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News Summaries from ICSA PeriodicalsThis page includes information on Chinese groups other than Falun Gong, which has its own page.

China:Christians arrested by Communist regime are accused of belonging to “evilcults”

“Several Christianshave been arrested in China’s southwestern Yunnan province and accusedof belonging to ‘evil cults,’ according to persecution watchdog group ChinaAid. The arrests occurred between Oct. 22–Nov. 27, though the exact number ofChristians apprehended by authorities is not yet known, China Aid reported onThursday. … The ruling Communist Party has been engaged in a widespread crackdown on Christian churches this past year, watchdog groups have said,with several Christians and human rights activists detained for protestingagainst forced church demolitions and the arrest of other activists. AnotherChina Aid report revealed that authorities also arrested two Christian summercamp leaders in August in the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region,accusing them of trying to ‘brainwash’ children. ‘Both women were accused ofindoctrinating minors with superstitious beliefs. Chinese law forbids religiousteaching to anyone under the age of 18, believing matters of faith to bedangerous brainwashing from which children must be protected,’ the groupexplained back then. ‘Christian parents and church leaders can facedisciplinary action from officials for involving their children in anyChristian activities.’ In November, two Canadian lawyers claimed thatChristians could very well be victims of a long-standing forcedorgan-harvesting scheme that targets prisoners.” (Christian Post, 12/23/16) [IT8.2]

China’s Crackdown on Sects Concerns Mainstream Churches

A recent campaign by China’s government to crack down on fringe sects concerns many mainstream churches. With voices muted by censors, human-rights advocates and some mainstream religious leaders in China say the latest anticult campaign is misguided and frequently violates Chinese law. Teng Biao, a defense lawyer who has represented Falun Gong members in the past, said the most recent roundups were politically motivated by the government’s deeply rooted fear of organized religion, especially of groups it cannot control. “This is an effort to eradicate an entire group of believers, not just the ones who committed crimes,” he said.

Likewise, New York Times contributing columnist Murong Xuecun suggests that the antireligion campaign “is not borne of concern for public security stemming from a horrific murder,” but is instead “a concerted effort to bring independent churches and their followers into line, … the government’s way of strengthening its control of society.”

On May 28, a woman named Wu Shuoyan was beaten to death in a McDonald’s restaurant in Zhaoyuan in China’s Shandong Province while people stood idly by. The state broadcaster closed-circuit TV (CCTV) announced that Wu Shuoyan’s murderers were members of the Church of Almighty God, or Quannengshen, also known as Eastern Lightning, a Christian sect, and implied that the killers’ faith had to do with their act.

Soon after the killing, the Xinhua news agency reported that authorities had rounded up about fifteen hundred cult members. Xinhua’s report said that among those arrested, 59 had already been handed prison terms of up to 4 years. The agency said those arrested included members of another Christian group known as Disciples Sect, and it appears many of those were arrested as early as 2012.

Then, on June 1, Pastor Wang Yi of the Early Rain Reformed Church in Chengdu, China was arrested as he distributed leaflets against forced abortion and was held briefly. Three days later, Mr. Wang was detained again; arresting officers released him after 12 hours of interrogation.

A few days later the government published its list of 20 active “cults.” Since then, Chinese TV channels and newspapers have issued warnings about the dangers of “evil cults,” which community organizations, authorities, and schools have been supporting.

The anticult campaign extends to more-mainstream religious practices, including a barrage of attacks on China’s underground Christian churches. As a perceived “foreign” religion, Christianity and the growing numbers of Christians in China make the Chinese leadership particularly nervous. A September 2012 policy document on the Religious Affairs Bureau’s website stated that unlawful religious groups are “threatening China’s national security.”

2010 government figures put the number of Christians in China at 23 million. A Pew Research Center 2014 estimate is that Christians account for around 5.1 percent, or 67 million of the Chinese population, with 58 million Protestants and 9 million Catholics.

Chinese Groups. “Legal” and “Illegal” Christians. China has two classes of Christian churches: The legal group consists of state-approved congregations. The illegal group includes “home churches” or “underground churches,” independent congregations that operate without state approval.

But even legal churches are fair game for the government in this latest crackdown. Churches once treated as legal now face persecution, and at least ten of them have had crosses destroyed or have been completely demolished. After decades of antireligion propaganda, many Chinese people remain ignorant about religion and are easily manipulated into viewing foreign faiths as evil sects.

A June 1 CCTV report outlined the “six characteristics of evil cults,” which a legal “expert” said included the cult of personality, immorality, and restrictions of individual and spiritual freedom. As many Chinese people took to the Internet with renewed antireligious fervor to thank the government for exposing the true nature of “evil cults,” columnist Murong Xuecun commented that “the name of the biggest cult is hidden in plain view: the Communist Party.” (The New York Times, 6/11/14; 6/17/14) [IT 5.3]
Chinese Groups. China Arrests “Nearly 1,000” Members of Illegal Cult

In a recent update according to the state news agency Xinhua, Chinese authorities have arrested “nearly a thousand” members of the religious group, Church of Almighty God or Quannengshen, the latest in a series of official moves against a group that China has outlawed as an illegal cult. China has sentenced dozens of followers since the murder of a woman at a fast-food restaurant by suspected members of the group in June sparked a national outcry.

Among those currently arrested were 100 “high-level organizers and backbone members,” Xinhua said, citing a statement from the Ministry of Public Security. The murder trial is set to open on Thursday, Xinhua said. (Reuters, 8/19/14) [IT 5.3]

The head of the Chinese State Administration of Religious Affairs, Wang Zuoan, acknowledged recently that although religion could be a force for good, the ruling party aims to help people take a scientific view of aging, sickness, and death, as well as fortune and misfortune. However, the process to achieving an atheist worldview will be a long one, he said, adding that 

Religion has been around for a very long time, and if we rush to try to push for results and want to immediately “liberate” people from the influence of religion, religion can become a lure, then it will have the opposite effect and push people in the opposite direction.
China has generally avoided extreme repression of religious groups, and has even tried to co-opt them in recent years. Wang concluded,
Religion basically upholds peace, reconciliation, and harmony … and can play its role in society. But due to various complex factors, religion can become a lure for unrest and antagonism. Looking at the state of religion in the world today, we must be very clear on this point. (Reuters, 4/21/13)  [IT4.3]
Tsering Namgyal, a writer from Tibet living in New York, says, “In an abrupt and unexpected reversal of policy, Chinese officials have told monks in some Tibetan areas that they can stop criticizing the Dalai Lama; they are now free to ‘worship’ him as a religious leader.” Namgyal describes the policy as an “experiment.” China hopes to separate the Dalai Lama’s religious and political roles. The new policy seems an expression of Beijing’s growing accommodation to Tibetan culture to help ensure stability in the country. (IHT Rendezvous, 6/27/13) [IT4.3]

Practitioners of Qigong in China, having been suppressed by the government for using their self-proclaimed supernatural spiritual powers to cure disease, among other things, have made a comeback. Some now minister to an elite clientele drawn from politics, entertainment, and business. Qigong master Wang Lin, who has become a multimillionaire, fled to Hong Kong not long ago, accused of swindling, illegal medical practice, illegal gun ownership, and bribery. Legitimate Qigong practitioners in China and the United States consider Wang Lin and others like him to be frauds. (Global Times, 8/19/13) [IT5.1]

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