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CHINA: Special Bimonthly newsletter on freedom of religion or belief (01.03 -15.03.2021)



05.03.21 – New Report Highlights Severe Lack of Religious Freedom in China


In its recent Freedom in the World report, Freedom House—a D.C.-based human rights watchdog group—ranked 195 countries and 15 territories on their political rights and civil liberties. The report considered many specific questions within the categories of political and civil freedom, including the extent to which each country allows its citizens to freely practice and express their religion.


Continue reading…



12.03.21 – -U.S. condemns China at UN rights forum for abuse of Uighurs, Tibetans


The United States on Friday condemned China’s abuse of ethnic and religious minorities, including what it called “crimes against humanity and genocide” in Xinjiang against Muslim Uighurs and severe restrictions in Tibet.


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Uyghur Muslims



05.03.21 – Five Uyghurs from one family imprisoned for Egypt study, another believed to have died in camp


Five relatives of a Uyghur trader who died after being freed from an internment camp in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) are in prison, according to officials, while one other is believed to have died in a camp after being ordered home from Egypt.


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09.03.21 – Uyghur Human Rights Project welcomes bill to provide Uyghurs safe haven


The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) welcomes the introduction of the Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act (H.R. 1630) in the U.S. House of Representatives to address the Uyghur refugee crisis.

“This legislation would empower the U.S. government to rescue vulnerable Uyghurs who have escaped China’s genocide,” said UHRP Executive Director, Omer Kanat.


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13.03.21 – “I was a teacher in a concentration camp”: Women and the Uyghur genocide


The CCP has shamelessly attacked the character of Uyghur women who have courageously testified to the rape and torture they endured or witnessed with their own eyes. Here is one.


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The Church of Almighty God


02.03.21 – Heavier sentences for Church of Almighty God members


As part of the campaign aimed at eradicating the movement, jail terms have been substantially increased.


Continue reading…



15.03.21 – Christian mistreated, tormented for refusing to give up belief


In July 2020, Li Huizhen (pseudonym), a Christian of The Church of Almighty God (CAG), finally got out of prison after she completed her three-year sentence term for her belief due to the CCP cruel persecution.


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Falun Gong



13.03.21 – 54-year-old man denied medical parole, dies two months after being imprisoned


A 54-year-old man died two months after he was imprisoned for his faith in Falun Gong.

Mr. Yue Caiyun, a native of Yucheng County, Henan Province, was arrested in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, where he had been living the past few years, on August 21, 2020. The Hangzhou police accused him of mailing informational materials about Falun Gong and held him at the Red Cross Detention Center in Xiaoshan District.


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15.03.21 – Guandong women sentenced to two years for reading Falun Gong teachings


A woman in Jieyang City, Guangdong Province was recently sentenced to two years for her faith in Falun Gong. Ms. Lin Liqing was arrested on June 14, 2020 while reading Falun Gong teachings at Ms. Lin Wanzhen’s home. Ms. Lin Wanzhen’s two other practitioner-guests, Ms. Wu Rongduan and a female practitioner whose name is unknown, were also arrested.


Continue reading…



15.03.21 – Report: 3,020 Elderly Falun Gong practitioners targeted for their faith in China between 2018 and 2020


In recent years, the persecution of elderly practitioners has become especially rampant. Even those in their 80s or 90s weren’t spared.

This report focuses on the persecution of elderly Falun Gong practitioners and how they have been physically and mentally abused despite their age. Some were even persecuted to death as a result of torture and pressure from the authorities.


Continue reading…





14.03.21 – Cardinal Bo calls for week of prayer for China Church


Cardinal Charles Bo, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), has called on the faithful to join a week of prayer for the Chinese Church from May 23-30.


Continue reading…


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CHINA: Church of Almighty God: Over 1000 members in prison in 2020

By Willy Fautré

HRWF (05.02.2021) – In 2020, at least 7055 members of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) were arrested in China, 1098 of them were sentenced to a prison term, and 21 lost their lives under torture, according to the 2020 Annual Report of the Church.

Jiang Yanghua, a Christian from Xinjiang, was given a 15-year sentence for “convening” gatherings. Three Christians who were minors at the time of their arrests, were sentenced to prison terms: three years to two of them and three and a half years for the other one.

