In Tianjin, China: evil, scheming, bloodthirsty cults!

We often take our daughter for walks around here because it’s the neighbourhood right next to ours:

This month, the right half of the notice board is filled with what are probably the most colourful and, um, educational propaganda posters we’ve seen so far, compliments of the Tianjin City Anti-Evil Cults Association (天津市邪教协会) and the Tianjin People’s Government Guarding-Against-and-Dealing-With-the-Evil-Cults-Problem Office (天津人民政府防范处理邪教问题办公室). Click either picture for a bigger view:

Here’s what the posters say (mouseover the Chinese text to see the pronunciation and definition). Translation corrections welcome.

1. The “Five Musts”

To Guard Against and Resist Evil Cults, Must Do the “Five Musts”

  1. Must not listen to, not believe, not pass on;
  2. Must actively report and expose the illegal activities of evil cults;
  3. Must eliminate superstitious thinking and properly treat ‘the four miseries of human life’;
  4. Must properly treat the bumps in life’s road; strengthen and pursue confidence in a nice life;
  5. Must establish becoming-rich-with-science-and-technology and becoming-rich-by-one’s-own-efforts thinking; create a nice life with your own two hands.
  6. Left image:

    • [Yellow bubble] “Hold up science, oppose superstition” 崇尚科学反对迷信
    • [Red books] Science 科学
    • [Sign board] Little demi-god
    • [Bad guy speaking] “No one at all believes in computer fortune-telling!”

    Right image:

    • [Blue card] ** (name of evil cult/teaching)
    • [Woman speaking] “Put your hand and foot down!”手脚放下!”
    • [Woman’s paper] Divorce 离婚
    • [Red book] Law 法律

    2. What is an Evil Cult?

    Uphold Science, Oppose Evil Cults, Build Harmoniousness Together

    What an Evil Cult is 什么邪教

    An evil cult organization fraudulently uses religion, qìgōng or the name of other kinds of established things, deifies the ringleader, exploits and uses methods like creating and spreading superstitious rumours and heresy (etc.) to seduce and deceive people, and to expand control of their members and their illegal harmful-to-society organization.


    • [Left] *** / *,*,* (name and slogan of the evil cult)
    • [Right] Anti-science, anti-humanity, anti-society (mirrors the evil cult’s slogan) 科学人类社会

    3. The Characteristics & Dangers of Evil Cults

    The Characteristics of Evil Cults 邪教特征

    1. Use the pretense of religion and science to concoct sophistry and heresy;
    2. Deify the gang leaders of evil cults, conduct mind control;
    3. Establish underground organizations, conduct illegal activities;
    4. Scam to raise funds by any and all means;
    5. Oppose the government, look with hatred on society;
    6. Proclaim that “Doomsday is approaching”.

    The Dangers of Evil Cults 邪教危害

    1. Incite opposition to the government, harm ‘grass-roots political power’;
    2. Engage in illegal criminal activities, harm society;
    3. Wreck regular production and living, harm the masses’ mental and physical health;
    4. Corrode and poison the minds of minors.


    • [Speech bubble] I want to reach a higher level! 层次
    • [Blue book] ** (evil cult’s name/teaching)
    • [Headband] *,*,* (evil cult’s slogan)
    • [Knives] Slaughter children, chop fathers, kill mothers 子女

    4. Evil Cult’s Scam Tricks

    Evil Cults’ Mass Deception Scam Tricks 邪教伎俩

    1. Use the pretense of religion or qìgōng to deceive people;
    2. Use cures and bad luck avoidance to entice people;
    3. Use all kinds of cheap tricks to frighten people. For example: reading facial features to tell people’s fortunes, deceiving people by pretending there are ghosts, writing characters with ants, making words appear on white paper, doing the Fu talisman trick, smearing eel blood to attract bats, circulating things like poisonous toads;
    4. Get close to people to rope them in;
    5. Bribe people with small favours;
    6. Use violent methods to coerce people.


