China Executes 15 Underground Church Members In Secret

Thursday, November 30, 2006

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- China has secretly executed 15 members of a controversial underground church after founding them guilty "of murdering members of a rival sect," BosNewsLife learned Thursday, November 30.

Three leaders of the Three Grade Servant Church along with 12 church members were executed despite shaky evidence, said China Aid Association (CAA), a major Christian rights group defending reportedly persecuted churches.

Li Maoxing`s wife was asked by the Intermediate Court of Shuangyashan City in Heilongjiang province on Tuesday, November 28, "to collect her husband’s ashes at the court as soon as possible," CAA said in a statement.

Two other men leading the church, identified as founder Xu Shuangfu and Wang Hun were "already executed last week," bringing the total to 15 people punished with death in this case, the group added. It was not immediately clear when the 12 other church members died.


In published remarks, lawyers of the three executed leaders argued there was no evidence to prove their clients were involved or took part in organizing and abetting the murder of members of the Eastern Lightening religious group.

"We are completely shocked by this news," said Rev. Bob Fu, the president of CAA in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife. "“The arbitrary execution certainly shows the Chinese central government is totally ignoring the rule of law."

He also accused authorities of "clearly engaging" in "covering up the evidence of torture by secret cremating the inmates’ bodies. We appeal to the Supreme People’s Court to launch an independent investigation in this case."


China's Foreign Ministry has denied any wrongdoing. It said the "cult members" received the death penalty after they killed 20 followers of a "rival sect."

The two groups had reportedly been feuding over the past three years and had allegedly kidnapped, tortured and injured followers from their rival cult.

Although the 'Three Grades Servants' claim to be Christians and with the Bible as their guideline, the group is considered a heresy by mainstream house churches in China because of what they consider as its "extreme doctrine."


Chinese house churches have also expressed concerns about the rival Eastern Lightning group, which was founded by a woman named Zheng, who claims to be China’s female reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

The organization "is widely acknowledged by house churches to be a cult and a criminal religious group," CAA added.

However speaking about the Three Grades Servants, the director of mission group Asia Harvest, Paul Hattaway, expressed his doubts about the "sect" classification.


"By classifying a church group as a cult, the government deceitfully opens up the way for Christians to be prosecuted for breaking the law, rather than directly for religious reasons," Hattaway told BosNewsLife.

"Western governments and human rights organizations are therefore largely often when they ask about a certain pastor being arrested they are told he was arrested because he broke the law, and not because of his faith."

He said the "subtle maneuver has resulted in much confusion within the Chinese Church and outside China, as believers disagree on which groups really are cults."


Hattaway noted in 2003 Three Grades Servants' founder, Xu Shuangfu, spoke with senior house church leaders from other groups who wanted to confront him over the reported heretical beliefs and practices of his group.

"Xu came to the meeting with booklets and video tapes detailing what the Three Grades Servants founder teach and practice," recalled Hattaway whose group has apparently close knowledge about the situation.

Xu reportedly said: "If my church is in error and really a cult, then please come and rebuke us and show us the error of our ways so we can repent. Please be brothers to us in this way. If you do not point out our errors, how can we ever change and walk with Jesus like you?”

Hattaway said that, "these words do not sound like those of a typical cult leader." There are up to 80 million Christians in Communist-run China, most of them worship outside the official denominations, church observers say. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from China).

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