January 10, 2022 | Fang Yongrui | Bitter Winter

On November 19, 2021, the People’s Court of Dalad Banner, Inner Mongolia, sentenced eight members of the Association of Disciples called Xu, Li, Yan, Liu, Bai, Su, Wu, and Liu to various jail terms and fines.

The Association of Disciples (门徒会, Mentuhui) is a Christian new religious movement founded by Ji Sanbao (季三保, 1940-1997), a former member of the True Jesus Church, in 1989. It was banned in 1990, included in the list of the xie jiao, and severely persecuted.

In 2020, a national campaign was launched against the Association of Disciples, which, like other forms of “illegal’ religion, has experienced a certain growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Inner Mongolia, as in other parts of China, several Christian devotees told Bitter Winter that the Three-Self Church just repeated patriotic slogans and hailed the efforts of the party to fight the epidemic, while house churches and movements such as the Association of Disciples offered religious explanations of why God allows natural disasters to occur and men and women of faith can use them as opportunities for their spiritual growth, thus attracting new members dissatisfied with the government-controlled churches.

Members of the Association of Disciples claim that their movements offers the “teachings of the Third Redemption” (三赎教), by which they mean that it represents the third sign of salvation, after Noah’s ark and Jesus Christ’s cross.

The judges found that the defendants had developed since 2017 an important network of the Disciples in Dalad Banner, a booming industrial development zone that was famous in China and beyond for bitcoin mining until this activity was banned in 2021.

The eight Disciples were sentenced under Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code, which punishes anybody who is active in a religious group listed as a xie jiao.