China Aid Association
Legal Opinions on Bai Cheng’s Conduct not Constituting a Crime
February 25, 2008
Dear Luoyang Municipal Public Security Bureau:
We are Attorney Liu Peifu and Attorney Li Dunyong from Gongxin Law Office of Beijing. Entrusted by Cong Weili, wife of Bai Cheng and with approval and arrangement of your bureau, we were able to meet the criminal suspect Bai Cheng at 9:00 on the morning of February 20, 2008. We hereby express our thanks for your cooperation with the attorneys’ work. From the fact we learned in meeting Bai Cheng and in interviewing some of the Christians who gathered for the Bible study, we think Bai Cheng’s conduct does not constitute a criminal offense. Therefore, we sincerely request that your bureau can adopt our opinions and release Bai Cheng immediately.
First of all, the notification of criminal detention from your bureau determines that Bai Cheng is suspected of having attended the activities of a cult organization. According to this determination of the nature of his conduct, the corresponding article in the Criminal Law for this suspected crime is Article 300. The specific crime in this article is the crime of organizing and utilizing a cult organization in undermining implementation of law.
As for what a cult organization is, there is a strict stipulation in the corresponding law of the state. Please be very careful in determining whether an organization is a cult or not. It is stipulated in Article 1 of “Explanations from the Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate on Some Questions in the Specific Applicable Laws in Processing Criminal Cases Involving Organizing and Utilizing Cult Organizations” that the “cult organization” mentioned in Article 300 of the Criminal Law refers to an illegal organization that is founded in the name of religion, Qigong or other entities and that deifies the chief elements in the organization and that bewitches and deceives other people, develops and controls its members and endangers the society by creating and disseminating superstitions and heresies. In this context, Bai Cheng never deified anybody in his religious activities, let alone the chief elements. Besides, there was not a fixed group of people. Therefore, there was no organization. There was all the more no such things as an organization that bewitches and deceives other people, develops and controls its members or endangers the society by creating and disseminating superstitions and heresies. This case completely falls outside the definition of “cult organization.” China practices the principle of legality in crimes. The judicial interpretation is relatively detailed on the specific situation and characteristics of crimes as defined in Article 300 of the Criminal Law. It is stipulated in Article 1 of “Explanations from the Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate on Some Questions in the Specific Applicable Laws in Processing Criminal Cases Involving Organizing and Utilizing Cult Organizations” that (1) the cult gathers a mob to besiege and assault state organs, enterprises and institutions and disrupts the order of work, production, operation, instruction and scientific research; (2) that the cult holds illegal gatherings, parades, demonstrations and incites, deceives and organizes its members or other people to besiege, assault, take by force and cause troubles in public places and sites for religious activities and disturb the public order; (3) that the cult refuses the abolishment by relevant agencies or resumes or establishes another cult or it continues to engage in cult activities after it is abolished by relevant agencies. (4) that the cult involves in serious cases of inciting, deceiving and organizing its members or other people not to implement legal obligations. (5) that the cult publishes, prints, copies and distributes publications that preaches the cult and prints materials with cult logos as defined in Article 1 in Part 2 of “Explanations from the Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate on Some Questions in the Specific Applicable Laws in Processing Criminal Cases Involving Organizing and Utilizing Cult Organizations,” that is: (1) the cult produces and distributes over 300 copies of cult flyers, photos, slogans and newspapers, over 100 books, over 100 optical disks and over 100 cassettes of audio or video tapes; (2) that the cult produces and distributes the master copies of DVDs, VCDs or CDs that preach the cult. (3) that the cult preaches the cult organization through the Internet. (4) that the cult preaches the cult and causes severe social consequences by displaying banners or writing slogans with paint in public places. (5) that the cult produces and distributes cult propaganda materials again after receiving criminal penalties or administrative penalties. None of these situations fits this case. We can say the conduct of Bai Cheng does not violate any of the above provisions.
Determination on the nature of the case is wrong. Your bureau thinks that during his missionary work, Bai Cheng preached the Shouters that has long been determined by the state as a cult and therefore he has violated the provisions specified in Article 300 of Criminal Law of China. Therefore, his conduct has constituted a crime. However, we think the determination on the nature of this case is wrong.
