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CHINA: Church of Almighty God: False demonstrations in Korea—Again

Church of Almighty God: False demonstrations in Korea – Again

By Liu Ya’nan

Bitter Winter (26.08.2022) – https://bit.ly/3e1uJfS – The testimony of a CAG devotee on how the CCP brought his father to “look for his son” in Korea—but things didn’t go as the CCP had planned.

My name is Liu Ya’nan, and I am a Christian of The Church of Almighty God (CAG), whose history and persecution have been described several times by Bitter Winter. I and my wife Cui Haoyu were persecuted in China for our faith. We fled to South Korea in 2015, but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) never stopped its persecution against me or its harassment against my family.

On August 15, 2022, one of my co-religionists came to me and said, “This morning, an elderly man in his 60s came to our church in Onsu, accompanied by three officers from the police branch of Oryudong in Guro district of Seoul city. He said that he came from China to look for his son. Judging by the information he provided, it should be you whom he is looking for. Will you contact the elderly man to confirm it?”

The news was beyond my belief: “Really my father came?” I remembered that in 2019, my father was threatened and lured by the CCP to South Korea, and followed pro-CCP activist Ms. O Myung-ok in joining a demonstration in the name of “looking for relatives” in front of the gate of the CAG premises in Onsu. At that time, my father was manipulated by the CCP and persuaded to participate in defaming the CAG. Only when he was about to leave South Korea was he allowed to meet me in a hurry. At that time, I promised to him that if he would manage to come back to visit me in South Korea, he could directly contact the CAG in advance, and the CAG would inform me. I repeatedly exhorted him not to come with CCP personnel.

So I thought, why does he come with police officers now? Is this a new maneuver by the CCP?

READ MORE

Photo : Liu Ya’nan and his wife spending quality time in Seoul with Liu’s father, contrary to the false narrative of the CCP.

Further reading about FORB in China on HRWF website

Further reading about FORB in South Korea on HRWF website





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CHINA: Church of Almighty God persecution continues to increase

Church of Almighty God persecution continues to increase

The “2021 Annual Report on the Chinese Communist Government’s Persecution of The Church of Almighty God” is rich in statistics— and every number hides a tragedy.

By Massimo Introvigne

 

Bitter Winter (09.03.2022) – https://bit.ly/3wb6brZThe Church of Almighty God (CAG), a Chinese Christian new religious movement, is the most persecuted religious organization in China. From 2019, when a report covered the year 2018, the CAG has published yearly reports offering statistical details of the persecution. They show how, year after year, the implacable machine of the CCP repression made the persecution worse.

report on the year 2021 has now been published. Not even the CAG can keep track of all the cases in China, and statistics are necessarily incomplete. As far as the CAG knows, in 2021, there were at least 68,456 of its members who were directly persecuted by the Chinese authorities, an increase of 25,649 from 2020. A minimum of 11,156 suffered arrest, with a 58% increase from 2020. Of those arrested, 6,125 were subjected to torture or heavy psychological pressures, and 1,452 were given prison sentences. Of those sentenced, 632 received sentences of three years or more, 72 received sentences of seven years or more, and seven were given sentences of 10 years or more (Jia Panpan, for example was sentenced to 13 years).

At least 9 CAG members were persecuted to death. Additionally, at least 57,300 were subjected to various forms of harassment, including according to the report “being forced to write guarantees to relinquish their faith; being photographed, recorded, and surveilled without their consent; collection of their biological data such as fingerprints, blood samples, and hair; being cut off from basic social security; they and their family members being stripped of their right to employment.” At least RMB 250 million (approximately USD $39 million) in assets were appropriated from The Church of Almighty God and its members by the Chinese authorities in 2021.

Overall, and again the statistics are not complete, in in the period between 2011 and the end of 2021, more than 420,000 CAG devotees were arrested by the Chinese authorities, and “the documented number of believers who have died as a result of persecution since the Church’s establishment has reached 216.” Information on 3,636 CAG members detained in 2021 has been published by the Association for the Defense of Human Rights and Religious Freedom (ADHRRF) in its database of prisoners of conscience.

