China: Members of The Church of Almighty God Victims of State Violence: The Murder of Ms. Gao Cuiqin in Custody

HRWF (13.11.2017) – On May 28, 2014, homicide was perpetrated in the city of Zhaoyuan, Shandong Province, China. Six people entered a McDonald’s diner for preaching and ended up killing a customer who had refused to give them her phone number. The Chinese authorities identified the homicide as a “cult murder” and attributed the crime to the Church of Almighty God (also called Eastern Lightning), against which a campaign of repression had started long ago. Italian sociologist Massimo Introvigne, founder and director of the Center for Studies on New Religions, had conducted a study based on the available documents about the case, including documents published by Chinese official sources and he drew a different conclusion from the Chinese official statement. The assassins were members of a small movement that misused the name “Almighty God” to designate its two female leaders. However, the “almighty gods” they referred to had nothing to do with the Church of Almighty God. This small group was not part of and was not connected to the Church of Almighty God (Eastern Lightning). See the investigation paper of Dr Massimo Introvigne recently published by CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions) on its website:

In the days and weeks following the murder, the Chinese government launched comprehensive repression against the Church of Almighty God, arresting and imprisoning its members. According to media reports, at least 1,500 members of the Church of Almighty God were arrested and sentenced by the day of June 11, 2014. Following a series of arrests, one Christian of the Church, Gao Cuiqin (alias Zhang Ping), was killed while in custody of the authorities. Gao Cuiqin, age 53, was a resident of Suozhen, Huantai County in Zibo, Shandong and had joined the CAG in 2003.

Gao Cuiqin’s arrest and subsequent death: a timeline

Around 6:30 a.m. on 15 July 2014, Gao Cuiqin was reportedly cooking at home when six plain-clothed police officers (four men and two women) came into her home. Gao’s mother-in-law and sister-in-law were standing outside while the police officers entered the property. According to the family, police officers did not show any identification before forcibly taking Gao to the Souzhen police station in Huantai County. On the same day, two other Christians from the same village – Wang (alias Li Min, female, age 67) and Liu (alias Wu Tao, male, age 50) – were also arrested. Around noon that same day, policemen returned to Gao’s home and asked her mother-in-law to pay for Gao’s living expenses while in prison – a request which she did not comply with.

Two days later, Gao was reportedly beaten to death by policemen.

Members of the church report that a medical worker at the Shengjie Hospital in Huantai County claimed the police officers had called an ambulance to fake an emergency rescue at approximately 11:00 a.m. on 17 July. When the doctors arrived, Gao had already died and so they did not take her body away. The police then called the Huantai branch hospital of Qilu Hospital of Shandong University to send an ambulance to take the victim to the hospital.

At 13:00 on 17 July, Chang, the head of the police department, called Gao’s husband to tell him that Gao had fallen seriously ill and was taken to the hospital. Gao’s husband, Liu, was not informed of his wife’s death.

Approximately an hour later, Gao’s younger sister, elder brother, and sister-in-law went to the hospital. However, Gao was not registered for hospitalization and they could not find her.

At 18:00, Gao’s husband, Liu, met with the police and asked the officers about his wife’s wellbeing. They then took him to the hospital where he saw Gao’s body with breathing tubes in her nostrils, but it was clear to him that she was already dead – the ECG showed a flat line. Liu reports that doctors were pretending to rescue her with a cardiac pacemaker and that he overheard doctors admitting that she was already dead when she arrived.

Liu then took photographs of his wife.

A medical worker in the Emergency Department claimed that when Gao arrived to the hospital, she was already deceased and her face was green and purple, seriously swollen and showed signs of having been beaten.

A sister from the Church, who had been held in the same police station, said that at 5:00 a.m. on 17 July, she heard banging sounds and horrible screams from the next room where the police were interrogating Gao.

Another member of the church who was being held reported that she heard the head of the police station, Chang, talking on the phone when he said “…did it, killed her with the electric baton…”.

On the afternoon of 18 July, Gao’s family went to prepare her body for her funeral. They reported that Gao’s lower legs, chest, and face were severely injured.

An unnamed man, who claims to have been in the Public Security Bureau for many years, analyzed the body and concluded that her injuries correspond with being tied to a chair and jabbed with an electric baton with extremely strong electric currents.

Limited information

After Gao’s death, the police asked the village secretary to negotiate with Gao’s husband, Liu. On 18 July, Liu reported this incident to the mayor. The leaders in the city then assigned three officials in the Public Security Bureau and the Commission for Discipline Inspection to go negotiate with Liu and settle the matter privately.

Gao’s murder was not placed on file for investigation. It is reported that the two policemen thought to have been responsible for her death disappeared.

Gao’s family requested to see the video recording of the investigation but the police refused.

The police report reads that Gao had heart disease and died of sudden cardiac arrest. Gao’s family reports that she never had heart disease.

The police brought pressure on Gao and Liu’s family, prodding them to convince them to negotiate quietly. Worried for his sons’ safety, Liu eventually decided to settle the case privately.

The case has yet to be investigated by government authorities, which will never happen…