News Summaries from ICSA Periodicals
Five from Church of Almighty God cult jailed in China
Following a conviction of six members of the Church of Almighty God in Hubei province for “brainwashing,” a court in Wuhan sentenced five Church members to between 3 and 4 years in prison because they were found guilty of recording “cult training materials,” and using mobile phones, laptops, and voice recorders in September, the Wuhan Evening News has reported. “They spread the materials among cult members and others,” the newspaper said. “They also communicated with each other with handwritten notes taken during the training in order to ‘cultivate dissemination talents.’” More than 1,000 Church of Almighty God members have been arrested over the past year. (ucanews.com, 7/2/15) [IT 6.3 2015]
Members of China’s “house church” movement—an officially illegal but generally tolerated community of tens of millions of Christians—claim their members have also been caught up in the police action related to the Church of Almighty God. One unnamed Christian leader from Guizhou province said authorities were “using the crackdown on cults as an opportunity to crack down on house churches.” Other Christian leaders said they believed poorly trained police were targeting orthodox congregations they had confused with potentially dangerous cults.
Since the anticult crackdown began in May, there has been a spike in reports of raids on house churches across at least nine provinces or regions, including Guizhou, Shandong, Yunan, and other regions in northern China. Pastors reported unannounced police searches without warrants, harassment, and detention and retention of parishioners without due cause and labeling some churches as cults “without investigation.”
Beijing unveiled plans for more severe punishments for those involved in proscribed cults this week. Under new draft laws, a person will face three to seven years in prison for organizing “a religious institution or cult organization” that spreads “superstition to undermine national laws or regulations.” In more severe cases “such as acts resulting in a mass incident or causing the death or serious injury of others” sentences will range from seven years to the death penalty, the China Daily reported. (The Telegraph, 10/30/14) [IT 6.1 2015]
As a follow-up to previous reports, the Yantai Intermediate People’s Court of China has sentenced to death a daughter and her father who are members of the banned religious cult Quannengshen, the Church of Almighty God, for intentional homicide in the murder of a woman in a McDonald’s restaurant. Members of the group attacked the woman in May in the eastern province of Shandong for refusing an attempt by the group to recruit her. The Court sentenced another member of the group to life in prison and two other members to 10- and 7-year prison terms, respectively.
Following the McDonald’s murder, state media reported that Chinese authorities had arrested 1,000 more cult members in addition to the 1,300-plus members arrested in 2012 on other charges. “The suspects … seized since June … are allegedly involved in more than 500 cases,” Xinhua state news agency said. “Among them are nearly a hundred ‘high-level organizers and backbone members.’” (Reuters, 10/11/14; Washington Post, 10/15/14) [IT 6.1 2015]
The nationwide suppression of the Church of Almighty God (Eastern Lightning) has seen the arrest of some 1,000 followers of the quasi-Christian group, one of China’s most aggressive millenarian sects. Followers believe that Christ has been reincarnated as a woman in central China and is on a mission to lead the faithful against the government. Recruitment focuses on disenfranchised people in the poorest rural areas and in underground house churches, as well as on members of state-sanctioned Catholic and Protestant congregations. The government estimates that Eastern Lightning followers number close to 1 million. The sect uses songs set to Communist anthems and is said to provide small loans and even sexual favors as inducements to join. According to a member, who is also a government spy, “This religion is extremely hard to smash because they often only have single points of contact between separate levels. It’s actually very similar to the Communist party during its underground revolutionary phase.” (Financial Times, 12/20/12) [IT 4.1 2013]