A skeptic may object that these figures come from The Church of Almighty God itself: how can we be sure that they are accurate? We at Bitter Winterregularly receive information from China about members of the CAG (and of many other religions, of course) who are detained, formally arrested, and sentenced. Until June 2021, the Chinese government’s China Judgements Online, which is the largest legal data base in the world although it does not include all decisions rendered in China, had published hundreds of decisions sentencing CAG members to jail terms. With my colleagues James T. Richardson and Rosita Šorytė, I was able to publish in 2019 a study of hundreds of cases of sentenced CAG members. We did not use for that study any information coming from the CAG or other independent sources, and only relied on China Judgements Online, an official Chinese website.

Unfortunately, in June 2021 the Chinese authorities realized that human rights activists and scholars abroad, including us at Bitter Winter, were using China Judgements Online to document human rights violations in China. All of a sudden thousands of decisions disappeared, and a new restrictive policy about what is uploaded was adopted. However, before what netizens in China nicknamed “the great purge” of China Judgements Online, the decisions against CAG members published there clearly showed a trend consistent with CAG’s own yearly reports.

We also read carefully Chinese governmental media, particularly those who specialize in covering the fight against the “xie jiao” (religious movements banned as “heterodox teachings”) and find, if not every day, certainly every week news about dozens and sometimes hundreds of CAG members who have been arrested. Indeed, the Chinese media periodically announce that the CAG has been eradicated through massive police operations, only to report later that for some mysterious reasons it has reappeared again. Although the CAG itself acknowledges that precise statistics are difficult to compile, we believe that these reports, which do not come from the CAG but from CCP-related sources, confirm that their numbers are generally believable.

Both the CAG report and what the CCP itself publishes are in agreement on the fact that in September 2020 the Chinese authorities launched a three-year “all-out war” against the CAG, a “final solution” aimed at wiping it out from China. This led, as the table we reproduce shows, to large operations in several provinces where thousands were arrested. For the largest waves of arrests, the CAG report offers references to external sources that covered them. They happened in 30 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions. Note that due to the situation prevailing in Xinjiang, data about this autonomous region are missing, but we know the CAG has been active there too.

The saddest part of the report details how in 2021 nine CAG members, and possibly more, died as a result of the persecution. On March 4, 2021, a female CAG member from Chongqing died in jail, where she had been since 2014. The conditions of her body indicated that she had likely died during torture. In March, a female CAG member from Henan died in jail as a consequence of not having received medical treatment for her health problems. On April 5, 2021, another female CAG member, from Tianjin, died after having been kept in jail since 2018 despite a deteriorating heart condition that would have suggested proper care elsewhere.

On August 15, and November 7 and 18, 2021, two other male members, one from Hubei and another from Sichuan, and a female one from Sichuan also died while detained as a result of torture and abuse. Qin Dafu (1963–2021) died in jail on June 23, 2021. He never received the medical treatment he needed after having been abused.

Liu Zhilin (1951–2021) hanged himself on September 11, 2021, after having been arrested for his CAG faith. He was told that, unless he would cooperate with the authorities and denounce other CAG members, the CCP would make impossible for him to earn a living and provide for his family, and his children would be excluded from the possibility of enrolling in a university. Thorn between the pressure from the CCP and his own family, Liu decided to commit suicide.

The report is full at each page of stories about CAG members who were hunted, mistreated by the police, arrested, abused, tortured, and makes for sober reading. While the attention of the world is focused on horrible human rights abuses in Ukraine, we should not forget that in China arbitrary arrests, tortures, and even homicides of those the CCP dehumanizes as followers of “xie jiao,” first and foremost the CAG devotees, are a daily routine.

There is a risk, as many observers of China have noted, that media and politicians in the democratic world succumb to what has been called “persecution fatigue.” When persecution becomes routine, week after week and year after year, it disappears from the news because “every new case sounds just like the previous one,” and media are afraid that their readers will lose interest.

