Updated at 4:56 p.m. CDT on Sept. 8, 2017
(Dali, Yunnan—Sept. 8, 2017) More than a dozen Christians in China’s southern Yunnan province face trial on falsified cult charges, ChinaAid learned Sunday.
Multiple Christians are facing court hearings and prison sentences for allegedly “participating in cult activities.” Last October, three Christian women, Liu Wei, Yin Dianhong, and Tu Yan, were taken into police custody for evangelizing and establishing house churches in the Lincang, Chuxiong, Dali, Zhaotong, Yuxi, Pu’er, and Xishuangbanna regions of Yunnan. Authorities also arrested other Christians, including Zhang Congying, Li Yunxiu, Li Wanhong, Liang Qin, Peng Huifen, Ya Jiaping, Zhong Yonggui, Su Min, and Li Shudong. Some of the arrested Christians have been released.
Because authorities found books such as the Bible, Streams in the Desert, Pilgrim’s Progress, Song of a Wanderer, Power Through Prayer, Our Daily Prayer, and Shepherdship, as well as poems and songs composed by Christian writer and composer Xiaomin, while investigating the cases, they claimed the Christians participated in the Three Grades of Servants, which the government has labeled a cult. In response, Tu’s sister, Tu Kui, wrote to the Dali Municipal Public Security Bureau, explaining that the books had nothing to do with the cult. To a ChinaAid reporter, she said, “The books … can’t be used as evidence to persecute us. Which country doesn’t have Pilgrim’s Progress? The court and the public security bureau do not have any substantial evidence.”
Tu Yan’s case was transferred to the local procuratorate for prosecution on Jan. 12 and sent to a court in Dali for a court hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. On Sept. 3, her lawyer, Wang Zongyue, said he has not yet received notice of the impending trial, despite the court having the case for about two months.
An anonymous lawyer reported that agents from the public security department attempted to label the Christians’ cases as “important” and “ironclad” in order to please their superiors.
To learn more about these cases as well as the Three Grades of Servants, please read the report below.
ChinaAid exposes abuses, such as those suffered by church members in Yunnan, in order to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.
This is the basic information of three of the arrested preachers: Yin Dianhong, female, born in 1971 in Linjiang, Jilin province; Liu Wei, female, born in 1982 in Yichun, Heilongjiang province; and Tu Yan, female, born in 1980 in Yueyang, Hunan province. At the end of 2015, Yin Dianhong and her colleagues preached in different districts of Yunnan and established house churches, which got the attention of the Yunnan police. On May 4, 2016, the Yunnan Provincial Public Security Department established a special investigation group with the excuse of striking down the Three Grades of Servants cult. In 2016, the police arrested dozens of Christians in different parts of Yunnan.
The government accused the aforementioned arrested Christians of “sabotaging law enforcement by organizing and using cults.” According to the observations of informed Christians, the doctrines and gathering routines of the arrested believers revealed that they were undoubtedly members of Christian house churches. The defendants emphasized that, instead of members of the Three Grades of Servants, they were Christians. The Yunnan Provincial Public Security Department, on the other hand, labeled them Three Grades of Servants members on them in order to avoid stirring public opinions and justify religious persecution.
During the persecution, the Yunnan Provincial Public Security Department deemed Christian classics “cult materials.” The materials include the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress (regarded as one of the most important British literary works, it was written by John Bunyan and has been translated into more than 200 languages….), Streams in the Desert (which was written by Mrs. Cowman and has been translated into dozens of languages and circulated around the entire world….), Purpose-Driven Life and the Canaan Hymns (written by Xiaomin from Henan, these works are wildly embraced in domestic Chinese churches and Chinese churches in foreign countries), Power Through Prayer (written by Bounds, translated by Pastor Teng Jinhui….) and Song of a Wanderer (a book on the Gospel that is extremely popular in Mainland China. It was written by Feng Bingcheng, a Chinese American pastor with the pen name Doctor Li Cheng). The Yunnan police carefully planned for the large-scale operation. Currently, the procuratorate is transferring the case to the court for prosecution.
The Yunnan Provincial Public Security Department and the local police mistook the Christian classics for cult materials, which insulted Christians and churches all over the world and revealed that the police lacked basic knowledge about the religion. Christendom questions the police’s decision to label unregistered Christian house churches as “Three Grades of Servants” and “cults” and asks that the Yunnan Provincial Public Security Department and the investigators reconsider, re-evaluate, or revoke the case.
The church does not deny that there are differences between denominations when it comes to interpreting church doctrines…. The church, however, has to make judgments based on facts. We cannot wrong Christian organizations gathering in individual residences, especially when they have been suppressed, misunderstood, persecuted, and underrepresented for a long time.