    • [Bottom left] Reading ants 蚂蚁识字
    • [Bottle] Honey
    • [Clothes] Divine

    5. The Main Differences Between Religions & Evil Cults

    The Main Differences Between Religions and Evil Cults 宗教邪教主要区别

    1. 1, Our nation’s religions advocate that their believers fit into society, serve society, benefit the people, defend society’s harmoniousness, support the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and support the socialist system. The essence of evil cults is anti-societal; they poison and inflame members to look with hatred on society, they harm society even to the point of having wild political schemes, they agitate for and inflame people to overthrow the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership and the socialist system.
    2. 2, The things religions believe in and worship are each religion’s specially designated god, which are fixed and don’t change. Religions believe in opposing people who compare themselves to deities and boast about possessing “spiritual powers”. An evil cult, by contrast, worships the founding person himself.
    3. 3, Our nation’s religions have lawfully registered organizations and activity locations. Religious citizens’ collective religious activities are held at registered religious activity locations.

    Bottom bar:

    • Tianjin People’s Government Guarding-Against-and-Dealing-With-the-Evil-Cults-Problem Office 天津人民政府防范处理邪教问题办公室
    • Tianjin City Anti-Evil Cults Association 天津市邪教协会


    • Guilty of unpardonable evil 十恶不赦
    • *** (name of the evil cult’s founder)

    6. Five Reasons the Common Masses Follow Evil Cults

    Five Reasons the Common Masses Mistakenly Enter the Evil Cult Wrong Road

    1. The first is that when people meet sudden misfortune in life, they have a desperate state of mind toward real life, and evil cults will then enter by taking advantage of this weakness, they will use vague and illusory devious heresy to mislead, and cause people to be taken in and cheated;
    2. The second is that when people meet special difficulties in life, evil cults will seize the opportunity to show a helping-in-trouble and assisting-the-poor appearance, they’ll use small favours or help in a short-term difficulty, thereby people are filled with thankfulness psychologically and join an evil cult organization;
    3. The third is when people suffer illness and are unable to get well for a long time and are suffering, evil cults will, by introducing ancient traditional secret recipes and by promoting some kind of qìgōng extra-sensory-perception abilities, lure people into taking the bait;
    4. The fourth is when people need to make their health and bodies stronger, some evil cults will seize the opportunity to proclaim some qìgōng methods’ mystical capabilities, luring people through group exercise over a long period of time, etc., cause people to unwittingly become members of an evil cult;
    5. The fifth is the psychology of blindly following. They see the people around them practicing some kind of qìgōng method and they are caused to follow the crowd, the “hurry after the crowd” effect, so they confusedly become members of an evil cult.

    7. How to Report an Evil Cult

    Methods for Exposing and Reporting the Discovery of Evil Cults’ Illegal and Criminal Activities 发现邪教违法犯罪活动揭发检举手段

    1. Report to the lowest-level Party organization. 基层报告
    2. Make the situation known to the local police station. 派出所反映情况
    3. If you meet a public trouble-causing gathering, etc., you can immediately call 110 and report it to the police.

    Image: (A man turns over some evil cult materials that he found in his mailbox to the Anti-Evil Cults Committee 邪教委员会。)


    Left image:

    • “The fire-fighters are great!”消防宫兵们真棒!”
    • “Look! As soon as I use my kungfu powers, the fire is extinguished!”

    Right image:

    • “You only have to believe our **, and this bracelet is yours.”


    Left image:

    • [On clothing] Kingdom of Heaven 天国*,*,* (evil cult’s slogan); perfection 圆满divine look with hatred on society 仇视社会Doomsday is approaching 末日来临Reach a higher level 层次
    • [Underneath] illegal activity 非法活动

    Right image:

    • [On clothes] *,*,* (evil cult’s slogan)
    • [Papers] Don’t need to take medicine 不用吃药qìgōng healing 气功治病use kungfu powers to avoid disaster 发功divine



    • [On building] Local Police Station 派出所
    • [Arm band] “On duty” (a member of the Neighbourhood Committee 居委会)
    • [On prisoner] “****” (name of the evil cult)

    These posters most definitely have a specific “evil cult” in mind; they name it repeatedly in the pictures, just not in the main text. In the picture on the right, this group’s name is written on the “faithful running dog” (忠实走狗) of Uncle Sam (山姆大叔), who isn’t directly named but is clearly insinuated by the tall skinny legs and striped pants. In other words, they’re insinuating that the U.S. uses this group to try and destabilize China.