Yet, we should not forget that behind every case and every number in a statistic are real persons, who suffer in their bodies and their souls and are victims of what can only be defined as crimes against humanity. They are victims, but at the same time they are more than victims. The story of the CAG in China is one of extraordinary resilience. It seems that, the more the CAG is persecuted, the more it is able not only to resist but to find new believers prepared to risk their life to affirm their faith. The CCP can torture their bodies, but cannot enslave their souls.

Photo: Numbers of CAG Christians Arrested, 2019-2021 – Bitter Winter

*****************************************

Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

Further reading about FORB in China on HRWF website





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CHINA: 600 Church of Almighty God Members Sentenced in 2021

600 Church of Almighty God Members Sentenced in 2021

Despite the Taliban’s military victory, it remains to be seen whether they will be able to impose their extremely conservative religious view of society on the Afghan people in the long run.

by Wang Yichi

Bitter Winter (11.03.2021) – https://bit.ly/3q5FFx3 – Since the CCP started carrying out a 3-year “Final Solution” plan against The Church of Almighty God (CAG) last September, the persecution has continuously strengthened. Even common CAG members have been sentenced to penalties as severe as seven years and six months in prison.

Church of Almighty God member dies in prison

On September 25, 2021, the People’s Court of Zhangqiu, a county-level city under the jurisdiction of Jinan city in the eastern province of Shandong, opened the trial against 48 CAG members, who had been detained for more than two years. They were sentenced to penalties of two, three, or more years in prison, including four members under the age of 20 and one 67-year-old devotee. One 80-year-old member was sentenced to two years and four months in prison, and later was allowed to serve her sentence outside the prison.

As readers of Bitter Winter know, reacting to the rapid development of the CAG, the CCP has put it on the list of xie jiao (banned religious movements) since its founding, carrying out a brutal persecution against it. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the CCP did not relax its efforts to crack down on the CAG.

Bitter Winter has learned that the 48 CAG members tried in Zhangqiu were arrested one after another after June 2019. During the following two years or more, the police kept them in pre-trial detention, and deprived them of visits from their relatives. When their relatives went to the detention house and applied for visits, the police not only refused to allow the meetings, but took the opportunity to interrogate the relatives about the faith of the arrested CAG members.

A CAG member from Shandong Province was sentenced to four years in prison this August. Less than two months after her sentence, the local police informed her family that she had died of a heart attack, and urged them to cremate her body immediately. Before cremation, however, the police forbade her family from changing the clothes of the deceased, which would have allowed relatives to examine her body. The real cause of her death remains unknown.

In September, the People’s Court of Qingdao city and that of Shan county under the jurisdiction of Heze city in Shandong Province opened trials against 28 CAG members, among whom 7 were sentenced to three years or more in prison. Up to September 30, 237 CAG members had been sentenced this year in Shandong Province only.

Common Church of Almighty God members sentenced to 7.5 years in prison

On January 28, 2021, the People’s Court of Tongxu county in the central province of Henan sentenced five CAG members, who had been in pre-trial detention for nearly one year. Among them, two were sentenced to seven years and seven and a half years in prison respectively, both fined 10,000 RMB (about $ 1,570). A couple were sentenced to four years and seven and a half years respectively for providing meeting places to the CAG, and fined 15,000 RMB (about $ 2,350) in total.

“She is nearly 60 years old, and only hosted a few people for a meeting and did nothing else. How come she has been given so hefty a sentence?” a family member of one of the sentenced CAG believers told Bitter Winter. Some relatives of CAG members said they tried to use their connections to bribe authorities to rescue their loved ones from prison, but now in China, because CAG members are regarded by the authorities as political prisoners, no one dares to help them, no matter how much they are prepared to give as bribe. This is the reply they reportedly received: “We can help those who committed theft, robbery, murder or arson, but cannot help those who believe in Almighty God.”

Court records show that the CCP has increased the sentences against CAG members since last year, and even common members (i.e., members who do not have a position as leaders) may be sentenced to seven years or more in prison.

A prison guard told Bitter Winter that since last year, many more CAG members had come to serve their sentences in the prison he works in. He noted that, “The criminals who have committed robberies are sentenced to 3 to 5 years in prison, while CAG members are given longer sentences.”

