1.1 In 2019, Religious Persecution in China Generally Worsened Under Xi Jinping’s Rule
In 2019, authorities of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) headed by Xi Jinping continued to make strong efforts to implement the new Regulations on Religious Affairs throughout the country and to accelerate the “Sinicization” of religion. Claiming that “Religion is vying against the Party in every field for ideological territory and people’s hearts,” authorities have comprehensively suppressed religious belief in order to realize their preposterous aim to “accelerate and promote the demise of religion” and to establish China as a “zone of atheism.” The CCP has tried to ban all house churches that have declined to become part of the official churches. As for the religions under official control, the CCP has transformed them into the image of communism and socialism, requiring all religions to reinterpret their doctrines and canons according to “core socialist values,” as well as rewrite classic religious texts such as the Bible and the Quran. New regulations have also been promulgated requiring religious groups to obey CCP leadership and to “spread the principles and policies of the CCP.” Authorities have been suppressing religious groups such as The Church of Almighty God, the Shouters, and the All Sphere Church under the guise of “cleaning up gang crime and eliminating evil,” equating this with preventing “Color Revolutions” and fighting terrorism, making it a primary part of the work of “safeguarding the regime’s security.” Under the totalitarian repression of the CCP, there has been an overall deterioration in the situation regarding religious persecution in China.
In Xinjiang, nearly three million Muslims are still being held indefinitely in reeducation concentration camps. The “Xinjiang strike method” has spread throughout the entire country; mosques have been demolished and Arabic language schools have been banned; a great number of house churches, Three Self churches, and Catholic gathering places have been shut down; pastors, priests, and believers have been arrested and given heavy sentences. The CCP has continued to make great efforts to tear down outdoor Buddhist and Taoist statues and temples; in Tibet, thousands of monks and nuns have been detained, mistreated, and subjected to torture. The CCP has also conducted sweeps for the Bible and other religious literature and burned it all in the name of “eradicating pornography and illegal publications,” and anything pertaining to religion has been completely removed from all school textbooks. The Communist Party has forced religious personnel to integrate socialist values and pro-Party content into their sermons; it has forced believers to sing “red” songs, and to assist in planting false religious leaders within religious institutions. In addition, the CCP has done its utmost to bestow “divinity” upon its leaders: Xi Jinping Thought has encroached upon religious sites; portraits of Xi Jinping have replaced those of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the cross; books of Xi Jinping’s theory have replaced religious materials; Xi Jinping has established himself as a “god.” This is very much akin to a reenactment of the Cultural Revolution. Among all religious groups persecuted in China, The Church of Almighty God has suffered severe suppression and persecution by the CCP in particular. According to incomplete statistics, in 2019, at least 32,815 CAG Christians were arrested or harassed by the authorities simply because of their belief in Almighty God. Among them, 6,132 members were arrested; 3,824 members suffered various forms of torture and forced indoctrination; 1,355 members were sentenced, with 12 members given harsh punishment of 10 years in prison or more. It is well-documented that 19 believers died as a result of persecution that year.
As for the situation surrounding religion in China today, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom held from July 15 to 18, 2019, “China is home to one of the worst human rights crises of our time; it is truly the stain of the century.” On January 8, 2020, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) issued its 2019 Annual Report, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Co-chair of CECC, criticized the state of human rights in China under Xi Jinping’s rule at the press conference, saying that there is no worst, just worse.
1.2 Overview of the CCP’s Persecution of The Church of Almighty God
The Church of Almighty God (CAG) is a new Christian church in China which came into being because of the appearance and work of Almighty God. Since its establishment in 1991, it has suffered frantic suppression at the hands of the CCP. In 1995, the CCP added The Church of Almighty God, the Shouters, the All Range Church and many other Christian house churches on its xie jiao list, and began to cruelly suppress and persecute them. According to incomplete statistics, just between 2011 and the end of 2019, more than 400,000 CAG Christians were arrested by the Chinese authorities, and it is well-documented that the number of believers who have died as a result of persecution since the Church’s establishment has reached 146.
The No. 1 Central Committee Document issued for 2019 by the CCP demanded ongoing severe crackdowns on the CAG and other house churches. In early 2019, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) mobilized a special operation to “continue to promote digging out and cracking down” on the CAG, designating this as one of its important tasks for “maintaining stability.” Confidential government documents regarding strikes against the Church have been issued across the entire country, demanding that focus be placed on destroying and banning gathering places, arresting primary leaders, seizing church donations, and carrying out the fight both at home and abroad, in order to realize the goal to “fully identify and destroy” the Church.
Soon after, another round of operations to suppress and persecute the CAG swept across mainland China. The CCP used a combination of sophisticated surveillance technology along with entering and searching homes to carry out blanket raids of CAG Christians. Church members in every region have faced large-scale arrests, home searches, brutal torture, forced indoctrination and transformation, and long-term surveillance and harassment. According to incomplete statistics, in 2019, at least 32,815 CAG Christians were directly persecuted by the authorities simply because they believed in Almighty God, and because they engaged in such normal church activities as attending gatherings and preaching the gospel. In 30 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities in mainland China, at least 26,683 Church members have suffered harassment, including having their personal information collected, being forced to sign “statements of guarantee” which would mean renouncing their faith, being forced to be photographed, recorded on video and monitored, and having their fingerprints, blood samples and hair collected, etc.; at least 6,132 members have been arrested, and among them 4,161 members have been held in detention either for short or long periods, with 3,824 members suffering all manner of cruel tortures and forced indoctrination; 1,355 members have been sentenced, with 481 members given severe sentences of 3 years or more, 64 members given sentences of 7 years or more, and 12 members having been sentenced to 10 years or more, among whom, Xiang Caihua and Cui Jing from Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region were sentenced to 12 years in prison, and Ouyang Qiuping in the same region was arrested twice for believing in God and sentenced to 15 and a half years in prison in total. The European human rights organizations, Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) and the Association for the Defense of Human Rights and Religious Freedom (ADHRRF) have published the information of 4,169 CAG members detained in the year 2019 in their database of prisoners of conscience. That year, at least 19 believers died as a result of persecution; at least RMB 390 million (about USD 56.8 million) was unlawfully seized (including both church money and personal assets). The figures above only represent a portion of the CAG Christians victimized by the CCP during the past year. Due to the severity of the persecution, the majority of the data cannot be recorded.
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