At least 35,752 Christians were victims of various forms of police harassment, according to the CAG.

The report details the ongoing destruction of religious venues and crosses by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the pandemic and reveals a number of confidential documents. It also lists a series of crackdowns resulting in mass arrests.

In February 2020, a police operation was carried out in Sichuan Province although many cities and towns were under a severe lockdown. At least 142 CAG Christians were arrested.

On 16-17 May, over 100 CAG Christians were arrested in Linfen City, Shanxi Province.

On 11 November, in a single day, at least 120 CAG Christians were arrested in Zibo City, Shandong Province.

On 3 December, no less than 200 Christians were arrested in Zhejiang Province. A number of them had been under police surveillance for nearly a year.

While in custody, they were subjected to various forms of torture such as sleep deprivation, electric shocks, being suspended from handcuffs, having their fingers stabbed with toothpicks, and having their nipples put in iron clamps.

At least 21 Christians died in 2020 as a result of torture and other forms of abuse.

Qin Shiqin, a CAG Christian from Shandong Province, passed away after being held in a police station for 10 days.

Additionally, the CCP’s oppression of The Church of Almighty God continued to intensify. In September, the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission issued a confidential document calling for a three-year “all-out war” against The Church of Almighty God.  The Church was identified as “the most prominent potential threat” to its rule, its “utter annihilation” was put on the CCP’s agenda as a priority and efforts are to be intensified to thwart the CAG’s growth abroad. After the release of the document, the number of arrests climbed steadily to reach 1525 for the sole month of November alone across the country.

The CCP also extended its oppression beyond China’s borders. A Christian living abroad who appeared in CAG films became a target of CCP’s persecution while his relatives in China were subjected to harassment and one of them died in the hands of the police.

The CCP also established a big data platform for the surveillance of CAG’s members, using a variety of illegal practices such as inciting anti-CAG public hostility, applying guilt by association and misusing the social credit system. The CCP did not hesitate either to use blackmail: recanting their faith or depriving them and their relatives of their right to employment, education, basic living allowances, travel, and more.

The Church of Almighty God, a new religious movement, was established in 1991. Due to its rapid growth and its refusal to accept government control, it has been perceived as a threat by the CCP. It is currently among the religious groups facing the most severe persecution by the CCP. At least 420,000 of its members have suffered arrests from 2011 until now.

This report has been compiled by the CAG on the basis of over 40,000 documented cases of CCP’s persecution and confidential documents released by CCP officials. It provides a valuable resource made up of solid data and evidence that can be useful for researchers and defenders of religious freedom in China. It is available at


Several thousands of CAG members fled to Europe for safety. They urgently need to be recognized as political refugees.

For more information about The Church of Almighty God by scholars in religious studies, see



For more information about the CAG, see their website here.




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SWITZERLAND-CHINA secret deal about refugees

An NGO published a confidential document hinting at the disturbing possibility that Chinese State Security agents directly interfere in asylum cases.


by Rosita Šorytė



Bitter Winter (14.12.2020) – https://bit.ly/3mmDjnG – On December 9, 2020, the Spanish NGO Safeguard Defenders published the confidential text of an agreement between Switzerland and China dated December 8, 2015. That the agreement existed was known from an article published on NZZ am Sonntag on August 23, 2020, which led to considerable political controversy, but Safeguard Defenders has published the text for the first time. Its authenticity has not been disputed.

The deal is part of a broader category of so-called “readmission agreements,” which are commons between democratic countries. They provide for reciprocal cooperation between the immigration authorities of two countries, when an unauthorized immigrant coming from one of them is identified in the other. Once his or her identity and nationality have been ascertained, the two countries cooperate to take the immigrant back home.

The agreement with China, however, is anomalous for three different reasons. First, it is not reciprocal, which can be explained with the fact that perhaps not many Swiss try to illegally immigrate to China.

Second, it authorizes teams of two experts from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security to travel to Switzerland confidentially, with their identities kept secret and their travel expenses paid by Swiss taxpayers, to cooperate with Swiss immigration authorities. It is true that the Ministry of Public Security in China is in charge, inter alia, of immigration. But it is also true that it is a ministry of police, also dealing with the repression of dissidents and banned religious groups.

