Joined: 25 Jul 2005
Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
|Posted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:00 am Post subject: China's persecution of Christianity
A brief summary of persecution of religious practitioners
The continued escalation in both the scale and intensity of religious persecution in 2015 surpassed that of 2014. The Chinese government’s persecution of its own government-sanctioned Three-Self Church continued to rival abuse not seen since the Cultural Revolution, most prominently in the widespread forced demolition of churches and crosses throughout Zhejiang province and a number of other provinces. Persecution of the house church movement also continued to intensify, with both urban and rural house churches coming under scrutiny and forced to join the Three-Self Church. In 2015, the Chinese government continued a campaign similar to the 1998 crackdown on Falun Gong to persecute so-called “cults” among certain sects of Christianity. The Chinese government also continued to carry out a policy of Sinicizing Christianity, attempting to make the core tenets of Christianity compatible with the core values of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Christians in Zhejiang province face continued forced cross demolitions
In 2015, China Aid gathered reports on the demolition of churches and crosses throughout Zhejiang province and the subsequent persecution of pastors, church leaders and church members.
According to information provided by Christian leaders in Zhejiang that China Aid was able to independently verify, by the end of 2015, more than 20 churches had been forcibly demolished, 1,300 crosses removed, more than 500 Christians taken into police custody, at least 130 Christians physically injured, more than 60 Christians administratively or criminally detained, and at least 28 pastors and Christians arrested or charged with a crime. The actual scope of persecution may be even wider than reflected by these statistics. Some church leaders estimate that at least 1,500 crosses were forcibly removed, 30 churches demolished, mostly in rural areas, and the government imposed measures, including detention, on at least 1,000 Christians who protested or tried to prevent the destruction of crosses or churches.
Zhejiang authorities continued to use the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign, launched in 2014 ostensibly to clean up “illegal structures,” to provide the legal cover to target Christians for persecution. On May 5, the Zhejiang Provincial Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs and the Zhejiang Provincial Department for Housing and Urban and Rural Construction released for public input a draft of the Zhejiang Provincial Codes for Religious Buildings, which require all church crosses to be “attached to the front facade of the main religious building,” in essence barring the placement of crosses atop church buildings, as has been the practice of Chinese churches for centuries. The building code gives officials the authority to order changes—including the removal and demolition of crosses—to Protestant and Catholic buildings and interfere with the way church buildings are used. Local Christians saw this as discrimination and a violation of their property rights, and a large number of pastors and church members publicly condemned the government’s actions, triggering the province-wide crackdown on Christians. Some of the more prominent cases are summarized herewith.
When Huang Yizi, the pastor of Fengwo Church in the Zhejiang city of Wenzhou, stood trial on March 24, 2015, for organizing a protest against cross demolitions, more than 500 Christians from the cities of Wenzhou, Jinhua, Shaoxing, Ningbo, Zhoushan and Hangzhou gathered outside the courthouse in a show of support. Police responded by blocking off the street in front of the courthouse, and only six family members and church members were allowed to attend the trial, where Huang was sentenced to a one-year prison term. Huang was released from prison on August 1 after serving his full term, but he was placed under house arrest on Sept. 24, by the Ouhai branch of the Wenzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau for persisting in defending the church’s rights.
Eight Christians from Wenzhou’s Sanjiang Church, including church elder Guo Yunhua and Zhao Rendi, a parish lay leader, were convicted on March 25, 2015, of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order” and “illegal occupation of farmland” for meeting in their church to worship, sing hymns and pray when more than 1,000 armed police came to forcibly demolish the church building. Zhao’s sentence of a three-year prison term was the heaviest, but he was released with a four-year reprieve. The others, who were sentenced to prison terms ranging from several months to a year, were also released on reprieve. They likely had been coerced to plead guilty in exchange for the reprieves.
On June 8, 2015, the Wenling city government began a five-day operation to demolish Yanxia Christian Church, a Three-Self Church that had spent 10 million Yuan (U.S. $1.6 million) on its just-finished church building that had yet to be put into use. Church leaders had reportedly been pressured by the government to agree to the demolition. The authorities said that because the building was an “illegal structure” the demolition was not forced.
