As is well known, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is an atheist revolutionary party that believes in atheism, materialism, and evolution. It has publicly declared that “there has never been any Savior.” Its ideological and theoretical basis is Marxism-Leninism, and its ruling program is “the Party leads all,” “the Party commands all,” and “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Its slogan is to eliminate all capitalism, eliminate all religious beliefs, make communism a reality, and make China, even the world into a territory without God. Since coming to power, it resorts to unscrupulous means to attack, condemn, and even eradicate all parties, groups or individuals with different political views and perspectives. Since Jinping Xi took office, the CCP has escalated its suppression and persecution of religious beliefs, especially of Christianity. Many Christians were forced to flee their families and homeland to overseas countries. We are Christians from The Church of Almighty God (CAG), a Christian house church suffering the CCP’s most grievous persecution in China, so we fled to the democratic Australia to seek asylum. But we never imagined that some of our applications for asylum would be rejected, and we’re facing the danger of repatriation.So far in Australia, more than 30 Christians’ protection applications were rejected from our group but some countries have begun to understand and acknowledge the persecution of Chinese Christians who are similar like us and granted them asylum. In Canada and New Zealand, asylum approval rates for members from our group have reached 90% and 100% respectively.Our hope is that sympathetic groups and individuals in Australia as well as more international organizations, human rights agencies, and religious groups will take notice of and learn about the background and facts of the persecution we’ve suffered and the circumstances behind our applications for asylum. We’d like our voices to be heard.
Overview of the CCP’s Persecution of Main Religious Groups in Mainland China Since Its Taking Power in 1949
(I) Overview of the Persecution of Protestantism and Catholicism
Soon after taking power in 1949, the CCP began to manically suppress and crack down on a wide array of religions including Protestantism and Catholicism. The CCP’s documents on suppressing the religious beliefs condemned Protestantism and Catholicism as cults, confiscated and burned countless copies of the Bible after condemning it as a cult book, tipped countless Bibles shipped from overseas to China into the sea, expelled foreign missionaries, subjected Chinese preachers to imprisonment and reform, and arrested and brutalized countless Protestants and Catholics. In 1952, the CCP sentenced the well-known Christian leader Watchmen Nee (Ni Tuosheng) to 15 years in prison on the charge of a “counterrevolutionary.” He was kept locked up until he died. In 1954, Christian pastor Wang Mingdao was sentenced to life imprisonment on the same charge and he was released 22 years later. During the Cultural Revolution, all churches, including the Three-Self Church, were closed and either requisitioned or occupied by the state. All religious activities were prohibited. Christians were condemned as “monsters and demons” and “counterrevolutionaries,” subjected to struggle sessions, and arrested and imprisoned. It became almost impossible for them to gather together. The CCP has also outlawed the officially-recognized Three-Self Church, demolishing all Three-Self Church property and tearing down any crosses attached to buildings. According to VOA, during the Chinese government’s War on the Cross in recent years, more than two thousand crosses were forcibly demolished and over ten thousand churches have been banned.
On February 1, 2018, the CCP began to implement its new Regulations on Religious Affairs, thereby throwing a cloak of legitimacy over Xi Jinping’s “Sinicization” of religion policy and further exposing the evil purpose behind the CCP’s attempts to completely ban religious beliefs and eradicate all religions in China. After these regulations were implemented, the situation of religious belief in China has wholly deteriorated: When religious believers engage in religious activities, they are forced to sing the “Red Songs,” raise the national flag and study the so-called CCP policies; images of the Lord Jesus were forcibly torn off in religious venues and replaced with portraits of Chairman Mao and President Xi Jinping; all Bibles have been removed from online sale and the CCP reportedly proposed to launch a revised compilation of the Bible and tamper with the contents of the Bible; huge numbers of Christians from house churches have been arrested, then subjected to brutal torture and harsh sentences. Some have even been beaten to the point of disability or death. Regarding the current state of religion in China, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) issued its 2018 Annual Report. CECC Co-Chairperson Chris Smith, a U.S. Congressman, pointed out that over the past year, the Chinese government has intensified its most severe crackdown on all religious faith since the Cultural Revolution.
