China updates the list with some new entries
Article 300 also continues to apply to movements that are not on the lists. But xie jiao’s lists are not uninteresting.
by Massimo Introvigné
Chinese religious scholar Edward Irons has drawn attention to xie jiao lists as a primary tool of Chinese religious persecution. As readers of Bitter Winter know, xie jiao is a concept introduced in China in the 7e century C.E. to designate “heterodox teachings” considered dangerous and hostile to government. In the Ming period, specific laws targeted the xie jiao and lists of them have been compiled.
The notion of xie jiao passed from Imperial China to Republican China, Taiwan and the People’s Republic. The CCP translates “xie jiao” as “cult” or “evil cult,” but even pro-government Chinese scholars agree the translation is inaccurate, given the term’s long history in China that predates Western controversies over “sects”.
Since 1995, the CCP has published its own lists of xie jiao. Irons reviewed lists published in 1995, 2000, 2014, and 2017. He noted in 2018 that “recent lists appear under the aegis of the recently established agency to counter xie jiao groups, the Anti-Cult Association.” , or China. Anti-Xie-Jiao Association.
It is important to note that Chinese courts apply Article 300 of the Penal Code, which imposes heavy prison sentences on those active in a xie jiao, both to groups included and not included in the list. Case law has clarified that Article 300 can be applied by analogy, for example to Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have never been included in any list of xie jiao. It can also be applied to movements designated as xie jiao locally, which are not considered to be of national or international importance and are unlikely to ever appear on the list.
With these precisions, the lists are not uninteresting. They show which movements the CCP considers more active and dangerous, and the fact that a group has been suppressed or a new group has been included may be evidence of political tendencies.
On July 26, 2022, the China Anti-Xie-Jiao Association published a new list, while warning that it is not official, which is consistent with the comments I offered above.
The list that we reproduce above includes 23 movements, and is similar to that of 2017 studied by Edward Irons, which had 22 listed movements. It is also explained that the way the xie jiao are listed is no coincidence. For each category, they are arranged on different lines, in decreasing order of estimated dangerousness. For comparison, we publish the 2017 list as compiled by Irons, highlighting Christian groups, which were and remain the largest category.
Most of the bands were featured in Bitter Winter, and I’ll include some comments just for the few that weren’t. The list is divided into four categories: movements using (or, depending on the list, abusing) Qigong, Buddhism, Christianity and Ufology.
Under the “qigong” label, two movements are listed: Falun Gong (No. 1 in the whole list) and Riyue Qigong. The latter was not on the 2017 list and allows the CCP to include a success story as it claims that Riyue Qigong has been eradicated. Such claims should always be taken with a grain of salt. Riyue Qigong replaces Zhonggong, who was on the 2017 list. Perhaps the CCP prefers not to mention him, since he announced that he was eliminated, only to later admit that he still exists.
Buddhist tradition groups banned as xie jiao include Supreme Master Ching Hai’s Guanyin Method and the True School of the Buddha. The Guanyin Method, or Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association, was founded by Vietnamese spiritual master Hue Thi Thanh (Ching Hai). It is a global movement with some two million followers worldwide, which combines Buddhism with the Indian Radhasoami tradition.
The second row includes Yuandunfamen, founded by Xǔu Chengjiang in Heilongjiang in 1998 and phased out as a branch of the Guanyin method from 1999, and Huazang Zongmen. The latter is a new entry and replaces the Pure Land Learning Association, founded by Buddhist master Chin Kung (Jingkong) in Taiwan in 1984, which was on the 2017 list. Ching Kung died on July 26, 2022, coincidentally the same day that the new list was released, and the reason why his movement was no longer included in the xie jiao list is unclear.
It is, on the other hand, easy to understand why Huazang Zongmen was included. Its founder Wu Zeheng teaches what resembles traditional Zen Buddhism but has advocated political reform and an end to state control of Buddhism. He was arrested several times and imprisoned for life for rape which the international organization and the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considered false.
As usual, Christian groups take the lion’s share of the list of xie jiao. There are no differences from the 2017 list, but as the line breakdown is important I will mention it.
First row: The Church of Almighty God, the Disciples Association, the Criers. Second row: three ranks of servants, Bloody Holy Spirit. Third Row: Full Range Church and Unification Church. Fourth Row: Administrative Station of Mainland Chinese Deacons and Lingling Sect (aka Efficacious Spirit Movement). Fifth row: Church of South China and Anointed King. Sixth row: World Mission Society Church of God, a South Korean group present in China. Seventh row: Taiwan New Testament Church and Dami Mission. Eighth row: The Church of the Teachings of the Lord God and the Children of God/The Family (although the latter are almost extinct, both internationally and in China).
The position of mainland administrative deacon is a schism of the criers, whose leader Wang Yongmin is expected to remain in prison until 2028. The church in South China is a house church whose pastor Gong Shengliang has been accused of rape and sentenced to death in 2001. Due under international pressure, the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. The Dami Mission was a South Korean movement that predicted the end of the world in 1992 and was dissolved by its founder Lee Jang Rim after that date. However, Chinese authorities sometimes claim that there are still followers in China.
For the first time, the 2022 list introduces a fourth category, groups that abuse ufology. Bitter Winter reported this year on the authorities’ growing concern for UFO religions in China, and the most notorious group, the Galactic Federation, was listed as a xie jiao for the first time.