CAG member sentenced to 5 years in prison for transporting faith-related books

On August 3, 2021, the People’s Court of Tieshan district of Huangshi city in the central province of Hubei opened the trial against five CAG members, among whom one was sentenced to five years in prison under Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code, on the charge of “using a xie jiao organization to undermine the enforcement of the law” for transporting CAG books, and the other four were all sentenced to two years in prison. On June 24, a nearly-60-year CAG member from Huangshi city was sentenced to three years in prison for providing a place for a meeting.

Bitter Winter had reported earlier that a study of 200 court decisions on CAG members, published in the scholarly The Journal of CESNUR, demonstrated that living a normal religious life in a banned group, such as printing religious books and distributing faith-related materials, is enough to go to jail in China.

Up to this September, in 2021 600 CAG members had been sentenced for their faith throughout China. Experience makes it easy to predict that, as members of the CAG, they will receive an especially harsh treatment in jail.

Photo: Bitter Winter

Further reading about FORB in China on HRWF website

 

 





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CHINA: Beijing’s foreign ‘useful idiots’ support its Xinjiang propaganda

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF (05.05.2021) – They tell stories confirming that Uyghur culture is flourishing in Xingjiang, that Uyghurs are sent to vocational training centers and not to internment camps. They justify the necessity to fight against Islamic terrorism in Xinjiang by all means and any means. They denounce American imperialism and a huge disinformation operation carried out by the CIA and NGOs financed by the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED). They criticize the vested interests of their own country with regard to China and the Uyghur issue.

Those foreign propagandists of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are both lauded by Beijing and disparaged in their countries of origin where they are presented as useful idiots, negationists and sometimes superspreaders of conspirationist theories. Who are they?

AFP blacklisting some foreign CCP’s policy propagandists

On 4 May, AFP published an article titled “Sino-béats? Des Occidentaux stars des médias chinois, décriés à domicile’ (China-blissful? Western stars in Chinese media disparaged at home”, in which it listed a number of propagandists supporting China’s policy concerning the Uyghur Muslims:

Maxime Vivas (French): He is a French retired ergonomist. He is the author of a recent book titled “Ouïghours, pour en finir avec les fake news” (Uighurs, to put an end to the fake news) and published on Amazon. On two occasions, he was invited by the Chinese authorities to have “a guided tour” of Xinjiang. He was highly commended by China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs for his book which describes “a prosperous and stable Xinjiang” and criticizes “those who fabricate fake news and spread rumors about the alleged repression in Xinjiang without ever visiting the region.”

Vivas claims to have 2500 followers on Twitter. He also published on Amazon “Behind the Smile, the Hidden Side of the Dalai Lama” (2013) and “The Hidden Face of Reporters Without Borders” (2007).

Max Blumenthal (American): He is a journalist, author, blogger and filmmaker. He claims to have 225,000 Twitter followers on his Grayzone website. In a recent tweet, he depicts the World Uighur Congress (WUC) as “a network of right-wing US govt-funded exiles which provides every testimony that US media relies on for its information war on Xinjiang.”

 

Blumenthal has broadcast on RT (formerly known as Russia Today) on many occasions. In December 2015, during a trip to Moscow presumed by multiple sources to have been paid for by the Kremlin.  He has also contributed on multiple occasions to Sputnik radio, as well as to Iran’s Press TV and China’s CGTN.

 

Daniel Dumbrill (Canadian): He promotes China’s policies with videos on YouTube, such as Hongkong is far freer since its return to Chine or Debunking anti-China allegations. He claims to have 110,000 subscribers.  He has been living in China for almost 12 years. He was first in business in Shenzhen before moving to Hong Kong. After staying there for a couple of years, he came back to Shenzhen where he opened a brew pub, several thousand kilometers away from Xinjiang…

Raz Gal-Or (Israelian): This young blogger claims to have 1,7 million followers on the Chinese network Weibo. He makes videos promoting China. In an article titled “Pékin cherche idiots utiles désespérément” (Beijing is desperately looking for useful idiots) and published in Le Monde, Frédéric Lemaître said he met him at the Economic Forum of Boao, the “Chinese Davos”. He admitted that he had met Uyghur farmers chosen by the government.