Third, the Chinese “experts” from the Ministry of Public Security are authorized to interview the Chinese “with irregular stay in Switzerland” on Swiss soil, advise the Swiss authorities on whether they should be sent back to China, and share the information they collect with the Chinese Embassy in Bern. The agreement states that personal data collected in the process should be kept “confidential,” and not used for purposes other than those stated in the agreement, but one can easily imagine how safe is information about Chinese who escaped from China in the hands of Beijing’s Embassy.

A key question is whether the Chinese Public Security agents intervene only in the cases of economic immigrants, or also in those concerning refugees who seek asylum in Switzerland for reasons of political or religious persecution. After the NZZ am Sonntag started investigating the matter, this question was officially answered. Swiss authorities told the newspaper that “asylum seekers” are included in the scope of the agreement, and indeed four of them were sent back to China in 2016 after having been interviewed by the Chinese Public Security agents. They were keen to add that “Tibetan and Uighur asylum seekers are not affected by the agreement and would not be sent back to China due to the threat of persecution they face.”

This is good for Tibetans and Uyghurs, but there is an important omission. In Western Europe in general, in recent years the majority of religion-based refugee claims did not come from Tibetans and Uyghurs. They came from Christians persecuted in China, most of them from members of a Christian new religious movement, The Church of Almighty God. Chinese embassies have been active in spreading fake news about this group, and actively intervene to prevent its members from obtaining asylum in democratic countries.

The book by Massimo Introvigne Inside The Church of Almighty God: The Most Persecuted Religious Movement in China, published this year by Oxford University Press, tells the story of Wang Xiumei, a Church of Almighty God asylum seeker in Switzerland, who received a deportation order from the Swiss authorities. Wang agreed to go back to China spontaneously, but took the precaution of not returning to her home in Linshu County, Shandong. Instead, she rented a room in the housing facility of a construction company in the same county. Yet at the end, the police knocked on her door and arrested her as a member of a xie jiao, a banned religious movement. On February 9, 2018, the Linshu County People’s Court sentenced Wang to three and a half years in jail under Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code, which punishes those active in a xie jiao.

We do not know in which cases of which refugees the Chinese agents intervened, and whether the case of Wang Xiumei was included. Yet, we know that under the agreement with Switzerland, Chinese Public Security agents were involved in cases of asylum seekers other than Tibetans and Uyghurs, and we know that China continuously tries to prevent members of The Church of Almighty God from obtaining asylum abroad.

The agreement between China and Switzerland was due for renewal on December 8, 2020. It is unclear whether it has been secretly renewed, after the protests of politicians and NGOs, although the head of the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), Mario Gattiker, stated in August that “such arrangements were in the interest of Switzerland, and that Bern—not Beijing—was pushing to renew the agreement.”

One also wonders whether secret agreements parallel to the one signed with Switzerland exist with other countries, without having been leaked to independent media or NGOs. That Chinese Public Security agents may roam free in democratic countries, interview asylum seekers, and work with local authorities to send victims back to their executioners is clearly intolerable. Wherever it happens, it should be stopped.

Picture: Embassy of China in Bern, Switzerland

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CAG refugees struggle for asylum status in democratic countries

Better Country of Origin Information (COI) led to favorable decisions in some countries—but not all courts are aware of them.


By Massimo Introvigne


Bitter Winter (12.12.2020) – https://bit.ly/3nk7q0n – Although the COVID-19 pandemic made escaping China and entering democratic countries more difficult, administrative commissions and courts continue to hear cases concerning Chinese refugees. The largest number of religion-related asylum cases concerning Chinese citizens refers to members of The Church of Almighty God (CAG), a Chinese Christian new religious movement that is currently the most persecuted religious group in China.


The outcome of their asylum proceedings largely depend on which COI (Country of Origin Information) about both the situation of religious liberty in China and the CAG are available to, and relied upon, by the commissions and courts involved.


