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Chinese pastor held for ‘disturbing social order’

Detention comes as authorities intensify crackdown on Christian cult the Church of Almighty God
Chinese Christians join a religious procession in this undated image. Leaders and members of churches and Christian movements face routine harassment and persecution in the communist state

Chinese Christians join a religious procession in this undated image. Leaders and members of churches and Christian movements face routine harassment and persecution in the communist state. (Photo: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

Published: August 15, 2023 09:29 AM GMT
Updated: August 15, 2023 09:30 AM GMT

The authorities in Guangxi province in southern China have detained a Christian house church pastor after accusing him of "disturbing social order" for allegedly not joining a state-sanctioned church body.

Pastor Park Kwang-Zhe of the New Life Christian Church was detained in Shibu town, Xixiangtang district, Nanning on Aug. 8, Bitter Winter, an online magazine which covers religious freedom and human rights in China, reported on Aug. 15.

Park was detained on no specific charge, but local police officials said he was accused of violating Article 27(2) of the Public Security Law, which punishes those “disturbing social order… in the name of any religion.”

China’s house church members have long complained that the article has been exploited to target and harass leaders and pastors of churches who are not part of the state-run Three-Self Church which oversees Protestant churches in the communist nation.

Following Park’s detention, security officials told church members that not being part of the government-controlled church means being active in an “illegal” form of religion that already “disturbs social order.”

It is unclear whether Park will be charged criminally once his 15-day administrative detention ends on Aug. 23.

Members of the New Life Christian Church told Bitter Winter that they fear he might face a heavy fine and be detained for another 15 days for failing to pay it.

There were similar detentions of pastors and church members in recent times.

In 2022, Pastor An Yankui and co-worker Zhang Chenghao, of the City of God Reformed Church in Taiyuan were arrested, released and rearrested. Such arrests sparked criticism from rights groups.

Renewed crackdown on Church of Almighty God

Meanwhile, authorities have intensified a crackdown on the Church of Almighty God (CAG), a controversial neo-Christian movement considered a heretical and radical fringe outfit by mainstream churches and listed among banned religious groups or cults by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

More than 1,000 members of the CAG have been arrested in Zhejiang, Fujian, and Jiangsu provinces since June, Bitter Winter reported on Aug. 11.

One detained CAG member died in police custody after three days of confinement, the report stated.

Police officials claimed the 60-year-old hanged herself in her cell.

However, family members who reportedly saw her body said there was no marks on her neck. They claimed they found wounds to her head and blood in her eyes, meaning she was subjected to torture.

Another CAG member who was released after detention revealed that in a room adjacent to where he was held, a church leader was tortured and abused for five days.

 “I could hear her screams,” the witness claimed.

The Church of Almighty God is also known as Eastern Lighting. It began in China in 1991 and is believed to have 3-4 million members.

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 oversee CAG operations from New York City.

The movement drew the ire of the Chinese regime after it declared open war against the CCP by labelling the party a “red dragon” which only seeks to destroy.

It was banned along with more than a dozen cults including Falun Gong.

Hundreds of CAG members have since been arrested and allegedly subjected to brutal torture.

The latest crackdown against CAG members was planned a year ago and was being executed by public security, national security, armed police, and special forces police, local sources told Bitter Winter.

This time, police have focused on arresting leaders and active workers to entirely eradicate the cult.

A CAG member who was arrested and interrogated by police claimed that one officer said: “This time, we’re uprooting leaders from regions down to smaller districts, and then to local churches, and the intensity of the strike will continue to increase.”

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