    This group is among the top three most hated/least tolerated groups in China, and were one of the biggest China stories of the 90’s. They’re the people who were outside the Chinese consulate in Vancouver when my parents went to get their visas, who my mom didn’t know about and almost walked in to apply for a Chinese visa with their material in hand (my dad made her leave it in the lobby). I didn’t translate the parts of the posters that identity this group specifically because those terms are just too sensitive for the Chinese internet.

    I’m not blogging this for the politics so don’t go writing or linking about them explicitly in the comments. I’m blogging it for the Chinese practice and to show what normal people in one average Tianjin neighbourhood like ours are getting propagandized with (each neighbourhood seems to choose its own posters; I’ve only seen this particular kind of poster in two or three different neighbourhoods; it’s not a city-wide thing). If you want to know more about this particular “evil cult”, read the third chapter of Ian Johnson’s Wild Grass: Three Portraits of Change in Modern China. I do, however, wonder if this kind of “evil cult” rhetoric will begin to appear in the increasingly tense on-going showdown in Beijing. There are alarming similarities between both situations, but also crucial differences.

    And if you just can’t get enough of translated propaganda posters, here’s one more:

12 thoughts on “In Tianjin, China: evil, scheming, bloodthirsty cults!”

  1. Great post Joel, thanks for taking the time to put it together. It’s great language practice. I haven’t seen these posters in our most recent community, but have seen them hung at several places I’ve lived in the past. Definitely no ambiguity about who the “evil cult” is.

    Aside from the obvious political agenda, I can’t say I disagree with much of what the posters are saying — which, I suppose, is the point of good propaganda, hehe.

  2. @Ryan

    Haha, this took me forEVer, mostly because I only have time here and there to work on it and there was a lot of new vocab.

    Have you ever read anything about what happened to these guys? From what i’ve read and heard from people who’ve known them, they can be rather obnoxious in a fundamentalist sort of way (really pushy and won’t take no for an answer, apparently they’ve squandered a lot of sympathy overseas this way… at least according to the msm reports i’ve read) — but of course they weren’t labeled and treated as an ‘evil cult’ just for being annoying.

    ps – saw your e-mail, but we’re traveling for a while so i’ll look at that stuff when we get back. thanks for letting me know!

  3. That’s one of the very few things I like the Chinese governments for: I believe that evil cults, such as ** ** or scientology, should be seriously prosecuted. They just defraud weak people of money. The poster’s author is right: evil cults prey on people who experience “bumps in life”, strip them of their money and recruit them as obedient slaves.

    1. @hooey

      “evil cults … should be seriously prosecuted … evil cults prey on people who experience “bumps in life”, strip them of their money and recruit them as obedient slaves”

      Do you mean “prosecuted” or “persecuted”? In China, it’s most definitely the latter, and in brutal ways (see the book I referenced at the end of the post). Assuming you mean prosecute and not persecute, what would you prosecute them for? I’d agree with prosecution, I guess, if you mean mean that the law should be applied to individuals who break it regardless of what their beliefs are but according to their actions. But what happened/happens to this particular group in China has little to do with the law or protecting their potential prey — and never did.

      Are you assuming that the group in question is guilty of all that the poster says it is, and really is an “evil cult”? Even if some people could be found who (a) self-identify as members of that group and (b) were guilty of all the things mentioned in the posters, does that justify prosecuting everyone who self-identifies as a member of that group?

    1. @London Caller

      “Do you think the world would become more peaceful if there was no religion?”

      Short answer? No. Blaming “religion” is a weak cop-out for human beings who are looking for a scapegoat so they can avoid facing the reality of human nature and taking responsibility for their own actions. The problem isn’t “religion”; it’s human nature. People will oppress one another horribly with or without what people typically refer to as “religion.” (However this is all moot because the term/category “religion” is fatally flawed when used in this way.)

