By Holly Folk, Western Washington University
The Journal of Cesnur (12.2017) – http://cesnur.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/tjoc_1_2_5_folk.pdf – In 2017, a group of Western scholars, including CESNUR’s Massimo Introvigne and Holly Folk, were invited to participate in a dialogue in China’s Henan province in June, followed by a conference in Hong Kong in September, involving Chinese law enforcement officers, leaders of China’s official “anti-xie-jiao” association, and Chinese academics. The dialogue was about the notion of xie jiao (an expression difficult to translate, and not exactly equivalent to the English “cult”) and one particular group classified in China as xie jiao, the Church of Almighty God, also known as Eastern Lightning. The dialogue led Western scholars to further investigate accusations against the Church of Almighty God. So far, the accusations investigated appear to be false.
On August 24, 2013, a six-year old boy called Guo Xiaobin was kidnapped by a woman who gouged out his eyes. The investigation on the horrific crime was followed with considerable emotion by Chinese public opinion, and was concluded by the police early in September 2013. The crime had been perpetrated by the boy’s aunt, Zhang Huiyeng, who had committed suicide on August 30, 2013. There were no references to religion in the Chinese media until the homicide committed in a McDonald’s diner in Zhaoyuan on May 28, 2014 was attributed by the Chinese authorities (falsely, as it later came out) to the Church of Almighty God. In June 2014, the attack on Guo Xiaobin was presented by Chinese anti-cult sources as perpetrated by the Church of Almighty God. No evidence of any involvement of the Church of Almighty God on the crime exists, and the government seems to have created the accusation after the McDonald’s incident to further justify its persecution of the Church, exploiting a century-old Chinese anti-Christian theme of accusing Christians of gouging out eyes.
In the 19th century, opponents of Western missionaries warned that Christians tore out the eyes and internal organs of Chinese, especially children, either as punishment for apostasy or alchemical purposes (Griffith 1891; Clark 2011, 53 and 226; Clark 2013, 97; Doyle 2015, 5; The University of Hong Kong Bulletin 2015). In one source, Chinese readers were warned that Europeans needed the eyes of Chinese to refine silver from lead (Vaudagna 1892). Eye-gouging was popularized during the Boxer Rebellion through pamphlets and didactic cartoon posters (Cleveland 1900; The Literary Digest 1900; Cohen 1997, 164-170; Preston 2000, 25-28).
The horrifying incident in Shanxi closely tracked the imagined horrors of anti-Christian rhetoric, to present a golden moment for anti-cult propaganda. Scholars and journalists should be aware that charges of atrocities made by the Chinese government against banned xie jiao religious groups often cannot be substantiated. To date, the Chinese government has not produced any evidence to support the accusation that the Church of Almighty God was involved in the attack on Guo Xiaobin. The accusation surfaced only after the McDonald’s murder, some nine months after the investigation had been closed. This incident seems to be a second instance, after the McDonald’s murder in Zhaoyuan, of the government falsely accusing the Church of Almighty God of violent crimes.
The Journal of Cesnur
Volume 1, Issue 2, November-December 2017 (View full issue) , cesnur.net
Weixin Shengjiao: An Introduction
(pp. 3-19) DOI: 10.26338/tjoc.2017.1.2.1
The Supranational Messianism of Weixin Shengjiao: Unifying the Two Chinas Thanks to the Celebration of Mythical Ancestors
(pp. 20-39) DOI: 10.26338/tjoc.2017.1.2.2
New Religions in Taiwan and Korea: A Comparative Study of Weixin Shengjiao (唯心聖教) and Daesoon Jinrihoe (大巡真理會)
Fiona Hsin-Fang Chang
(pp. 40-65) DOI: 10.26338/tjoc.2017.1.2.3
A Comparison Between Daesoon Jinrihoe’s “Resolution of Grievances for Mutual Beneficence” and Weixin Shengjiao’s “Resolving Grievances to Make Life Harmonious”
(pp. 66-95) DOI: 10.26338/tjoc.2017.1.2.4
“Cult Crimes” and Fake News: Eye-Gouging in Shanxi
(pp. 96-109) DOI: 10.26338/tjoc.2017.1.2.5
Rebecca Stott, In the Days of Rain. A Daughter. A Father. A Cult
Reviewed by Massimo Introvigne
(pp. 110-116) DOI: 10.26338/tjoc.2017.1.2.6