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China accused of brutally torturing Christian sect members

The Church of Almighty God has faced ire in China after it declared open war against the Chinese Communist Party
Church of Almighty God believers gather in isolated areas in the countryside and the mountains to avoid police crackdowns in artistic AI-generated image

Church of Almighty God believers gather in isolated areas in the countryside and the mountains to avoid police crackdowns in this artistic AI-generated image. Photo: Frederick Florin/ AFP)

Published: May 06, 2024 11:14 AM GMT
Updated: May 06, 2024 11:26 AM GMT

Friends of two female members of a Christian sect have accused Chinese authorities of inflicting brutal physical and psychological torture while they were in detention, says a report.

The two women are members of the Church of Almighty God (CAG), a controversial Christian sect with an estimated three to four million members. The Chinese government banned it in 1995 terming it as an evil cult.

The CAG is among the most persecuted Christian groups in the communist country, rights groups say.

Italy-based human rights and religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter reported on May 6 that Xue Qing (name changed), 38, was arrested and detained in January 2024 and released a month later with indications of physical and psychological abuse.

“Her current IQ might be around that of a 10-year-old, and her memory is very poor,” said a source whose name was withheld due to safety concerns.

“She can’t sleep through the night, and her hands and legs tremble constantly,” the source added.

Reportedly, Xue who was healthy at the time of her arrest now had dull eyes, could not recognize people, speak, or stand, and had both her knees covered with scars.

A section of her scalp was exposed with no hair, and she had a fractured rib, Bitter Winter reported.

Allegedly, the police officials had intimidated Xue’s family and they refrained from investigating her whereabouts at the time of detention and the cause of the injuries visible on her body.

Xue wept when asked about what had happened during detention and could not verbally explain what had happened to her. She is currently managing her needs with assistance from her family members.

Xue had discovered a tracker on her electric bike right before her arrest.

Seventeen other CAG members who were arrested with Xue are still detained and held incommunicado, Bitter Winter reported.

In another case, Ran Li (name changed), a rheumatoid arthritis and anemia patient, was arrested in 2021 for her affiliation with the CAG.

A Chinese court later sentenced her to two years in prison. Upon her release, she weighed only 55 pounds (around 25 kilograms) and had swollen hand and knee joints.

The pain in her joints restricted Ran’s movements and her mental state made her unable to take care of herself.

“Ran Li has turned muddle-headed and can’t speak clearly, she is totally different from before she was arrested,” said a second unnamed source who was detained in the same cell with the victim.

Ran was allegedly subjected to beating and abuse by both guards and inmates.

Ran was forced to stand up for prolonged hours from 8 am to 10 pm without being allowed to drink or eat. She had even fainted once from exhaustion, the source alleged.

She was forced to sleep on damp bedding in a freezing cell, mop the floor, scrub the bedboards, and bathe with icy water all year round, which worsened her condition, Bitter Winter reported.

Since its founding in 1991, the CAG, also known as Eastern Lighting, has faced persecution from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), largely because it once declared open war against the CCP by labeling it a “red dragon” that only seeks to destroy.

The CAG believes and propagates that Jesus has become incarnate again, this time as a Chinese woman named Yang Xiangbin, media reports say.

Her partner, Zhao Weishan is known as the leader of the movement who first began proclaiming the divinity of Yang.

The couple moved to the US in 2000 and oversaw CAG operations from New York City.

The persecution of the CAG intensified in recent years. In September 2020, the CCP launched a three-year “general battle” and demanded its “total destruction,” Bitter Winter reported.

The number of CAG members arrested increased by 77 percent from 7,055 arrests in 2020 to 12,463 arrests in 2023, it said.

Among those arrested, the number of people who were sentenced increased by 101 percent from 1098 people in 2020 to 2,207 people in 2023.

The number of CAG members imprisoned for more than three years increased by 204 percent from 360 people in 2020 to 1,094 people in 2023.

The number of CAG members who died due to persecution increased by 122 percent from nine deaths in 2021 to 20 deaths in 2023.

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