(II) Overview of the Persecution of Tibetan Buddhism and Taoism
In the early days of its administration from 1949, the CCP wantonly destroyed temples, burned copies of Scripture, confiscated temple assets, and forced monks and nuns to return to secular life and marry. Following the establishment of Chinese Buddhist Association and Chinese Taoist Association, the CCP branded Buddhist monks and Taoist priests who refused to accept the associations’ oversight as “counterrevolutionaries.” These people were then imprisoned and subjected to forced labor; some were even executed. During the 6th Tibet Work Symposium in 2015, Xi Jinping announced that the doctrines and teachings of Tibetan Buddhism were to be altered to make them more amenable to “socialism with Chinese characteristics” and the leadership of the CCP. Tibetans who carry out peaceful protests are habitually charged with “threatening national security” and “destroying social stability.” They are then given long detention, torture and sentence. Over several decades of tyrannical rule in Tibet, over one million Tibetans have died of starvation, persecution, or from being shot.
(III) Overview of the Persecution of Islam
Since it came to power in 1949, the CCP has also aggressively suppressed and persecuted Islam. Many mosques have been destroyed. Since the mid-1990s, the CCP has strictly controlled all aspects of Islam and prohibited clerics and believers from engaging in any religious activities. The CCP also conducts annual campaigns to suppress Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, with thousands of Uyghurs arrested and detained each year for “illegal religious activities.” Xinjiang has the highest number of executions for “endangering national security” out of any province in China. From 1997 to 2001 alone, more than 200 people were sentenced to death. In recent years, in order to achieve the “sinicization” of religion, the CCP has launched devastating campaigns aimed at suppressing religion and cleansing Xinjiang of its native population. It has built a large number of “re-education concentration camps” for holding Uyghurs. According to the available information, as of 2018, at least one million Uyghur Muslims have been mistreated in the camps and countless Muslim families torn apart. (BBC U.N.: China secretly detained 1 Million Uyghurs to “indoctrinate” them with policy Link attached)
The Background and Cause of the Persecution of The Church of Almighty God
The Church of Almighty God (CAG) is a new Christian church in China and has about 4,000,000 Christians in Mainland China. Since its establishment in 1991, it has suffered frantic suppression and severe persecution 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 xiejiao list, and furthermore began to cruelly suppress and persecute them. In the past 20 years, the oppression and persecution enacted by the CCP against the CAG continues to escalate and at least one tenth of CAG Christians have been subject to arrest and detention.
The reason why the CAG suffers such cruel persecution at the hands of the CCP is that, ever since Almighty God appeared to perform His work, He has expressed many millions of words to uncover all the mysteries held within the Bible and deliver all truths necessary for the purification and salvation of mankind, thus enabling people to have a true understanding of the work and disposition of God, to be cleansed of their corruption, and to attain His salvation. The number of people who have studied and accepted the work of Almighty God therefore continues to grow and the Church is rapidly developing, which has aroused the panic and hatred of the CCP.
The Church of Almighty God Suffers the Harshest Persecution Among All House Churches in 2018
In early 2018, the Chinese authorities launched various campaigns to crack down on the CAG throughout all provinces and cities in China. Thousands of arrest operations were launched throughout the course of the year, both large and small (descriptions of a portion of the operations are attached).There was a huge spike in the numbers of Christians arrested in every region.