The first decisions about CAG asylum seekers were mostly negative, and based on COI with incomplete and often erroneous information on the Church. There were two reasons for this. First, COI are based either on scholarly studies or on journalistic sources. The latter, even when published in the West, mostly reflected official Chinese publications that tried to justify the persecution of the CAG. For independent scholars studying the CAG in China, where it is heavily persecuted, is virtually impossible. Serious academic studies on the CAG started appearing after the Church established communities in democratic countries, i.e. from 2015 on, and became significant after 2017, in turn influencing some quality media. Second, as Bitter Winter has repeatedly learned from lawyers involved in asylum proceedings, Chinese embassies and consulates continue to supply authorities in the countries where the refugees arrive with hostile information about the CAG.


Even when produced by governmental agencies, most pre-2017 COI on CAG were inadequate, and often repeated fake news spread from the Chinese propaganda. Starting in 2017, however, the situation changed. While scholars had criticized COI produced in 2014 by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, often quoted in European decisions, the Canadian Board released new and updated COI in 2019, after consulting with the leading Western scholars who had written about the CAG.


In the same year, the Italian Ministry of Internal Affairs published its COI (in Italian) on the CAG and its persecution in China. A parallel COI report by the same Ministry highlighted how CAG members abroad are kept under surveillance and identified through facial recognition, so that they can be arrested if they return to China. Finally, in 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands published new COI on China, with a substantial section on the CAG. In 2019 and 2020, the Department of State of the United States also examined the persecution of the CAG in its yearly reports on religious liberty.


Although a CAG believer may find occasional incorrect details when CAG theology is mentioned, these documents from 2019 and 2020 are based on a serious and commendable effort to deal with the scholarly literature on CAG now available. Based on these COI, it should be possible for CAG refugees to be recognized as members of a persecuted minority, whose reasonable and justified “fear of persecution” should they return to China entitles them to asylum in democratic countries.


This is indeed the case when the new COI are read and used. For example, several decisions issued after the new Dutch COI were published granted asylum in the Netherlands to CAG believers. In Italy, several decisions, including two by the Supreme Court, were also favorable to CAG refugees.


Unfortunately, however, we still see decisions where old COI are used, the new COI are ignored, and unfounded arguments are invoked to conclude that CAG refugees are not entitled to asylum. Bitter Winter has learned of a recent negative decision in Italy that is somewhat typical in this respect, but examples also exist in other countries.


Some decisions recognize that there is no religious liberty in China, and that the CAG is persecuted, but regard the individual story of the CAG asylum seeker as not believable. Refugees who arrive in a new country may sometimes be afraid and confused, and not capable of clearly reporting their stories. It is also the case that the official translators provided by the commissions may not offer the high translation quality that would be needed in such delicate cases.


Commissions should look at the larger picture rather than looking for contradictions in lesser details. Since, as the most recent COI confirm, being a member of the CAG is enough to be arrested and jailed in China, once the fact that an asylum seeker belongs to the CAG is proved, the “fear of persecution” should be regarded as proved too.


There are, however, decisions that do not recognize the existence of a religious persecution in China or that the CAG is persecuted. Some seem to trust more the information spread by the Chinese embassies than the COI of their own governments (in Italy, one decision continued to quote outdated COI from the University of Rome, while new ones from the Ministry of Internal Affairs are available). In rare cases, governmental COIs and scholarly studies are dismissed as coming from sources “hostile to China”—which would of course disqualify almost all scholars and international human rights bodies who have dealt with China, as they unanimously concluded that human rights are not respected there. Unbelievably, Chinese propaganda claiming that religious liberty prevails in the country is believed, together with the fake news about the CAG, and this despite the fact that recent COI produced by governments tell a different story.


It is also false to argue that only scholars and governments hostile to China report about the persecution of the CAG. In fact, these news often come from the Chinese government itself. An official Chinese Web site on the repression of the xie jiao (religious groups banned by the government) has a section on court cases, and informs weekly on decisions sentencing CAG members to several years in jail only because they practice and spread their faith. China operates the largest data base of legal decisions in the world. Although it does not include all decisions rendered in China, searching for cases involving CAG devotees leads to find hundreds of them sentenced to severe jail penalties for the only “crimes” of gathering for worship, evangelizing, or keeping at home CAG literature. The conclusion is that the information about the persecution of the CAG in China does not come from governments and scholars critical of China only. It comes primarily from the Chinese authorities themselves.


