2018 by the Center for Studies on New Religions, headquartered in Torino, Italy. Scholars, journalists, and human rights activists from different countries are working together to give the voice for the voiceless by publishing news, documents, and testimonies about persecutions against all religions in China.
The unique feature of Bitter Winter is its network of several hundred correspondents in all Chinese provinces. At high risk for their security – some have been arrested – they report daily on what happens in China and how religions are treated or mistreated. They often supply exclusive photographs and videos.
Placed under the editorship of Massimo Introvigne, one of the most well-known scholars of religion internationally, Bitter Winter receives some of its reports directly from members of religious minorities and organizations persecuted in China. However, it is independent of any religious or political organization and is mostly the fruit of volunteer work, although donations are gladly accepted. Bitter Winter does not take positions on political issues and limits itself to the field of human rights.
For more information, please contact: