Several Christians have been arrested in China's southwestern Yunnan province and accused of belonging to "evil cults," according to persecution watchdog group China Aid.
The arrests occurred between Oct. 22–Nov. 27, though the exact number of Christians apprehended by authorities is not yet known, China Aid reported on Thursday.
"Tu Yan, a woman who began attending churches in Yunnan after she moved there for work, was returning home from a Christian gathering on Oct. 22 when she was apprehended on suspicion of 'using a cult organization to undermine the implementation of the law,'" the report explained.
"A month later, she was arrested for the same charge. Authorities also accused her of being the backbone of two so-called 'evil cults' and organizing three meetings on behalf of these institutions. In an interview, her father denied her involvement in any cult activities."
Tu revealed that four other church members were arrested on the same charge, though local Christians claim that as many as 12 people might have been apprehended. Three people have since been arrested as Tu and the others remain in custody.
Another eight Christians were reportedly arrested on Nov. 27 in Kunming, the capital of the province, after they were again accused of belonging to illegal cults. Government officials accused the Christians of belonging to a sect originating in Taiwan, which China calls a cult. The arrested individuals insist that they are Christians, not members of a cult.
The ruling Communist Party has been engaged in a widespread crackdown on Christian churches this past year, watchdog groups have said, with several Christians and human rights activists detained for protesting against forced church demolitions and the arrest of other activists.
Another China Aid report revealed that authorities also arrested two Christian summer camp leaders in August in the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region, accusing them of trying to "brainwash" children.
"Both women were accused of indoctrinating minors with superstitious beliefs. Chinese law forbids religious teaching to anyone under the age of 18, believing matters of faith to be dangerous brainwashing from which children must be protected," the group explained back then.
"Christian parents and church leaders can face disciplinary action from officials for involving their children in any Christian activities."
In November, two Canadian lawyers claimed that Christians could very well be victims of a long-standing forced organ-harvesting scheme that targets prisoners.
David Kilgour, a former prosecutor and Canadian secretary of state for Asia-Pacific, and David Matas, a human rights lawyer, said that their research exposes that around 60,000 to 100,000 organ transplants take place in China every year.
Bob Fu, founder and president of China Aid, told The Christian Post in an interview that while he doesn't have systematic evidence that Christian prisoners are specifically being targeted in the organ-harvesting, the practice is very much a reality.
"This barbaric practice of organs harvesting continues in China. I applaud the enormous work to highlight this issue by the two Canadian friends," Fu told CP at the time.