Police in southwestern China this summer sentenced a Christian teenager to three years in prison for practicing her faith, human rights magazine Bitter Winter revealed on Tuesday.
In Yunnan province, which borders Vietnam, the People’s Court of Jianshui county sentenced 19-year-old Jiang Guangmei to three years in prison on June 29.
“She was charged with ‘using a xie jiao [cult] organization to undermine law enforcement’ and also fined 3,000 RMB (about $430),'” according to the magazine. Police first arrested Jiang in September 2018 when she was 17 for writing articles about her religious experience as a member of the Church of Almighty God (CAG).
“[A]ccording to the [CAG’s] official history, the denomination whose Chinese name translates as ‘Eastern Lightning’ was founded in the belief that Christ is born again and back on Earth in the guise of a mysterious leader of the faith — a woman who may now be living in the New York metropolitan area,” the Daily Beast wrote of CAG in February. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has branded CAG a cult, or xie jiao in Mandarin, and banned the church in China.
Jiang’s crime of “writing articles about her religious experience” in CAG is an action targeted by the CCP as “a common pretext to jail members of China’s banned religious groups,” according to the report. According to Jiang’s verdict, she received her three-year prison sentence because she would not admit that practicing her faith was a crime.
In April 2019, police arrested another 17-year-old CAG member for practicing the illegal faith. CCP authorities later sentenced the teenager to three years in prison for the crime. An 18-year-old CAG member arrested at the same time received a four-year prison sentence.
“Both were kept in detention for ten months before the trial,” according to Bitter Winter. The human rights magazine quotes a Chinese “government insider” who claims that the two teenagers were “held in a secret interrogation base, where they were subjected to torture.”
According to the source, CCP authorities failed to inform the teenagers about their trial during their detention at the base, where their relatives were barred from visiting them.
“This violated rule eleven of the Regulations for the Handling of Delinquency and Criminal Cases Involving Minors by the [CCP] Public Security Authorities that stipulates: ‘When minors involved in delinquency or crimes are under interrogation … their parents or guardians or teachers shall be informed to be present,” the source explained.
China’s atheist Communist Party regime ostensibly tolerates just a few religions, including Catholicism and “Christianity,” which the CCP refers to as the “Patriotic Three-Self Church.” Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam are also nominally allowed in China. However, the CCP actively discourages any religious worship by creating hostile conditions for people of faith. The CCP has increased its persecution of Christians, in particular, in recent years.