Content Regulation / Censorship, Religious Expression
Otto-Preminger-Institut v. Austria
Closed Contracts Expression
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Lincang Intermediate People’s Court upheld Shuangjiang Autonomous County People’s Court’s ruling that the defendants were guilty of “sabotaging the implementation of the state’s laws and executive regulations” by using “heretical religion” when they organized cult training at the house of Yu Guofen, one of the defendants. The defendants were sentenced to three years in prison.
The Court said that continuing the cult activity after the religious organization,Three Grades of Servants, had been banned constituted a crime according to the Interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Prosecutorial on the Concrete Application of Law on Handling the Cases of Committing Crimes by Organizing and Using Cult Organizations (the Interpretation).
The Court reasoned that the banned Three Grades of Servants was an illegal cult organization according to the law, namely Article 1 of the Interpretation, and that the defendants’ actions in providing training using propaganda and other materials relating to the religious group were punishable under Article 300 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China. Further, the Court rejected the appellants’ plea for leniency on the basis that their actions didn’t cause serious social harm finding instead that it was the timely investigation by the Public Security Bureau that had prevented harmful consequences.
On July 24, 2014, the defendants Yu, Song and Wong organized a Bible training class at Yu’s house. Yu was responsible for providing the training venue and catering while Song and Wong were in charge of contacting and arranging for 31 juveniles and five adults to participate in the training. At 10:30am that day, police officers from Shuangjiang Autonomous County Public Security Bureau arrested all the defendants and seized propaganda materials including books, prints, MP4 players and handwritten notebooks about Three Grades of Servants, a religious group that had been listed as an ‘evil cult’ by the Ministry of Public Security in March 1999.
Shuangjiang Autonomous County People’s Court convicted the defendants of “using cult organizations to undermine law enforcement” under Articles 300, 25 and 64 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China and sentenced them to three years in prison. All the propaganda materials seized in Yu’s house concerning Three Grades of Servants were confiscated in accordance with the law.
The three defendants appealed. Yu argued that she was deceived into joining the cult by other people and only played a minimal role in the whole training process because she didn’t do anything apart from offering free food and accommodation and didn’t take part in the training. Yu’s counsel also argued that Yu didn’t make any profit from the cult nor did she use it to damage the interests of others. Song and Wong both argued that their acts didn’t cause serious social harm and that they should be treated leniently.
The Court held that the definition of the term ‘cult organization’ under Chinese Criminal Law was stated explicitly in Article 1 of Interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Prosecutorial on the Concrete Application of Law on Handling the Cases of Committing Crimes by Organizing and Using Cult Organizations. According to paragraph 3 of Article 2 of the Interpretation, those who disobey authorities tasked with banning organizations, restore banned organizations, set up other cult organizations or continue the cult activities of banned organizations should be penalized according to the first paragraph of Article 300 of the Criminal Law.
In this case, Yu, Song and Wong used so called ‘Bible training’ to carry out illegal religious activity, specifically that relating to the Three Grades of Servants, a banned cult organization. Accordingly, the Court said, the defendants’ acts constituted the crime of sabotaging the implementation of the state’s laws and executive regulations by engaging in heretical religion. The Court also found that the cult training had adversely affected the teenagers involved.
Finally, the Court rejected the appellants’ argument that their actions didn’t cause any serious harm and should be taken into account in sentencing, ruling instead that it was the Public Security Bureau’s timely investigation that had limited any harmful consequences of the cult training.
In these circumstances, the Court upheld Shuangjiang Autonomous County People’s Court’s ruling.
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