Bitter Winter blacklisting some foreign CCP’s policy propagandists

Bitter Winter also recently revealed the names some other pro-China and pro-CCP propagandists such as:

Laurène Beaumond (pseudonym): According to her, “the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is the perfect habitat for Muslims and everybody else, and all you heard about the Uyghur genocide perpetrated by the CCP is a gross lie.” The ‘truth’ – ‘her truth’ – was published in an article entitled “Mon” Xinjiang: halte à la tyrannie des fake news (“‘My’ Xinjiang: Stop the Fake News Tyranny”), published on March 28 on the French web site of China Global Television Network (CGTN).

 

CGTN is a 24/24 all-news tv channel in six languages, registered under the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and controlled by CCP’s Central Committee Publicity Department. The author of the article is introduced as “Ms. Laurène Beaumond,” “an independent journalist based in France, holding a degree in art history and another in archeology from la Sorbonne-IV, as well as an MA in journalism,”

 

Marco Respinti writes in Bitter Winter that “her article of March 28 of course mentions, in passing, “terrorism,” but basically hers is a fairy-tale Xinjiang where everybody is happy and loves the Chinese Communist Party. ‘Laurène Beaumond’ plays the smiling, good cop. The bad cop is played by a four-parts propaganda “documentary” by a “state broadcaster” that “blames ‘terrorist threats’ to justify the clampdown on Uyghurs in region”, as the Financial Times clearly put it.”

 

Laurène Beaumond goes on hiding her real identity, claiming that she does not want to be harassed “by the media sphere” critical of China’s Xinjiang policy.

 

Noteworthy is that her Twitter account was suspended for violating Twitter rules.

 

Prof. Golley, an Oxonian Dphil (i.e., Ph.D.) in Economics, directs the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University in Canberra. On April 21 she led the panel for a symposium, The China Crisis, hosted at the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra and designed to launch the China Story Yearbook 2020, precisely entitled Crisis. The China Story Yearbook is both a blog and a series of annual themed overviews of Chinese current affairs. Prof. Golley is one of its co-editors. In an article published by Bitter Winter titled “Xinjiang Genocide: An Anonymous ‘Scholarly Article’ Echoes CCP’s Lies”, Marco Respinti stresses “Prof. Golley said that the figure of 1 million people detained in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR)’s dreadful transformation through education camps is exaggerated.

 

As proof of this exaggeration, Prof. Golley referred to a “scholarly article” the authors of which sent her anonymously. On the basis of this anonymous “scholarly article”, she told the world that dozens of signed and independent pieces of research, supported by respected international organizations, parliaments, and governments, rely on false information. In an interview after the symposium, she admitted that she had received the article “via a former Australian ambassador to China, whom she declined to name, and said she had consulted two other colleagues before going public.”

Palestine Solidarité, Le Grand Soir and others

Marco Respinti also identified two other propagandists: the news web portal, in French, Palestine Solidarité (“Solidarity with Palestine”), which reprinted the article by Laurène Beaumond as well as the CGTN’s self-defense of April 1 from a French leftist web site, Le Grand Soir. In spite of an entire section dedicated to religion, mainly featuring IslamPalestine Solidarité shows no solidarity for the Muslims (Uyghurs and other Turkic people) persecuted by the CCP (held dear by Le Grand Soir) in Xinjiang, Respinti commented. Last but not least, Respinti also pointed at Italy’s best-selling conservative newspaper il Giornale which published a propaganda article Così la Cina combatte il terrorismo nello Xinjiang (How China fights against terrorism in Xinjiang), probably not for free, by Cinitalia, the official bilingual media outlet owned by state China Media Group, of which CCP’s CGTN is a division.

HRWF identified a CCP’s policy propagandist in Brussels

Human Rights Without Frontiers also identified a CCP’s policy propagandist who tried to instrumentalize a well-known media outlet in Brussels and the Center for Information and Advice on Harmful Sectarian Organizations (CIAOSN) under the Ministry of Justice of the Belgian Federal Government.

