Nine 'cult' leaders arrested in Hubei

China has detained nine leaders of an underground religious group in Hubei province, it was reported yesterday.

South China Morning Post/February 23, 2002

The China News Service said police from Enshi city's Shengjiaba township had raided the Wilderness Narrow Door, an underground religious group, last month and arrested those whom they believed to be their key members.

Police and township authorities have staged several crackdowns against the group over the past few years. The arrested group leaders were reportedly mostly farmers from Shengjiaba township.

They were accused of having secretly set up three meeting points, as well as 12 churches, in various townships in Hubei and Sichuan provinces. They also were said to have recruited more than 1,000 members since February 1999.

The report quoted local media as saying that these members had engaged in illegal activities including "recklessly praying", fasting, collecting charitable funds and distributing promotional materials.

The group - which enjoys great popularity in the countryside in Hubei - has been branded as an evil cult by the authorities, in addition to other underground religious groups including Blood and Water Holy Spirit, the Spirit Church, the Disciples Association, the Oriental Lightning, the Born Again Movement and the Crying School.

Four months earlier, Hubei police raided another meeting place of the group in the house of a farmer in Xuanen county, Hubei, after a tip-off and arrested nine members engaged in a discussion, according to a separate report.

The police claimed that the group told its followers not to see a doctor when they were sick. Instead, they were told they should pray before meals in order to be healed.

It also accused the group of causing the farmers to abandon their fields and instead to start travelling around the countryside preaching, which they claimed had an adverse effect on social order.

Earlier this month, a US-based religious watchdog released classified documents as evidence that 14 underground religious groups had been branded evil cults in addition to the spiritual sect Falun Gong.

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