China vs. Cults
The Chinese government is known internationally to have poor human rights practices — it doesn’t seem to be trying to curb its reputation. For example, consider how the Chinese government reportedly treated people belonging to fringe religious sects in Andrew Jacobs’ story “Campaign to Crack Down on Fringe Sects in China Worries Mainstream Churches” The New York Times, June 11, 2014 (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/12/world/asia/china-rounds-up-hundreds-in-crackdown-on-fringe-sects.html). The article explains how members of a Millennial Christian sect, The Church of Almighty God, were arrested after the public killing of a woman in a McDonald’s in China. Those arrested were a few among thousands of other cult members arrested in China during the government’s recent blitz on what they call “evil cults”, equivalent to our conception of dangerous cults. The article quotes mainstream religious leaders and lawyers, who argue that arresting anyone not involved in the killing is a violation of rights. Some religious leaders are worried that they might be targeted next. The article treats this situation responsibly by not sensationalizing the gruesome killing, but instead using the event to criticize the Chinese government for furthering its own agenda.
The textbook New Religious Movements, by Hammer and Rothstein, describes this type of action as direct government intervention, and sites an intervention that is mentioned in the article, China versus the Falun Gong. Both the article and the textbook mention the lack of protection of religious freedom in China. Consider that, while a select few have committed a crime and should be punished, many have gone to jail for mere membership — they are victims of religious persecution. This is a direct violation of Article 2 in the UN’s Charter of Human Rights (http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/) by China, who is a member of the UN, and should therefore adhere its policies.
The difficulty of a situation like this one is figuring out which comes first: religious freedoms or suppressing threats to public safety. Because of the opacity of the Chinese government, we can’t be sure that the persecuted sect truly poses a threat to the public, such as other instances of violence and aggression (for example, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/world/asia/man-stabs-22-children-in-china.html?_r=2&) — we can assume that, since the group has millions of members ,there are bound to be a few that commit crimes, as with any other religion. Therefore, members of the Church of Almighty God, and any other religious sect, should be considered rightfully innocent until proven guilty of posing any real threat to public safety.
For more on this issue, go to:(http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/28/us-china-religion-idUSKBN0IH09R20141028)