Roland Delcourt recently said he interviewed a spokesperson of the Center, and published an article on 1 May about this meeting in an online media outlet covering EU issues in Brussels which was quickly removed from its website for failing to meet journalistic ethics and the General Data Protection Regulation. This article was titled “Beware of false refugees, the cult nature of the Eastern Lightning (The Church of Almighty God).”

 

Delcourt provided the CIAOSN with an 18-page report denouncing allegedly false refugees from China who belong to The Church of Almighty God. In his article, he wrote:

“According to the information from the report, the worship of the Eastern Lightning (The Church of Almighty God) corresponds to the very definition of a harmful sect. The Center would therefore give an unfavourable opinion to the Immigration Office in the event that individuals presenting themselves as a member of the sect would request political or other asylum.”

The manipulation strategy was obvious. The interview about the activities of the CIAOSN was just a vicious pretext to manipulate the Belgian state institution and convince it that the CAG was a harmful cult whose members should be denied asylum and sent back to China, where they would of course be arrested and imprisoned. I assume that the CIAOSN will not be deceived by this gross attempt of manipulation and will refrain from playing in the hands of China’s propagandists.

 

HRWF personally knows those refugees in Belgium and has interviewed them. There are only 11 of them. They are all young people in their 20s, mainly girls. They are neither dangerous nor harmful.

 

This is not the first time that China tries to use anti-cult organizations to campaign against the CAG. The best-known example is the organization of Ms Oh in South Korea where over 1000 CAG applications for asylum have been rejected.

In early May, CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions founded in 1988) published a 135-page  issue of its scholarly magazine about the administrative and legal management of The Church of Almighty God Asylum Cases from 2015 to 2021 in Europe and other continents. This extremely well documented report was written by Massimo Introvigne (CESNUR), James Richardson (University of Nevada, Reno, USA) and Rosita Šorytė (International Observatory of Religious Liberty of Refugees). Thousands of members of the CAG have escaped China, where they are heavily persecuted, to seek asylum abroad. Their asylum cases offer a unique opportunity for a comparative study of how religion-based refugee claims are dealt with by administrative authorities and courts of law in several different countries. The article examines and summarizes 271 decisions rendered in CAG asylum cases throughout the world, and analyzes the main issues that led to grant or deny asylum.

Roland Delcourt, a 76-year-old Belgian citizen, presents himself as follows on the website of The Brussels Times: “I am a former student of UCL and the School of Journalism. I got my start in the daily newspaper La Cité. I worked with the Iranian press before the revolution and then in Belgium for various women’s magazines. I have been travelling in China since 1999. In 2005, I met my wife, Wang Xu, in Beijing.”

 

He mainly writes on social media and blogs. When Laurène Beaumond was hunted by prominent media all over Europe he immediately flew to her rescue.

 

All his recent articles accessible from open sources reveal his full support for China’s policies, in particular concerning the COVID-19, and whip those who criticize China’s responsibility in the pandemic.





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CHINA: Church of Almighty God refugees: why they should be granted asylum

A monumental study of 271 decisions rendered in administrative and court cases show that more applications are being accepted—but not everywhere.

By Alessandro Amicarelli

Bitter Winter (05.05.2021) – https://bit.ly/3xKgQbnThe Church of Almighty God (CAG) is the most persecuted religious movement in China. Persecution generates refugees, and more than 5,000 CAG members have sought asylum in democratic countries. Not all their cases have been already examined by the authorities, but there are hundreds of available decisions making the CAG a unique case for studying the response to religion-based refugee claims filed by members of a single movement in several different countries.

Massimo Introvigne, an Italian sociologist and the author of the most complete scholarly study of the CAG, James T. Richardson, professor emeritus of sociology and judicial studies at University of Nevada, Reno and one of the most well-known scholars of religion in the United States, and Rosita Šorytė, a former diplomat and the president of ORLIR, the International Observatory of Religious Liberty of Refugees, have now published a 132-page study of 271 decisions rendered by administrative authorities and courts of law in CAG refugee cases all over the world. Simply put, it is the largest case law study of religion-based refugee claims ever published.