      Long answer: Your question doesn’t actually make sense. What do you mean by “religion”? The way we typically use that term does not at all adequately categorize all the major ideologies, worldviews, belief systems, traditions, “-isms” and “religions” with respect to each one’s actual characteristics. It’s a largely arbitrary term that we use for convenience and habit (and propaganda), not because it comes anywhere close to reflecting reality, which would be the actual characteristics and functions of all the things I just listed.

      You could maybe ask “Would the world be better off without [long list of specific religious traditions: Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, etc.]?” That question makes more sense, I think, but you’d then have to explain why you put all the Christianities and Buddhisms together in one category (for example) but not secularism, humanism, feminism, atheism, anti-theism, capitalism, etc. If we first examine the characteristics of and variety within each and then group them according to their similarities and differences, I think we’ll find that the term “religion” as it’s typically used today is more trouble than it’s worth.

      Also, I find that the people who blame “religion” the loudest often seem to have a weaker-than-average understanding of the very traditions and theologies that they propagandize against, while, ironically, seem to be (unconsciously) very “religious” themselves; it’s really a matter of competing “religions,” not “religion” vs. “non-religion.” The more cocky, the less informed.

  4. Fascinating!

    I have never seen this sort of thing where I am in China. I wondered if I am simply unobservant, but I checked with my (local Chinese) wife and she said that she hasn’t seen them around, either. She said she was curious when we go overseas and encounter these “evil cult members” protesting, etc. She said that she felt that in our little area it is an old issue, and things have moved on.

    So either my wife and I are both naive and unaware (quite possible!), or the “infestations” of this “evil cult” are merely localised to certain areas (different Chinas, etc). Maybe your local community has an infestation problem? Have you ever heard any talk in your local area about it?

    1. @Glenn:

      I’ve only seen these kinds of posters two or three times in two or three different places around town in over 3.5 years here. Can’t say if they’re responding to a problem in their area or if they just thought it’d be a fun way to spruce up the bulletin board. I’m certainly not trying to present this as representative of Tianjin in general.

      Jessica was approach by one once in the supermarket, we had our apartment “tracted” (tracts wedged in our door), and I once found tracts from this group in the bathroom where I work. Other than that, we’ve seen neither hide nor hair of them on the Mainland during the time we’ve been here. And she just reminded me that we once got handed material from a different cult (don’t know if they’re officially “evil” or not) outside one of the government-sanctioned churches in Tianjin. Their website has an English version, but since I don’t know how sensitive it is you’ll have to read this and type the letters: “see-see-ee-ay-ee”-[dot]-org

  5. Like many political campaigns in China this one against so-called ‘Evil Cults’ is hazy. To be law you have to define things and say what is and what is not and create boundaries.

    The major weakness in the entire Chinese governmental system is implementation. That is who precisely, is going to implement this law. By that I mean which government department with be in charge of implementing it and how are they going to do it.

    This failure in implementation can be seen in the ongoing food scandals, on going forced demolitions and, of course, the ongoing corruption cases involving government officials: mainly at the local level.

    So instead of implementing laws we have ‘Crackdowns.’ Crackdowns involve squads of serious looking uniformed people running around catching a few, mostly, small fry and putting the occasional big one on trial and even giving them the death sentence. But a few weeks and months later the ‘crackdown’ is over and everything returns to normal.

    If China intends to have Rule by Law it has to have clearly defined laws drawn up by a team of legal draughtsman not political hacks and hangers-on. Then the regulations that govern the implementation of the law have to be drafted and sent to the government department who is assigned the task of implementing them.

    The government department concerned then has to establish a group or squad who is role it is prosecute those who fail to recognise and abide by the new law. This will be the group’s full time job for as long as the law is the law.
    Forget crackdowns, they achieve nothing as everyone knows when and how to temporarily duck for cover. Implementing the law is an ongoing permanent process from which there can be no respite

  6. While proofreading a flight school syllabus in Linyi, China a few years ago, I came across a paragraph that stated “members of evil cults back at least two generations” were not allowed to enroll. I always wondered what an evil cult was, although I was able to make a reasonable guess.

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