According to incomplete statistics, in 2018, at least 23,567 CAG Christians were directly persecuted by the authorities across the country simply because they believed in Almighty God, and because they engaged in such normal church activities as attending gatherings and preaching the gospel. At least 12,456 Church members have suffered harassment, including having their personal information collected, being forced to sign “statement 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 11,111 members have been arrested, and among them 6,757 members have been held in detention either for short or long periods, with 685 members suffering all manner of cruel tortures and forced indoctrination; 392 members have been sentenced, with half that number given severe sentences of 3 years or more and 8 members having been sentenced to more than 10 years, among whom, Bao Shuguang, a Christian from Shandong Province, was sentenced to 13 years in prison; at least 20 Christians have died as a result of persecution, among whom 7 have died at such extrajudicial interrogation units as “transformation through forced indoctrination centers”; at least 300 million RMB (about 62 million AUD) has been unlawfully seized (including both church money and personal assets). The above-mentioned statistics are just a small portion of the information concerning the CCP’s persecution of CAG Christians in 2018 alone. Because of the severity of this persecution, it is simply impossible to collate the vast majority of the information.
The CCP’s Sinister Hand Reaches CAG Christians Abroad
The CCP has not stopped at wantonly arresting and persecuting Christians within mainland China, but it has found some exiled CAG Christians’ family members who are still in China and coerced them to go to South Korea to create disturbances. But what the CCP hadn’t anticipated was that the confidential document regarding the implementation of that plan was exposed by Bitter Winter, a publication revealing and unveiling the situation of human rights in China to the West. From August 30 to September 4, 2018, the CCP secretly orchestrated false protests outside CAG in Onsu, South Korea and the Blue House (the executive office and official residence of the South Korean head of state, the President of the Republic of Korea) to falsely claim that CAG Christians are not real refugees. They fabricated fake news and rumors in an attempt to pressure the South Korean government to repatriate these Christians. This false demonstration put on by the CCP was fully documented by Peter Zoehrer, an Australian reporter and Secretary General of FOREF (the Forum for Religious Freedom Europe) and an exposé was published in Bitter Winter.
Denials of CAG Christians’ Asylum Applications in Australia
The CCP government has made every effort to get Christians who have fled to democratic countries extradited to China. It has been relentless in putting diplomatic and economic pressure on these democratic countries, and it has trained and planted large numbers of special operatives. It has also fabricated a great deal of fake news smearing and discrediting The Church of Almighty God, causing a number of these countries’ governments to refuse political asylum to CAG Christians due to CCP pressure or being influenced by the fake news created by the Party.
Countries throughout the world hold a variety of attitudes toward CAG Christians, but Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, and some US jurisdictions have all recognized the reality of the CCP’s persecution of The Church of Almighty God and have granted asylum to its members. There have been similar rulings in Italy recently. The US Congress’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission has also acknowledged the persecution of the Church, and on January 28, 2019 listed its first case of a CAG prisoner of conscience, Mo Xiufeng (female, 31 years old, sentenced to nine years in prison in 2018). However, authorities in Australia have rejected Christians’ asylum requests with all sorts of reasons and excuses.
Several specific examples are provided below for further analysis.
(I) Australian Authorities Believe That CAG Christians Lack Adequate Understanding of Their Own Faith and Thus Claim That They Are Not Church Members
The UNHCR’s (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) 2004 Guidelines on International Protection states that “individuals may be persecuted on the basis of their religion even though they have little or no substantive knowledge of its tenets or practices” and that a deep knowledge of a religion’s theology is not necessary (UNHCR 2004, HCR/GIP/04/06, no. 30).
Professor Massimo lntrovigne, the managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) in Italy, also talked about the above-mentioned point in his new book Exploring The Church of Almighty God, “In some specific cases, in fact asylum seekers’ answers did not conform to the tenets of the religion as depicted in the ‘sources’ available to immigration authorities. The ‘sources’ mentioned, however, were not CAG’s normative sacred texts, nor were they part of the scholarly literature. The authorities sometimes relied on media articles, which simply translated or repeated Chinese governmental sources. For instance, when church members stated that the McDonald’s murder in 2014 was not committed by members of the CAG, they were accused of not knowing the CAG.”
