Church of Almighty God members facing repression from Chinese government and obstacles in gaining asylum

The quasi-Christian group, the Church of Almighty God (CAG), has become the most outlawed religion in China, while its members face obstacles in gaining asylum in the West, according to one presentation at a session on the movement that was held at this year’s conference of the Association for the Sociology of Religion in New York, which RW attended. Massimo Introvigne, a scholar of new religious movements, reported that CAG has replaced Falun Gong as the Communist Party’s number one “evil cult,” particularly as members of the latter group are already in jail or now living in exile. The government has accused the group of violence and criminal activity, although many of its charges (including a murder in a McDonald’s restaurant in 2014) have not been proven. But new restrictions against gathering for worship and having religious books in one’s home have been enough to restrict the group, along with other religions, during a period of growing religious repression in China. Introvigne said it is estimated that about 400,000 members of CAG have been imprisoned and that there have been reports of regular torture against these believers. Although Christian groups have been hostile toward CAG, largely due to its aggressive promotion of a teaching that God has been incarnated again in the form of a woman, the recent repression has brought CAG closer to other religions.

Introvigne said that repression has brought CAG together with house church groups, Tibetan Buddhists, and Uyghur Muslims feeling particular pressure from the Chinese government under such auspices as the U.S. State Department’s Coalition to Advance Religious Freedom in China. CAG is also similar to Falun Gong in that its leaders, including the woman who is said to be the second incarnation of God, are now in exile in New York and its members are increasingly seeking asylum in the U.S. and other Western countries. James Richardson presented another paper at the session focusing on the obstacles CAG members have experienced in migrating to Western nations. He finds that while there are currently 5,800 CAG members seeking asylum in these nations, less than 10 percent have been granted that status, although it is also the case that few CAG members have been deported. Leading the list for CAG members granted asylum are New Zealand (85 percent granted asylum) and Sweden (78 percent), followed by Canada, Italy, and Germany (five to 10 percent), with the U.S. at a low two percent. But in the U.S. there have been no deportations, and only nine members have been deported overall. Richardson adds that CAG members face obstacles as immigration control officers often demand from members more knowledge of the theological particulars of their faith than most adherents of other religions would possess. Furthermore, in such efforts to weed out those entering foreign countries under false pretenses, immigration officials have studiedCAG’s presence on the Internet, where much of the information is inaccurate.