21 Members of Banned Christian Group, Bloody Holy Spirit, Sentenced in China

In early June 2021, 21 members – including 15 women – of the Christian new religious movement Bloody Holy Spirit were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment for their involvement in a xie jiao. The Chinese government defines xie jiao as “evil cults” that promote “superstition” and “heterodox teachings”, though numerous scholars and human rights activists have pointed out that, in reality, the CCP is quick to classify any religious group it does not like as a xie jiao. Moreover, though the CCP is quick to crack down on xie jiao, it has offered no further clarification regarding what constitutes ‘cult activity’, ‘superstition’, or ‘heterodoxy’, thus violating the international principle of legality and emboldening authorities to crack down on religious and spiritual dissidents on mere accusations.

For individuals that align themselves with these groups, being caught could mean spending between three and seven years in prison under Article 300 of the national criminal code which strictly prohibits xie jiao membership and propagation. And for human rights activists and religious freedom advocates around the world, the main obstacle in condemning imprisonments on the basis of religious belief or spiritual conscience is the fact that the Chinese government views the issue of “cults” as not being a matter of religious liberty whatsoever, but an issue of national security and political separatism.

Contrary to the Chinese government’s baseless claim that arresting members of xie jiao does not constitute violations of international religious freedom, we believe that such imprisonment amounts to religious persecution and that those detained under these circumstances are prisoners of conscience, contingent on that they have never advocated for violence and are being detained solely for their beliefs.

We therefore condemn the arbitrary raid on the August 2020 peaceful anniversary meeting of the Bloody Holy Spirit members in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; the seizure of spiritual texts, materials, photographs; and the June 2021 sentencing of 21 members. We similarly condemn the continued persecution and repression of the Bloody Holy Spirit movement, including the earlier November 2020 sentencing of members Jin Mei, Shao Baofeng, Liu Hongxing, Liao Lijun, Wang Yuexiu, Liu Guipei, Zhong Chunlan, Long Quanya, Zou Liying, Yang Hongyun, and Xiao Chunxiang to various prison terms for their membership in Bloody Holy Spirit and operation of secret places of worship.

Cover image by Angela Xu on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)