Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Mainland China Administrative Deacon Station: Leaders Receive Lengthy Sentences

Xiao County People’s Court in Anhui Province, where Wang Yongmin was convicted of violating Article 300. Image credit: Suzhou Intermediate Court WeChat account

In 2000, the Ministry of Public Security issued a circular concerning the identification and banning of 14 evil cult or sect organizations. Of them, 12 were unorthodox Christian groups. Following hefty prison sentences given to founders in the 1990s, many of these groups have been severely weakened, driven underground, or have gone extinct. After state repression of religion intensified in late 2012, there appears to be a consensus that Almighty God has become the most suppressed Christian sect in China, but the continuing crackdown on other smaller and lesser-known Christian groups which are similarly considered “unorthodox” has not garnered the same level of scrutiny.

A few groups have survived the intense government suppression and even resurfaced recently after two decades of inactivity. One of them is the Mainland China Administrative Deacon Station (MCADS 中华大陆行政执事站). Dui Hua’s research into court judgments found that its founder Wang Yongmin (王永民) is serving his second jail term in Anhui for 10 years. The now-67-year-old was found guilty of “organizing or using a cult to undermine implementation of the law” on December 27, 2019 and is scheduled to complete his prison sentence on March 22, 2028. In 1995, Wang began a 20-year prison sentence for "disturbing social order" and "fraud," serving 17 years before being released early in February 2012.

MCADS was among the earliest doomsday Christian sects banned by the Chinese government in November 1995. Formerly a core member of the Shouters (呼喊派), founded by Li Changshou in the United States in 1962, Wang set up MCADS as an offshoot in Anhui 1994. According to Chinese government sources, Wang proclaimed himself to be the “one true deacon” to seize power from Satan and create the Kingdom of God.

A notice circulated in 2000 about banned religious organizations, including the Mainland China Administrative Deacon Station. This notice was recirculated in 2015 after a murder case involving Almighty God. Image credit: China Youth Network

Additionally, the Chinese government asserts that MCADS members “confront the CCP and government, rape women, and swindle money”—allegations that remain commonplace against many “cult organizations.” At its peak during the early 1990s, thousands of MCADS members distributed “reactionary propaganda” in 69 cities across 20 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions. Wang was sentenced to 20 years in prison for fraud and disturbing social order in 1996, one year after MCADS was banned by the Chinese government.

Despite being convicted over two decades ago, Wang continues to be prominently featured in China’s anti-cult propaganda. His case is labeled one of the top ten cult cases in China by kaiwind.com, which Global Times describes as a non-governmental website devoted to “revealing facts about Falun Gong.” Also listed as the top ten cases were founders and leading members from other unorthodox Christian and Buddhist groups. Some of them were executed, including:

  1. Wu Yangming (吴扬明), founder of the now seemingly defunct Beili Wang, or Anointed King, was executed in December 1995 for rape;
  2. Liu Jiaguo (刘家国), leader of the Zhusheng Jiao, or the Lord God Sect was executed in October 1999 for Article 300, rape, and fraud;
  3. Xu Wenku (徐文库), who founded sanban furen, or the Three Grades of Servants, was found guilty of murder, fraud, and using a cult to cause death. His execution took place in November 2006.

Like MCADS, both Beili Wang and Zhusheng Jiao are offshoots of the Shouters.

A court judgment previously uploaded to China Judgements Online in September 2020—and since removed from the site—indicated that Anhui’s Xiao County People’s Court convicted Wang again on December 27, 2019, alongside four other MCADS leaders who were also accused of violating Article 300.

Source: China Judgements Online

The judgment stated that Wang resumed his role as the leader of MCADS upon his prison release in February 2012. After formulating the church’s agenda and programs with the four defendants in the same case, Wang set up service centers in Xiao County and re-established contacts with former members of MCADS. The judgment also stated that another defendant, Li Yuhong, printed 9,000 pamphlets for distribution in Anhui, Henan, Jiangsu, and Shandong. However, no information was given about how many people had rejoined the sect.

One noteworthy allegation against Wang is his effort to gain overseas recognition of MCADS as a religious group. Wang allegedly attempted to contact Living Stream Ministry via a professor at the Nanjing Union Theological Seminary. Living Stream Ministry is a Christian book publisher based in Anaheim, California. It was founded by Shouters’ founder Li Changshou. Wang and the other defendants were detained on March 16, 2018.

Article 300 mandates a minimum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment for “especially serious” or otherwise grave acts. The sentences given to Wang and Li can be considered severe. A major reason is that Wang reoffended. Although Li was a first-time offender, the 9,000 leaflets he printed were more than sufficient to render the circumstances “especially serious.” Effective since February 1, 2017, the joint interpretation of Article 300 states that a circumstance is considered “especially serious” when a defendant manufactures over 5,000 “cult” leaflets.

These cases reflect how the CCP’s campaign to control and restrict religious plurality extends to smaller, lesser-known Christian groups. However, some groups like the Mainland China Administrative Deacon Station continue to reemerge despite crackdowns even as hefty prison sentences face the leadership of any group that can be considered “unorthodox.”