Finally, some decisions continue to argue that, if the CAG asylum seekers had been really persecuted in China, they should not have been able to obtain a passport. If they obtained a passport, some European decisions state, this is the proof that they were not persecuted.


A legal answer to this argument is that the asylum seekers should not prove they were persecuted in China, but that they have a “well-founded fear of persecution” (Article 1 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, Article 1 of the 1967 Refugee Protocol, Article 2 of the 2011 European Union Recast Qualification Directive). As the Italian COI on CAG and facial recognition specifies, even if the refugees were not known as CAG members in China, when they obtained the passport, they are known to the Chinese authorities as CAG believers now, because China keeps watch of the CAG and other dissident Chinese communities abroad, and identifies its members through facial recognition. If they go back to China, they will be arrested.


But there is also a factual answer. Once again, when stating categorically that a member of a persecuted group cannot obtain a passport in China, some European decisions rely on outdated COI on Chinese security, and also on a faulty logic. Chinese security systems are not infallible, and as the 2020 Dutch COI on China report, can possibly be overcome “through bribery.”


Plain logic should also help in concluding that obtaining a passport for a CAG member is not impossible. Every month, Chinese sources report that dozens of CAG members have been identified and arrested. While this proves persecution, it also proves that there are thousands of CAG believers who have not yet been identified as such (otherwise, they would have been arrested before). Before they are identified as CAG members, they live in a situation of risk and “well-founded fear” (as they can be identified or exposed at any time, particularly because those who denounce them receive significant monetary rewards), but can still be able to obtain a passport.


Obviously, political considerations interact with the purely legal ones. In certain countries, the desire not to antagonize China may prevail on other considerations. Yet, administrative commissions and courts should recognize that in China there is no religious liberty, that CAG is severely persecuted, that being identified as a CAG member is enough to go to jail for several years, and that China keeps a watch on CAG communities abroad and knows who is active there. These are all facts, easy to be proved, and acknowledged by COI published by governmental authorities. Those who send back to China CAG asylum seekers should know they are sending them to jail, or worse.

Photo: Refugees of The Church of Almighty God. Credit: Bitter Winter.

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China/ Spain: Forced to flee China due to religious persecution: the case of Li Jie

– HRWF (14.07.2020) – Li Jie[1] was transporting religious books in 2006 when he was stopped by armed police, arrested and tortured. Fortunately, he managed to escape. He then lived on the run to avoid another arrest until 2016 when he fled China and sought asylum in a democratic country.


Li Jie, who is from Shandong Province in eastern China and joined The Church of Almighty God (CAG)[2] in 1999, shared his experiences of religious persecution in China with Human Rights Without Frontiers during an interview.

Stopped by armed police

“On 7 August 2006, we loaded a truck with 20 boxes of books of Almighty God’s words[3] in Shandong Province’s Rizhao City, which were scheduled to be transported to a congregation in another province. When we reached a toll station in Pizhou City, Jiangsu Province, five or six armed police officers stopped us. They forced the driver to open the container door to search the contents. As soon as they saw that the title of the books in the crates was The Word Appears in the Flesh, they phoned their superior to report it. They then took us and the truck to the police station.”

Eight officers tortured him

“At the Police Station, officers searched me and confiscated my money (700 RMB or 100 USD in cash), as well as my notebook which contained handwritten phone numbers. They destroyed my trousers in the process. The officers fiercely interrogated me about where I came from, where we had printed the books, and demanded to know where they were destined to go. Seeing that I would not say anything, the chief of the Police Station pointed at my head and angrily said, ‘Do not think that the Government is a loving entity. You, believers in Almighty God, deserve harsh punishment.’ Their interrogation lasted four hours, but it yielded no results. Consequently, they called the local Public Security Bureau to take over my case.


At around 9:00pm a man in his fifties came in. Under his command, eight officers took turns torturing me in an attempt to force me to speak. They first demanded that I stand in a half squat. As it was August, and scorching hot in Jiangsu, I sweated profusely, wetting the ground under my feet. After about half an hour, I was so exhausted that I collapsed onto the floor, unable to stand up.