On July 26, 2015, the local public security bureau in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, criminally detained eight church leaders and Christians on, including Pastors Bao Guohua and Xing Wenxiang, Pastor Bao’s son, seminary student and evangelist Bao Chenxing, and five other church leaders. They were charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” “embezzlement,” “illegal business operations,” “concealing and destroying accounting documents, accounting books, or financial statements,” and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order.” Their church hired 11 lawyers to defend them, but each was reportedly dismissed by the religious affairs bureau, which also barred the lawyers from meeting with their clients.
In the harshest attack on Christians in Wenzhou since the cross demolitions began in 2014, Wenzhou police in late August responded to the growing opposition to the cross demolitions by taking into custody as many as 20 rights defense lawyers, pastors and elders across the city. More than 10 police scaled church walls on Aug. 25 to apprehend human rights lawyer Zhang Kai and his assistants Liu Peng and Fang Xiangui, who had provided legal counsel to more than 100 churches targeted by the cross demolition campaign. They were taken to an undisclosed location and placed under house arrest. Such extra-judicial detention arrangements in secret locations are also known as being held in a “black jail.”
As part of the same crackdown, Wenzhou police detained multiple church leaders and evangelists in the Wenzhou area, including, Wang Yunxian, Zhou Aiping, Wei Wenhai, Zhou Jian, Cheng Congping, Huang Xiaoyuan, Zhang Zhi, most of whom were held in “black jails.” On Sept. 8, Pastor Zhang Chongzhu of Pingyang County was taken into police custody. Police denied all visitation requests from the detainees’ family members and from their lawyers. Some of the lawyers received dismissal notices from their clients, who were believed to have acted under coercion. At the end of 2015, Wenzhou authorities released church leaders Kang Xiaoyou, Wang Yunxian, Huang Yizi, Zhang Zhi, Wei Wenhai, Cheng Congping and Zhou Aiping; evangelists Zhou Jian, Huang Xiaoyuan, Chen Chaohua; and lawyers Fang Xiangui and Liu Peng. Others released in 2016 include Pastors Yan Xiaojie and Zhang Chongzhu.
Christians throughout Zhejiang protested cross demolitions by congregating in front of government offices or churches and displaying crosses and signs. In a rare victory, hundreds of Christians from Dituan Church in Wenzhou gathered in front of their church on Aug. 10, holding up small red crosses and banners that read, “Immediately stop illegal actions” and “Guard the dignity of the Constitution; Defend freedom of religion.” They also chanted slogans such as “Abide by the law of this country,” “Oppose forced demolitions,” and “Freedom of Religion,” and sang hymns and prayed. When government officials arrived to carry out the threatened cross demolition, they were outnumbered and fled the scene. These protests elicited global support of the cause of defending the rights of China’s Christians.
20,000 Chinese Christians persecuted by Chinese government: report
Chiqui Guyjoco23 MAY, 2016
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China's Premier Li Keqiang speaks at the opening ceremony of Boao Forum in Boao, Hainan Province, China, March 24, 2016.
An annual report conducted by a persecution watchdog group and published on Wednesday, May 18 reveals that a total of 20,000 Chinese Christians suffered religious persecution at the hands of the Communist Chinese government in 2015 alone.
"In 2015, China Aid documented 634 cases of persecution in which 19,426 religious practitioners were persecuted, representing an 8.62 percent increase from 2014's 17,884 religious practitioners persecuted," read a statement in the "2015 Annual Report Chinese Government Persecution of Christians and Churches in China" conducted by ChinaAid.
China's "Three Rectification and One Demolition" beautification campaign targeted demolition of numerous Christian buildings and crosses on charges of violations with the country's building code. The demolitions have led to the death of a church pastor's wife in Henan province and the arrests of Christian leaders as well as human rights lawyers.
The report also pointed out that aside from Christians, Tibetan Buddhists and Muslims "likely experienced even more intense government persecution" by the atheistic Chinese government.
However, Christianity in China continues to grow despite relentless persecution.
The document indicated that Christians fasted and prayed everywhere, tied themselves on the cross, protested on the streets carrying small wooden crosses, re-erected crosses that had been removed by the authorities, and held up a staunch fight against the government demolitions. Many Christians were also boosted by the court victories achieved in cases including civil law, administrative law, and property rights law.
"The top leadership is increasingly worried about the rapid growth of Christian faith and their public presence, and their social influence," Bob Fu, ChinaAid president, told The Christian Post in an interview. "It is a political fear for the Communist Party, as the number of Christians in the country far outnumber the members of the party."
ChristianAid is optimistic that the Christian faith "will eventually cover the vast expanse of this nation."
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung