After 15 years of hardship in China, Chen Min fled to Spain

Chen Min escaped several arrest attempts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) but was detained twice. The CCP’s repression tore her family apart: her husband divorced her on good terms and, for the sake of their children, she had ‘to disappear’.

Chen Min escaped several arrest attempts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) but was detained twice. The CCP’s repression tore her family apart: her husband divorced her on good terms and, for the sake of their children, she had ‘to disappear’. In 2015 she fled to Spain. However, due to her arrests in China she cannot return to obtain the necessary documentation for her immigration application. She was left no choice but to file for asylum, and her case is still pending.

Chen Min[1] is from China’s Henan Province. She joined The Church of Almighty God (CAG)[2] in 1998. She shared her experience of persecution in China with Human Rights Without Frontiers during an interview.

Detained for 18 days and extorted 6,000 USD

“On 20 December 2001, when my two children and I were having lunch, out of the blue, the National Security Brigade (NSB) chief and three other officers broke into my house. They stormed through every room and turned the house upside down in their search. They found a Bible and a notebook on spiritual devotions and then took me to a Public Security Office.

The NSB chief commanded me to sit on a tiger bench and cuffed my hands into two iron hoops. They tried to extract information about Church leaders and assets from me. An officer used an electric baton to shock me. On seeing the baton sparking and hearing the awful cracking sound, I prayed to God, asking Him to keep my heart. When the officer was about to shock me, they received a phone call warning them to hurry. They were informed that my family had used their connections to get help. The NSB decided to send me to the detention house, so they could instead extort money from us. 

I was detained in a small, dark, and smelly room, that was less than 15m2 (about 160 ft2) in size. It was already crowded with 27 other inmates. One of them was also a CAG member. She had been stripped naked several times, and then kept in the freezing cold outside. During my own detention I was interrogated six times. 18 days later, the CCP police extorted more than 40,000 RMB (about 6,000 USD) from my family before releasing me on bail, pending trial.”

Divorced due to the “guilt by association” policy

“In China, family members of religious people are seen to be affiliated, and, thus, will also be targeted by the CCP. Their rights to schooling, jobs, and travel can all be restricted, and they are often no longer promoted at work. On 25 April 2017, my husband asked me, ‘Is it possible for you to stop believing in God? If so, then we can work together for a better life. If not, I am afraid I will have to file for divorce. My work is going to promote a group of people soon, and I do not want to be associated with your faith and lose an opportunity like this again.’ The idea that my husband was left with no choice but to propose a divorce, broke my heart. I understood his difficulties but could not give up my faith. Sadly, we had to agree to get an official divorce.”

A narrow escape

“In June 2009, someone reported that I had been sharing the gospel. The police came to my store to arrest me. They lied to the store clerk, claiming that they wanted to talk to me about a purchase plan of several hundreds of towels. When I entered the supermarket using the backdoor, I could see four men standing at the store counter. I recognized one of them as an officer who had arrested me the first time. I realized the danger I was in of further torture and detention and so I fled. After this narrow escape I dared not to return home. Instead I moved from place to place, staying with relatives, or living in rental apartments.

Eight months later, after seeing that I was living in hiding and unable to live a normal life or manage my business, my ex-husband used his connections and bribed the police 3,6000 RMB (about 5,000 USD) to settle my case.”

Detained 28 days and extorted 23,000 USD

“On the morning of 6 May 2011, when three sisters and I were in a worship meeting, six police officers barged in unexpectedly. Without showing any credentials, they began to search the premise. After a policewoman found my ID card in my bag, she shouted excitedly, ‘We have been to your home several times and we can finally arrest you today.’ They confiscated all our religious books and compact discs, handcuffed the four of us, and took us to a Police Station.

There, the police threatened me about my two children’s prospects in attempts to get information regarding church leaders and assets. They told me that if I were sentenced, my children’s futures would be ruined. They would be disqualified from taking college entrance exams. Since I still refused to say anything they sent me to a detention center where I was interrogated nine times. After twenty-eight days of detention, I was released. It was two days before the college entrance examination day for my children.

I found out that to enable my children to take part in the college entrance exams, release me and have my previous arrest records deleted, my family had paid off the police with 158,000 RMB (about 23,000 USD). My ex-husband told me that he had had no other choice but to write in their School Admission Papers that ‘their mother had died’ in order to prevent any future issues for our children. As heartbreaking as it was to lose my children, there was little I could do but agree.”

Forced to live abroad

“In December 2012, the CCP arrested CAG Christians nationwide. Over a dozen members were arrested from my local congregation. One day, my ex-husband explained to me that he believed there was nothing wrong with me believing in God, but that it was wrong to believe in God while living in China. He suggested that I move to a country in the West where people are able to enjoy religious freedom.

In June 2015, I received an EU Tourist Visa and came to Spain. I then bought a house, but to finalize my immigration I needed to go back to China to obtain a Certificate of Deposit. Just when I was about to leave, I received news that the CCP was going to re-arrest all CAG members with prior arrests, and then re-sentence them. I have never returned to China since learning that, and so I was unable to apply for my Permanent Residence Permit. I had no choice but apply for Asylum. I now have an Interim Residence Permit and am awaiting a decision on my case.”

 

Footnotes

[1] This is a pseudonym. The real name of this asylum-seeker is known to HRWF.

[2] The CAG is a new religious movement that has only gained visibility outside of China due to thousands of its members fleeing and applying for refugee status in Europe and North America. It has been defamed by Chinese propaganda and, as a fast-growing movement, it is perceived as a competitor by Protestant Churches inside and outside of China, which present its theology as heresy.

The CAG releases periodic statistics on its website (https://www.holyspiritspeaks.org). According to this source, between 2011 and 2013 more than 300,000 members were arrested. These figures are not inconceivable if one factors in the frequent references to ‘successful’ campaigns against the CAG in Chinese anti-xie-jiao propaganda and other official sources. The Church also reports that many of its members were tortured, and that some have died while in custody under suspicious circumstances.

According to official Chinese sources, the number of CAG members had reached approximately four million members by 2014. However, this figure is disputed by scholars who argue that it is inflated. They believe this over-estimation is used by the CCP as justification for the urgent need to persecute the CAG.

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