They then instructed me to sit on the floor with my two legs stretched out straight and a straight back. If I moved, they kicked and beat me as punishment. Since I had still refused to talk, they took a stainless-steel instrument with an iron head and a spring. They violently beat my toes and ankles, causing a tremendous pain. Even to this day, the skin around my ankles is dark and numb.


Next, they sprayed a liquid with a very strong odor into my eyes, causing immense pain and for me to tear heavily. It felt like my eyes were burning. Later, with a fully charged electric baton stick, an officer shocked my shoulders and knees. The torture I endured from these nine officers caused tremendous agony.”

A narrow escape

“The next morning, two officers took me into a separate room. They twisted my arms behind my back, tied my thumbs together with a thin cotton string, and told me to squat between two sofas near the wall. I knew that I would soon face more severe torture, and so I kept praying silently to be able to escape.


Out of the corner of my eye I observed how the door of the room was opened and closed. At the same time, I tried to pry my thumbs loose. To my surprise and joy that seemed to work. One of the two officers on guard then left the room, leaving only a young officer to keep an eye on me. This officer kept dozing off while sitting on the bed in the room. I was hoping to escape while he was napping.


However, just when I thought it might be possible, he seemed to notice something was wrong and moved a chair so as to sit directly in front of me, with his feet on one of the sofas to prevent me from leaving. I felt my heart in my throat because soon it would be lunch time and I would lose this window of opportunity to escape. Luckily, it wasn’t long before he began to snore. That is when I built up the courage to creep over him and, as quietly as I could, leave the room. To my horror, the door slammed shut behind me. After I realized the young officer was still sleeping, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. There was no one in the corridor and so I was able to walk out of the police station without being stopped. This is how I escaped the CCP and return home safely.


About two months later, fellow members of the CAG informed me that the CCP was asking about my whereabouts, and that I had to go into hiding as soon as possible. It left me with no choice, I had to leave my home and start to live as a fugitive.”

Forced to flee China

“After eight years of living in hiding, in 2014, the CCP falsely attributed the so called ‘May 28 Shandong Zhaoyuan Murder Case’[4]  to the CAG. The CCP mobilized the armed police, as well as the army, and conducted the ‘One Hundred Day Battle’ nationwide to repress and arrest CAG members. I learned from my family that people were asking about my whereabouts. My village’s Party Secretary had already reported me to the municipal township authorities. Later, I received word that many CAG members in my village had been arrested. I did not dare return home again.


It took another two years of living on the run before I managed to get a Passport and flee to Spain in August 2016, seeking asylum. In late September, my case was heard by the refugee board. Now, in 2020, I am still awaiting a decision from the Government.”


[1] This is a pseudonym. The real name of this asylum-seeker is known to HRWF.

[2] The CAG is a new religious movement that has only gained visibility outside of China due to thousands of its members fleeing and applying for refugee status in Europe and North America. It has been defamed by Chinese propaganda and, as a fast-growing movement, it is perceived as a competitor by Protestant Churches inside and outside of China, which present its theology as heresy.

The CAG releases periodic statistics on its website.[2] According to this source, between 2011 and 2013 more than 300,000 members were arrested. These figures are not inconceivable if one factors in the frequent references to ‘successful’ campaigns against the CAG in Chinese anti-xie-jiao propaganda and other official sources. The Church also reports that many of its members were tortured, and that some have died while in custody under suspicious circumstances.

According to official Chinese sources, the number of CAG members had reached approximately four million members by 2014. However, this figure is disputed by scholars who argue that it is inflated. They believe this over-estimation is used by the CCP as justification for the urgent need to persecute the CAG.

[3] In the CAG theology, the Almighty God is their (female) spiritual leader, the reincarnation of Jesus-Christ.

[4] In 2014, the CCP falsely accused members of the CAG of being responsible for a homicide that occurred at a McDonald’s in Zhaoyuan, Shandong Province. The CCP used all of the media outlets under its control to attack, defame, and slander the CAG. In 2017, Dr Massimo Introvigne investigated this criminal case and uncovered the CCP’s deliberate deception in an article published in The Journal of Cesnur.


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