“It is of course possible that somebody falsely claims to be a member of the CAG. As mentioned earlier, however, the CAG has developed an effective system for communicating with its underground communities and determining who was a bona fide member in China. In most diaspora countries, there are incorporated local bodies able to certify who is a member and who is not. When this certification exists, there should be no reason to reject asylum requests by CAG members. Their status as members of the CAG is enough to justify a ‘credible fear of persecution’ and, should they be compelled to return to China, they would be arrested and sentenced to long jail terms, or worse” (refer to Exploring The Church of Almighty God).
(II) Australian Authorities Believe That the CCP Only Targets CAG Leaders and Evangelizers, While Regular Christians Do Not Face the Danger of Arrest
In 1995, the CCP openly defined a number of Christian house churches including the Shouters and The Church of Almighty God as xiejiao, providing the CCP with adequate excuses to arrest and detain members of these “xiejiao” organizations. Incomplete figures show that from 2011 to now, the CCP authorities have arrested over 400,000 Christians of The Church of Almighty God. As of February 2019, 66,036 cases of arrested CAG Christians (with pseudonyms) had been publicized on CAG websites, and 1,663 cases of CAG Christians in custody have been entered into the Prisoners’ Database of the NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers. We can see from these cases of arrest that the CAG Christians detained by the CCP are not limited to those holding positions within the Church, but in fact can be arrested and sentenced merely for possessing a CAG book or CAG materials.
Professor Massimo lntrovigne pointed it out that “Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code made ‘using a xiejiao’ a crime punishable with jail penalties from three to seven years ‘or more.’ It is important to determine what ‘using a xiejiao’ exactly means within the context of Article 300. Not all decisions of the Chinese courts are published online, but thousands of them are. There is a vast number of published decisions where members of xiejiao, particularly of the CAG (listed as a xiejiao since 1995), were sentenced to long jail penalties (often exceeding seven years) based on Article 300. It is clear from these decisions that ‘using a xiejiao’ is interpreted as ‘being active in a xiejiao’ in any capacity. Although leaders receive harsher punishments, it is by no means necessary to be a leader to be recognized as guilty of having ‘used a xiejiao’ under Article 300. In fact, having been found in possession of literature of the CAG, or having tried to convert others to the Almighty God faith, has been regarded as sufficient evidence of being guilty of the crime punished by Article 300 (see e.g. China Judgements Online 2014, 2017).
Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code does not distinguish between leaders and common members of groups banned as xiejiao and Chinese case law, as many examples published by Chinese governmental sources show, offers several examples of common CAG believers sentenced under Article 300 without having any position of leadership in the CAG (see e.g. China Judgements Online 2014, 2017)” (refer to Exploring The Church of Almighty God).
(III) Australian Authorities Determine That CAG Christians Are Not Persecuted by the CCP Because They Possess Passports and Are Able to Handle Exit Procedures
CAG Christians being able to hold passports and exit China does not indicate that they are not persecuted by the CCP. There are three primary circumstances in which they are able to flee.
The first is that the faith of some CAG Christians has not become widely known, so their personal information has not been entered into China’s public security system. Some Christians have been arrested, but began using a pseudonym after their arrest and never revealed their true identity. Some have been detained, kept in custody, or fined, but have not been listed as wanted, so information on their cases has not been entered into the public security database of individuals banned from leaving the country. Christians with the circumstances above are able to flee abroad after getting a passport. As it was mentioned by Professor Massimo lntrovigne that “Chinese authorities claim that the members of the CAG are four million (Ma 2014) and that they have identified and arrested only ‘several thousands’ of them. Even if we accept the figure of 300,000–400,000 arrested supplied by the CAG itself (The Church of Almighty God 2017d), this would mean that 90% of the members of the Church have not yet been identified by the authorities. Of course, they can be identified and arrested at any moment, or denounced by neighbors interested in obtaining the rewards promised to those who supply information leading to the arrest of a member of a xiejiao—accordingly, they live in a situation of fear of persecution. But, as long as they have not been identified, if they do not have a criminal record, they are able to obtain a passport and leave the country” (refer to Exploring The Church of Almighty God).