The study consists of two parts. In the second, the authors offer a summary of each of the 271 decisions. In the first, they discuss the main issues the administrative authorities and courts have based their decisions on. They also argue that most negative decisions are based on misunderstandings or erroneous information about the situation in China or the CAG.

The authors note that one crucial issue concerns the COI, “Country of Origin Information,” i.e., the documents the authorities regard as authoritative and base their decisions on. The notion of COI is somewhat ambiguous. Some courts regard as COI only those published on the United-Nations-affiliated data base Refworld or the European-Union-affiliated data base EASO. Others regard as COI documents produced by a variety of sources, including international media. Some years ago, the authors note, the CAG was virtually unknown. The oldest COI were heavily influenced by Chinese propaganda, produced to support the persecution. Today, the situation has changed. There are several reliable scholarly studies of the CAG, which are quoted in more recent and improved COI produced, inter alia, by governmental authorities in CanadaThe Netherlands, and Italy. However, some decisions continue to quote old and outdated COI, and documents labeled “COI” but of dubious value (such as one produced by law students in an Italian university). The effort by Chinese embassies and consulates to spread false information about both the situation of religious liberty in China and the CAG should also be considered.

The authors mention ten points the courts and administrative officers normally consider when deciding whether asylum should be granted to CAG applicants. The two first, that there is no religious liberty in China and CAG is heavily persecuted, should be somewhat obvious. Only a handful of decisions, influenced by “information packages” distributed by the Chinese embassies, dare to deny the persecution. Chinese propaganda depicts CAG as guilty of various crimes, but most decisions now recognize that these are fake news fabricated by the CCP regime.

More complicated is the interpretation of Article 300, the provision of the Chinese Criminal Code making “using a xie jiao,” i.e., a banned religious movement such as the CAG, a crime punished with heavy prison terms. Some older decisions argued that only “leaders,” not all members of the CAG, are sentenced under Article 300, and only those who “commit crimes.” The three authors had published a previous monumental study of decisions rendered in China against CAG members under Article 300, using only decisions published by the Chinese government in its official legal data base. That study proves beyond any possible doubt that being a member of the CAG and having committed “crimes” such as attending a prayer meeting, trying to convert a relative or co-worker, or even keeping religious literature at home, is enough in China to be sentenced under Article 300 and go to jail.

This should be sufficient under the international conventions and national laws to grant asylum to CAG refugees. Yet, even if the authorities agree that being a CAG member is enough for having a “credible fear of persecution” in China, which entitles to asylum, the refugees’ journey has not ended. They should prove that they are genuine CAG members, and tell a story the authorities may evaluate as credible.

In some old cases, the authorities asked questions about the CAG based on COI that were full of mistakes, then concluded that the refugees were not “genuine” CAG members when their answers did not conform to the COI. In fact, the answers were right, and the COI were wrong. As new and better COI are now available, these objections become rarer. However, it may still happen that individual stories are found as not believable. There may be problems in translating from Chinese, and in understanding stories coming from a very different culture.

he authors quote a decision rendered in 2019 by the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation, overturning a decision from the Justice Court of Milan that had denied asylum to CAG refugees, and establishing three principles. “First, that courts of law cannot rely on interviews before immigration officers and administrative commissions, where the applicant is not assisted by a lawyer and may be the victim of substandard translations. Courts should interview the applicant again. Second, the interview is not a match or a competition where the authorities should shop for contradictions to find reasons to deny the asylum. If they find contradictions, the courts should point them out to the applicant, make sure he or she understands the problem, and allow for an explanation. Third, an interview should not be divided in segments and, if one of it appears as not persuasive, lead to the conclusion that the applicant lacks credibility. Rather, the courts should assess the applicant’s narrative as a whole, considering that contradictions in matters of detail are frequent but do not mean that the basic story is false.” These are common sense principles, and should be applied everywhere.

