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Over 370 Christians in China arrested after online surveillance

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Members of the Church of Almighty God (CAG), a religious organization active in China whose beliefs are based on the Christian Bible, continue to be persecuted by the country’s authorities.

Bitter Winter, monitoring religious liberty and human rights in China, explains that at least 370 believers of this group, which is said to be one of the most persecuted religious organizations in China, have been placed under arrest in several provinces in the latest round of raids that took place over several months, from June until October.

China is known for enforcing strict rules around free expression of religious affiliation, as part of its overall policy of maintaining firm control of the population, and the report about the arrests of CAG believers is one of many describing how the country deals with this issue.

Members of this particular church are routinely placed under online surveillance and monitored, and even reportedly tortured while in police custody, while books related to their religion are seized during raids of their premises.

The report details the recent arrests, saying that a majority of the more than 370 arrested CAG members got detained in October – 135 of them – and that this happened in the Anhui province. In addition to bringing people in, the police also seized cash, and objects belonging to the church during its operations.

Some of the raids in various towns in Anhui happened in the early morning hours, while some of those who were targeted in this way said the police made them sign statements effectively renouncing their religion.

One CAG believer who was detained said they overheard a police officer say the operation, dubbed “Plan for National Security,” was being carried out across the country.

These raids and arrests by the Chinese police are said to have been helped not only by long-term online and offline surveillance of CAG believers and their premises, but also by tip-offs received from citizens, reporting on one another.

Bitter Winter reports that in the province of Henan, this behavior was encouraged by the authorities who launched propaganda campaigns against the CAG, offered awards for information about the church’s members, and setting up “incentivized tip-off platforms.”

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