The second category is made up of Christians whose personal information has been put on a no-exit blacklist by the CCP, but are able to get their records expunged through bribery and personal connections. People within this group are also able to flee abroad. Corruption is rife among CCP officials; trading favors for money is very commonplace and bribery is an extremely serious issue. Professor Massimo lntrovigne also wrote “In 2013 only, Chinese authorities received the astonishing number of 1.95 million allegations of corruption (U.S. Department of State 2014). The authoritative Routledge Handbook of the Chinese Diaspora (Tan 2012) reports numerous instances where corruption manifested itself in the issuance of passports to persons theoretically not entitled to be issued one, including members of criminal organizations. Of course, if the officer issuing the passport is corrupted, problems of fingerprints and facial recognition may also be overcome” (refer to Exploring The Church of Almighty God).
The third group is made up of previously arrested Christians whose personal information is known to the Chinese police, who use other individuals’ personal information to get a new ID, take on a new name and address, and then flee China. For example, the Chinese dissident and human rights lawyer Gao Guangjun was put on the CCP’s nationwide most wanted list nine consecutive times, but ultimately was able to obtain a passport by getting new documents, and successfully fled to the United States.
CAG Christians Arrested After Being Extradited to China
Although a portion of CAG Christians have been able to obtain passports and flee to other countries, more and more have been completely unable to leave due to the CCP’s intensifying persecution of religious beliefs. And for a portion of those Christians who have risked life and limb to flee, the state of their applications for asylum do not inspire confidence. Some have even been forcefully extradited to China and have suffered arrest, sentencing, and imprisonment by the Chinese government; some even face the prospect of death. These kinds of tragedies have already occurred; below are two such cases.
Ms. Wu Xin was born on April 5, 1956 in Linshu County, Linyi City. She joined The Church of Almighty God in September 2004 and fled to Switzerland to escape the CCP’s capture on April 23, 2015. The Swiss government declined her asylum application and repatriated her to China on May 2, 2017.
On June 27, 2017, police officers with the Linshu County Public Security Bureau of Linyi City, Shandong Province broke into Wu Xin’s rented place and arrested her there.
On August 18, 2017, Wu Xin was sentenced to 3 years and 6 months in prison along with a fine of 30,000 RMB (about 6,263 AUD) on suspicion of using a xiejiao organization to undermine the enforcement of the law. As of now, she still remains in custody.
Ms. Wang Aixian was born on September 5, 1968 in Zhaoxigou Village, Xiabu Town, Xiaoyi City, Shanxi Province. She joined The Church of Almighty God in February 1999 and fled to Switzerland to escape the Chinese government’s persecution of CAG Christians on April 22, 2015. The Swiss government denied the fact that the CCP persecutes religious beliefs and repatriated her to China in March, 2017.
On October 7, 2017, Wang Aixian was arrested at her home by more than 20 police officers with the National Security Brigade of the local Public Security Bureau.
In May 2018, Wang Aixian was sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment and taken to the Yuci City Women’s Prison to serve her term.
Freedom of belief is a universal value as well as one of the most basic of human rights. However, not only is freedom of religion not protected in China, but religious beliefs are brutally persecuted and the problem is becoming ever-more intense. This fact is plain for all to see. Our hope is that the governments of Australia and other democratic countries may seriously investigate the facts of the persecution suffered by Christians from The Church of Almighty God, and either grant us political asylum or, at the least, provide us with humanitarian assistance. We hope that we will not be extradited and will no longer face the danger of the CCP’s arrest and persecution, and even the danger of brutal torture to the point of disability or death. Our wish is to worship and praise God in a free, democratic country. We express our heartfelt thanks, and may God bless the countries and their people that grant asylum to Christians such as we!
Notification on Situation and Working Opinion Regarding Public Security Proscription of Shouters and other Xie Jiao Organizations issued by Central Committee and State Council in November 1995 (“Consolidated List” Notifications: 1995-50)