In a majority of cases where asylum was denied, the key argument used against the refugees is that, if they were really persecuted in China, they should not have been able to obtain a passport and pass the controls at the airport, because the Chinese authorities record the names and biometrical data of those suspected of crimes, including of being members of a xie jiao, in a very effective national data base, making getting a passport and overcoming the advanced facial control technologies virtually impossible.

This objection is discussed at length in the study, quoting from specialized literature on police and corruption in China, stories by refugees, and court decisions. The authors quote in particular a string of decisions by German courts, who examined the passport question in detail, and concluded that CAG members identified as such may still be able to obtain a passport, for three main reasons. First, there are different levels of registration in the police data bases, from local to national, not all those in local data bases are immediately registered in the national one, and sometimes they are not registered at all, particularly when they have been arrested and then released after paying an amend. In this case, the police may not register their names in the data base and pocket the amend. Second, border controls using new technologies only became effective in a couple of airports in 2015 and in more airports in 2018, making objections based on the high-tech border control systems not applicable to those CAG members who had left China before 2018. Third, and most important, technology is always operated by humans. China has an enormous level of corruption, and it is always possible to “persuade” the officers to alter or cancel data from the data bases and to give a passport to persons who would not be legally entitled to it. As the Administrative Court of Freiburg, Germany, concluded in a decision dated September 12, 2019, “It has been possible for followers of The Church of Almighty God who are already persecuted or threatened with persecution to leave legally with their own documents, not only because there is corruption in China, but also because the wanted persons register and also the exit controls are not always complete.”

Finally, the authors mention that even in the case of members of other religions who converted to the CAG abroad rather than in China (so-called conversions sur place), asylum can be granted when they made themselves visible by participating in CAG activities or being featured in CAG videos. Several recent decisions recognize as a proved fact that Chinese authorities keep a watch on dissidents abroad, and if they return to China, they are immediately arrested.

The article (virtually, a book) by Introvigne, Richardson, and Šorytė is a milestone in the study of religion-based refugee claims and mandatory reading for lawyers and judges handling CAG cases. On a personal note, as I have been involved in CAG cases both as a lawyer and as a human rights activist, it gives great encouragement to read that our efforts have not been in vain, better COI have been produced, and in some countries more favorable decisions have been obtained. As we read the text, we understand that sometimes our work may really save human lives. At the same time, it is sad to read that some authorities still choose to believe the Chinese propaganda, or reject obviously valid asylum claims for political reasons or because they rely on outdated and faulty information. The battle is far from being over.

Read the full study in “The Journal of CESNUR“.

Alessandro AMICARELLI

Alessandro Amicarelli is a member and director of Obaseki Solicitors Law Firm in London. He is a solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales, and a barrister of Italy, specializing in International and Human Rights Law and Immigration and Refugee Law. He has lectured extensively on human rights, and taught courses inter alia at Carlo Bo University in Urbino, Italy, and Soochow University in Taipei, Taiwan (ROC). He is the current chairman and spokesperson of the European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB).

 

HRWF additional info

Over 80% of CAG prisoners are women, a gender issue

According to HRWF Database of FORB prisoners, which comprises 4704 documented cases of CAG prisoners, most of them are peaceful women who do not represent any threat to the Communist regime. Many more devotees of The Church Almighty God are undoubtedly behind bars but access from abroad to such information is almost impossible.

 

NGOs concerned about women’s rights in the world should put this issue on their agenda. Female CAG prisoners cannot be accused of terrorism or separatism as it is not an ethnic group.

 

The more the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) represses CAG devotees the more it alienates them and gives them reasons to complain about the lack of religious freedom in China on the international scene. Additionally, the CCP’s policy also reinforces their apocalyptic view which equates the Chinese Communist Party or Communism in general with the Red Dragon of the Book of Revelation.

 

See some of our reports hereafter:

Tortured to death: The Persecution of the Church of Almighty God in China

NGOs unite against religious freedom oppression in China

The Church of Almighty God: Persecution in China – Refugee problems abroad

 

Photo : CAG refugees in Italy – Bitter Winter

 


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