On July 23-27 of 2018, the 5-day first-ever ministerial focusing on religious freedom around the world was held by the U.S. State Department in Washington D.C. Ministries from over 40 countries and representatives with various religious groups and NGOs from over 80 countries were participating. In addition to the formal meetings, several side events were also listed on the agenda. On July 23, at the Russell Senator Office Building, the opening event was co-organized by Mr. Greg Mitchell, the Managing Co-Chair of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable in Washington D.C. and Bitter Winter, an online daily magazine. Discussions in this side event focused on the religious persecution in China. The fact of the persecution of The Church of Almighty God held attention of the participants in particular. Some experts and scholars made appeals to the democracies for granting fundamental asylum to the diaspora of Christians. They also suggested that the international community unite together to advance the religious freedom in China.
From July 15 to 21, 2018, the XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology hosted by the International Sociological Association, was held at the Metro Toronto Convention Center in Canada. This congress focused on how scholars, public intellectuals, policy makers, journalists and activists from diverse fields can and do contribute to our understanding of power, violence and justice. During the event, Professor Massimo Introvigne, Founder and Director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) in Italy, used “gatekeeping” theory to analyze the McDonald’s Murder in Zhaoyuan, Shandong in 2014 and reveal the fact that the Chinese Communist government deliberately has concocted this violent incident and manipulated the media to create false news to frame and discredit The Church of Almighty God.
Massimo Introvigne What Is a Xie Jiao? On September 15-16, 2017, I was among the speakers of a conference at the University of Hong Kong on the Chinese notion of xie jiao. The aim of the conference, which followed a closed door seminar organized in Zhengzhou, Henan, in the previous month of June, was a dialogue between the Chinese Anti-xie-jiao Association, which is directly connected with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Chinese authorities and scholars, and Western scholars, on the notion of xie jiao and on one particular movement China regards as a xie jiao and banned since 1995, the Church of Almighty God. Chinese and Western sources translate xie jiao as “evil cult,” but the translation problem was precisely at the heart of the conference. Xie jiao is an expression used since the times of the Ming Dynasty, well before the current controversies on “cults” (ter Haar 1992). The pendulum switched repeatedly from using it with a theological meaning, “heterodox beliefs,” or with a criminological one, “criminal religious movements,” or “religious movements conspiring to overthrow the government.” Today, China has adopted a list of xie jiao, whose members may be arrested and sentenced to imprisonment, or worse, for their normal religious practices, but the impression I derived from the conference is that, within the same Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the notion is unclear, notwithstanding attempts to provide legal definitions. The most recent attempt to date resulted in Rule 1 of the Interpretations on the Issues Concerning the Application of Laws in Criminal Cases Relating to Organizing and Utilizing Evil Organizations to Destroy Law Enforcement, issued on January 25, 2017, by the People’s Supreme Court and the Office of the People’s Supreme Attorney, interpreting Article 300 of the Criminal Code, which mentions xie jiao. These were defined as “illegal organizations, which, through fraudulent use of religion, qi gong, or any other name, by deifying and promoting their ringleaders, or by fabricating and spreading superstitious fallacies and other means to confuse and deceive others (…), control group members and harm society” (Chen 2017, 7–8). Obviously, this definition is vague and dangerous, since it does not clarify which religious beliefs are “superstitious fallacies.” Faced with these problems, it seems that within the same CCP there are at least three different schools or thought. The first uses xie jiao in the traditional Chinese pre-Communist sense, asking the government to protect the “orthodox” beliefs … Continued