To determine whether Bai Cheng was preaching a cult and whether he undermined the implementation of the law of the state by utilizing a cult, it is necessary for us to know what the Shouters are. Here is the origin and background of the Shouters: Witness Lee, the leader of the Shouters was originally a co-worker at the Christian Local Church and his influence was next only to Watchman Nee, the leader at the Local Church. After the Communists’ take-over of the mainland China, they went to Taiwan for their development. Later, he immigrated to the United States and died a few years ago. Most of his works have been published by Taiwan Gospel Book Room. The Shouters regard Witness Lee’s books as the authorities. They yell and shout in gatherings and prayers and do not pray in the name of Jesus. That’s why they are called the Shouters. The Shouters developed in the 1980s and were relatively active in Fujian, Zhejiang and Henan provinces. The Shouters usually refer to Witness Lee as “the Lord Witness Lee” and they think they can be saved only by shouting “the Lord Witness Lee.” Two: The characteristics of the Shouters: The Shouters have published many books such as “The Revelation of the Mystery,” “The Ministry of the New Testament,” “The Basis for the Building Work of God,” “Living in the Spirit, ” etc. To control his congregation, Witness Lee also re-translated the New Testament and called his translation “The Holy Bible Recovery Version.”
In this version, he tampered with many words in the Bible to confuse the believers of the Shouters. The believers of the Shouters place Witness Lee above Christ and regard Witness Lee as God. They also form Gospel Teams made of two or three people and send them to preach everywhere to incite the masses and cause the schism of the church. Three: the errors of the Shouters in the doctrines of the faith. 1. Wrong authorities in the faith: The Shouters deny the Bible. In his “Life-Study of the Scripture,” Witness Lee said: the words in the Bible are to tell people to die, so we don’t need to study it. Witness Lee regards his book “Living in the Spirit” as the authority of the Shouters’ faith. They don’t regard the Bible as the highest authority of their faith. 2. Wrong concept on the God: The Shouters deny the doctrine of trinity. Witness Lee said the son is the incarnation of the father and the holy spirit is the incarnation of the son€¦. He confuses the order the Holy Father, Holy Son and the Holy Spirit, which is a violation of the truth of the Bible. 3. Wrong concept on the Holy Spirit: Witness Lee said: There is a spirit and it was he who found it. This “spirit” will replace the true God of Trinity and that this spirit is not a “holy spirit.” The Bible has already explained that the Holy Spirit is at the third place in the true God of Trinity and it has the right to get involved in creating the universe and bestowing the grace to the believers. The “spirit” Witness Lee talked about is not the Holy Spirit. 4. The wrong concept on salvation: The Shouters deny the grace of salvation of Christ on the Cross and the Word of Resurrection. In his book “The Revelation of the Mystery,” Witness Lee said he was deceived by Christianity and that he found those people who have accepted the Word of Resurrection place themselves above the ordinary people, which is incompatible with the faith they believe in and which does not give them the life of Christ. Therefore, Witness Lee had doubts on the Way of the Cross and said the era of the Way had passed and man no longer needs the Way of the Cross and the Way of Resurrection. The truth of the Cross is the core belief in Christianity and the Lord Jesus really died for us on the Cross to save the world. Whoever believes in Him shall have an eternal life and there were disciples who witnessed the resurrection of the Lord (Romans 4:25, 1 Thessalonians 2:2) 5. Wrong concept on the end of the world: In his book “Life-Study of John,” Witness Lee erroneously interpreted the meaning of “residence” in Chapter 14. He said this “residence” refers to the fact that there are many limbs in the body of the Christ. In fact, in this paragraph, Jesus told His disciples that there are many residences in the house of our heavenly father and that He will leave the world to prepare for a place for the disciple. Obviously, this “place” refers to heaven and not to limbs. We can see that Witness Lee denies heaven. 6. Wrong concept on the Church: In his book “The Subjective Truths in the Holy Scriptures,” Witness Lee said that in about a dozen centuries in the past, the Church has been totally lost and there is no true church. Yet, since he found that “spirit,” he has founded a true church. Other churches that do not follow the Shouters are labeled as “dead Christianity.” The Christian church recorded clearly in the Bible was founded in the era of the Apostles. How can Christians deny thousands of years of the church’s history? 7. Wrongly denies everything: In his book “Living with the Lord,” Witness Lee objects to man’s thinking and rationality. He said man doesn’t have to use his brain. Only spirit is enough. He mentions “culture is the deadly enemy to Christians.” Witness Lee uses that “spirit” of his to deny the normal life of people and denies differences in good, bad, benevolence and evil and denies right and wrong. He also denies knowledge and all this is in sharp contradiction to the teachings in the Bible. The Bible teaches its believers that man should judge things through experience and man should do all types of good things and that wisdom and rationality are bestowed to man by God. All these denials of Witness Lee are in violation of the teachings in the Bible.
According to the opinions of the believers and from what we learned at the meeting with Bai Cheng, Bai Cheng has never mentioned Witness Lee to other Christians during the Bible studies nor has he preached the teachings of the Shouters. Actually, he is very opposed to the Shouters. He has never preached the Bible to other Christians with “The Holy Bible Recovery Version” translated by Witness Lee and considered the most authoritative book by the Shouters. Instead, he preached the Bible with the Bible and the version of the Bible he uses is the one commonly used by the Christian churches in China.
