The sentenced believers – aged from 17 to 78 – were prosecuted for making videos for the Church. Two among them will be kept behind bars for eight years.
by Xiao Baiming
In September 2019, the Intermediate People’s Court of Zibo, a prefecture-level city in the eastern province of Shandong, collectively sentenced 23 members of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) to prison. The CAG is the single most persecuted religious movement in China, which was included in the CCP’s list of the xie jiao in 1995 because of its rapid growth.
The court accused the 23 believers of “using a xie jiao organization to undermine law enforcement” because they took part in the production of videos for the Church. Many CAG-produced movies, musical dramas, choruses, and other art shows have been awarded overseas, and are considered to have great artistic value.
Two people from the group – Yin Xue, 23, and Chen Tingting, 28, – will spend eight years in prison, while a 41-year-old believer – seven years.
Three 17-year-olds were given sentences from one and a half to two years and fined from 5,000 to 7,000 RMB (about $ 700 to 1,000). Two believers in their seventies were sentenced to two years in prison, and one was fined 8,000 RMB (about $ 1,150), while the other –10,000 RMB (about $ 1,400).
The rest were given sentences ranging from one and a half to four years in prison and fines from 5,000 to 12,000 RBM (about $ 720 to 1,700).
As a rule, the police track CAG members for a long time before launching arrest operations. Chen Tingting, who was sentenced to eight years, had been monitored for six months.
“In China, CAG members are treated like political prisoners, who are given heavier penalties than common criminals,” a CAG member told Bitter Winter. “Regardless, we didn’t think that these people in Shandong would be punished so severely.”
Compared to earlier years, the number of sentenced CAG members, and the average length of sentences increased dramatically in 2019. According to the “2019 Annual Report on the Chinese Communist Government’s Persecution of the CAG,” 1,355 CAG members were sentenced last year – a 114 percent increase compared to 633 in 2018. Among them, 481 were sentenced to at least three years in prison, 64 to seven or more years, and 12 – from ten to twelve years. In Shandong, 1,438 CAG members were arrested and 168 sentenced to prison, resulting from nationwide crackdown operations.