In France, 335 Chinese citizens who are members of The Church of Almighty God (CAG), one of the largest new religious movements in China, have been denied asylum. 156 of them have received a departure order and are now under threat of deportation. Only six applications for asylum have been accepted.
We have been studying the situation of the CAG for several years and we are morally sure that once they are extradited back to China, the CAG members living currently in France will be immediately arrested, tortured and detained for several years. *
The Chinese government considers the CAG « an heterodox belief system » (xie jiao), and article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code provides prison terms of three to seven years or more for those who « use » a xie jiao – the jurisprudence interprets this as active membership in such movements. The CAG also denounced cases of torture and suspicious deaths in prisons.
The Chinese government accuses the CAG of several crimes but the scholars who have studied these issues have concluded that it is pure propaganda. A French brochure published by the DIDR (the Research and Documentation Branch of the Refugee Office) in 2016 echoed one of these accusations. Four well-known scholars wrote to the DIDR in February to ask for an update of this brochure, published before the CAG started being the object of significant scientific research.
The issue is not purely academic but it is a human rights issue. It is about the protection of the freedom and the life of people who have already suffered a lot and who expect from France the protection they are entitled to.
We call upon you, Mr President, upon the relevant French authorities and upon all the friends of human rights to prohibit the handing over of victims to their persecutors.
Paris, 10 March 2018
CAP-LC Coordination des associations et des particuliers pour la liberté de conscience
HRWF Human Rights Without Frontiers/ Droits de l’homme sans frontières (Brussels)
EIFRF European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom
CESNUR Center for Studies on New Religions
ORLIR International Observatory of Religious Freedom of Refugees
Marie Holzman – Sinologist, president of the « Association Solidarité Chine »
Bernadette Rigal-Cellard – University Bordeaux Montaigne
Massimo Introvigne – Center for Studies on New Religions, Torino, Italy
Holly Folk – Western Washington University
Susan Palmer – University Concordia and McGill University, Montreal
Jean-Luc Marin-Lagardette – Journalist and essayist