During his missionary work, Bai Cheng has never complained about the religious policies of the state to the brothers and sisters and has never talked about political affairs of the country and he has never said any word detrimental to the stability of the state, nor has he incited other Christians in resisting the implementation of the law. Therefore, he has not committed an act of utilizing a cult to undermine the implementation of the law. As Bai Cheng is very familiar with the Bible and can guide other believers to study the Bible in a timely and clear way, and as he has a beautiful rising and falling of tones and rhythm, that’s why some people mistakenly believe he belongs to the Shouters when he organized Bible studies,. We have a question here: How can a person be a believer of the Shouters who has never mentioned Witness Lee, the name of the founder of the Shouters and who has never preached the doctrine of the Shouters and who has never preached the belief with “The Holy Bible Recovery Version?”
Therefore, we can’t determine that Bai Cheng is a member of the Shouters in such a simple way. As a Christian, Bai Cheng believes in a religion that is pure Christianity which is not a cult. It is wrong for your bureau to believe that the religion Bai Cheng believes in is a cult. Therefore, the missionary work of Bai Cheng does not constitute a crime.
Another point we have here is that Bai Cheng having one or two copies of books related to Witness Lee does not constitute a crime. According to Clause 1, Article 300 of the “Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China” and Article 1 of “Explanations from the Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate on Some Questions in the Specific Applicable Laws in Processing Criminal Cases Involving Organizing and Utilizing Cult Organizations,” if one of the following situations is met in producing, preaching cult propaganda materials, preaching a cult, undermining the law or the implementation of administrative regulations, the perpetrator shall be convicted and penalized pursuant to Clause 1 of Article 300 of the Criminal Law as utilizing a cult organization in undermining the implementation of the law of the state: (1) producing and distributing over 300 copies of cult flyers, photos, slogans and newspapers, over 100 books, over 100 optical disks and over 100 cassettes of audio or video tapes; Only as long as the perpetrator meets this standard can he or she be convicted and penalized as utilizing a cult organization in undermining the implementation of the law of the state. According to people’s statements, of all the books owned by Bai Cheng, one book is about Witness Lee. If there is only one such a book, it is far from the above number specified in the law. Besides this, it is quite normal for people who engage in missionary work to own one or two books about other denominations, even when these are books from a cult. Most of the time, it is for the understanding of this particular denomination, not for preaching the doctrines of the denomination. As long as the person does not join the denomination, he or she cannot be considered as participating in the activities of the cult organization. Therefore, we cannot determine that this conduct of Bai Cheng constitutes a crime.
Third: the conduct of Bai Cheng and other believers gathering at the residence of Zhang Yu for a Bible study is a normal Christian religious service and does not fit in “illegal assembly and illegal preaching” and does not violate any law of our country of China. It is stipulated in Article 36 of our Constitution that “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.” On the issue of establishing a site for religious activities, the freedom of religious belief as proclaimed in the Constitution of our country means the gathering site for religious believers can be established without the approval from any government agencies because a religious belief is purely the emotional activities of a citizen and the secular law can only regulate the external conduct of the person and should not peep into people’s internal spiritual and emotional activities. The secular law should not at any time get involved and should not comment on the content of the citizens’ belief. At most, the site of gathering for religious believers can file at a public power agency, but it does not need to obtain a “permit or an approval.” (Even they register at the public power agency, it should be for the purpose of tax exemption and not for other purposes). Otherwise, the conduct of the public power agency constitutes the violation of the law as interfering with or discriminating against freedom of religion which is protected by the Constitution. This principle and the gist of the Constitution of our country is also confirmed by the white paper of “Status of Freedom of Religious Belief in China” published by Information Office of the State Council of China — “The religious activities held in their own private homes according to religious customs and mainly attended by their relatives such as praying and Bible reading (habitually referred to by Christians in China as ‘house meetings,’) are not required to register.” Therefore, their gathering organized at the residence of Zhang Yu is not prohibited by the law and is permitted by the state.
Fourth, that Bai Cheng accepted 400 US dollars from brothers and sisters is not a violation of the law of our country. There is no such a law in our country that says believers cannot accept donations from brothers and sisters.
To sum up, Bai Cheng never had the intention of joining a cult organization nor has he committed any act of joining a cult organization. His normal gathering for the Bible study and prayers do not constitute a crime. Therefore, the criminal detention adopted by your bureau does not have the legal basis. We sincerely request that your bureau release the criminal suspect Bai Cheng.
Gongxin Law Office of Beijing
China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
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