We strongly suggest that the representatives of different churches (including the official churches, house churches, and even Christian scholars, political scientists, and legal practitioners) make objective, transparent, and comprehensive investigations, analyses, evaluations, conclusions, and reports regarding the doctrine, traditions, and characteristics of the faith and the organization patterns of persecuted religious organizations. Organizations with different religious beliefs should also be respected. We ask public figures in the free world, domestic and foreign independent scholars, domestic churches, Chinese churches overseas and churches all over the world to pay attention to the case and pray for the persecuted Christians.
Appendix: A short introduction to the Three Grades of Servants
Since the Chinese government imposes strict regulations on domestic house churches and has a hostile attitude overall, many Christian organizations and activities are forced to go into a secretive state. The truth about the relevant house churches has been blocked for a long time. Information on the Three Grades of Servants (a name given to the organization by the outside world) is extremely limited. According to the small amount of informed sources and materials leaked, however, many church leaders still recognize the organization as a “marginalized” Christian sect based on some doctrines and the former leader’s beliefs and behaviors. On the other hand, many doctrines and teachings of this church have deviated from the Bible and encourage a more extreme way of thinking and acting. The church’s impression of the organization came from one-sided propaganda that intently focuses on the negative aspects of the organization. Therefore, some church leaders quoted the government’s judgments, which were made out of “political considerations,” and labeled the organization as heretical.
The government allows Baidu Encyclopedia to post about the Three Grades of Servants, but almost all descriptions about the organization on the encyclopedia are negative and lack clear sources, which weakens the authority of the information. The information on individuals, however, can still be viewed ( … The introduction on Wikipedia is similar to the Chinese government’s depiction of the institution. It is interesting that the Wikipedia page was last edited on Aug. 8 and the sources quoted are unreliable).
The former leader of the sect, Xu Wenku (otherwise known as Xu Shuangfu, Christian name: Xu Shengguang), comes from Henan. He was criticized and punished during the Cultural Revolution for converting to Christianity and spreading the Gospel. Xu Wenku refused to denounce his faith, was tied up, and almost died. In 1975, he was arrested on the charge of counter-revolutionary crime and sentenced to three years in prison in 1978 on the charge of swindling and disturbing social order. He was put into a work camp for participating in gatherings in Henan in 1987. In 1991, he was detained again for participating in gatherings in Shanxi. He was detained in 1993 for “preaching illegally” in Yunnan. In 1999, the government named his sect the Three Grades of Servants and deemed it a “cult.” During the same year, he was put into a labor camp for a three-year “education” in Zhejiang. He was criminally detained in 2004 and arrested in Heilongjiang. In 2006, he was secretly executed [on a falsified murder charge].
More than 10 lawyers represented cases related to the organization, but the court did not acknowledge their defense. More than 20 times, the judge interrupted the lawyers during the court session. The representative lawyer believed that Xu Wenku and his two colleagues never participated in the murder, nor was there any evidence that he had organized or instigated the murder. Many defendants revealed their experience of being tortured during the court session.
Xu Wenku’s representative lawyer Li Heping, who was involved in the 709 case in 2015 [Editor’s note: The 709 case was a nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers, named for the day it began, July 9, 2015], disappeared secretly, and is now bailed out, asked Xu Wenku why he signed the record of his interrogation. Xu said that he was forced to sign under a condition that was “worse than death.” Xu told him about the torture he suffered. In order to force him to say a few words that would back up the death penalty verdict, the interrogators strung him up for five hours and deprived him of sleep for five consecutive nights. The investigators bound his fingers, toes, and genitals with electrical wire and electrified him. Xu said that God does not permit killing.
Another defendant, Li Maoxing, also revealed his experienced of being “draped in the dragon robe.” He was covered in cotton, strung up, and electrocuted when he sweated. During the court session, he showed his fingers and arms, which were covered in wounds. On April 27, 2004, Gu Xianggao from Shandong was interrogated to death. In November 2006, Xu Wenku and Wang Jun were secretly executed by the Heilongjiang government.
The public security department estimated that the sect had about half a million followers, which would be the real reason behind the suppression. In 2004, the public security department labeled the case as “Thunderbolt No.1.” 63 people were involved in the case. 15 were secretly executed. According to Li Heping, one of the representative lawyers, the so-called “evidence” that the court used to convict the defendants were “oral confessions” obtained during torture. According to the Criminal Procedure Law, the case should not be closed based on this single violation.
Domestic and international society paid a lot of attention to the case. In order to obtain more information on the case and the parties involved in the case indirectly, some Christian organizations overseas asked many house church members for opinions, many of whom were familiar with Xu Wenku. Many members that had worked with Xu Wenku and trustworthy brothers and sisters acknowledged his loyalty and moral uprightness, which led the church to question the legitimacy of the authorities’ determination of the nature of the case and its hearing.
ChinaAid Media Team
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