CHINA: New massive wave of persecution against the Church of Almighty God

Over 900 members were arrested in Zhejiang Province in one day. One died after three days in custody.

Bitter Winter (11.08.2023) – The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which has never ceased its persecution and surveillance activities against The Church of Almighty God (CAG), the largest Christian new religious movement in the country, recently launched a new coordinated arrest operation against the group. As reported by CAG members to “Bitter Winter,” the persecution was most severe in the provinces of Zhejiang, Fujian, and Jiangsu. On June 15, in just a single day, at least 905 CAG members in Zhejiang Province were placed under arrest, and until this day 282 are still in custody, facing prosecution and sentencing. One died just three days after her arrest.

Insiders within the Zhejiang provincial government told “Bitter Winter” that this coordinated arrest operation was planned up to a year ago. On the evening of June 14, the provincial Public Security Bureau issued a direct order, providing a list for arrest to Public Security Bureau departments in various municipalities. Public security, national security, armed police, and special forces police carried out this joint operation to arrest CAG members. In the city of Hangzhou, 189 of them were arrested in just one day. 170 were arrested in the city of Wenzhou. Over 100 people were arrested in the cities of Jinhua and Quzhou.

Police focused on arresting leaders and active workers in an effort to entirely eradicate the CAG. It was reported to “Bitter Winter” that, while interrogating a CAG member, one officer said, “This time, we’re uprooting leaders from regions down to smaller districts, and then to local churches, and the intensity of the strike will continue to increase.”

One CAG devotee who has been released revealed that in the room adjacent to where he was held, a church leader was tortured and abused for five days. Later, another church leader was also confined and then subjected to torture. This witness said, “I could hear her screams.”

One CAG member over the age of 60 died suddenly after three days of confinement. The authorities claimed that she hanged herself, but after her family viewed the corpse, they reported to “Bitter Winter” that there were no marks from hanging on her neck, but there were wounds on her head and there was blood visible in her eyes. The marks of torture were apparent.

Reportedly, many of those arrested were placed under surveillance as early as one or two years before the arrest. Government insiders revealed to “Bitter Winter” that on August 31, 2022, Zhejiang and Fujian Province authorities jointly launched “Operation 831,” comprehensively following and tracking CAG members with a combination of high-tech surveillance, Skynet system inspections, and manual tracking, leaving them with nowhere to hide. The police also hired undercover agents to implant themselves in churches by pretending to be interested in the CAG teachings. They surveyed the situation in those churches and subsequently carried out arrests.

As reported to “Bitter Winter,” during an interrogation one police officer said, “Where you’ve gone, the times you enter and leave a place, all is perfectly transparent to us. You think you’re being very cautious, but we can see right through all of you.” He also said, “The government has acquired plenty of advanced surveillance equipment just to catch people like you. We can identify you even with your hats and masks on.”

Another released CAG member stated, “This time when I was arrested, I realized that the police had used drone surveillance to lock in on me, then arrested all the brothers and sisters I came into contact with.”

According to reports, the majority of CAG devotees detained in this arrest operation were forced to attend heavy indoctrination courses, which are generally held at locations such as hotels and rural resorts and kept secret from the public. The CCP invited experts in indoctrination, high-level professors in psychology, and legal consultants. Lower-level officials were also employed to act as chaperones. They forced CAG believers to watch videos extolling the Communist Party and tried to inculcate them with a wide variety of atheistic ideas. Devotees were forced to sign the “three letters” of “repentance, guarantee, and break-up” from the CAG, thus betraying their faith.

One CAG member reported, “They forced us to watch those videos every day, report on our thoughts, and curse Almighty God—every day!” According to this informant, they were forbidden to pray, were watched while eating and sleeping, and humiliated and condemned during those classes. Many were tortured because they refused to cooperate with the indoctrination. One released CAG member told “Bitter Winter,” “If we didn’t confess, the police wouldn’t allow us to sleep, in an effort to break our spirits.”

The arrest operation is still in progress, and the persecution is just as severe in other regions. It was reported to “Bitter Winter” that during the afternoon of July 13, a CAG devotee in Jiangsu Province escaped from a basement room where she was being held, and after being pursued by the police and left without any way to escape, was forced to jump to her death from the eleventh story of the building.

It was also reported to us that a public security official announced that later this year, a second and third round of arrests of members of CAG will be carried out. The CAG remains the most persecuted religious movement in China.

Photo: Zhejiang Police Real-Time Monitoring Center (screenshot).

Further reading about FORB in China on HRWF website