Release International has called on the Chinese government to grant freedom of religion to Christians who face increasing persecution on the mainland.
According to Paul Robinson, chief executive of the international advocacy organisation, the scenes of protest and counter-measures unfolding on the streets of Hong Kong reflect the desperate cry for freedom in mainland China.
He said, ‘Those cries for freedom are being met with tightening control. Persecution has been rising since China imposed tough new religious restrictions in 2018.
‘Release partners say persecution has reached a peak not seen since the bad old days of the Cultural Revolution. Release is calling for those laws to be repealed’.
However, a petition signed by thousands of Christians proved difficult to hand into China’s Embassy in London.
Earlier this year, a delegation from Release International prayed on the street close to the embassy where the Chinese flag was flying. Chinese officials had refused Release’s request for an appointment with the ambassador to explain their concerns.
Further, when Release tried to hand in the petition calling for change, the Embassy would not take it – on grounds of security. Release was asked to post the petition instead.
China has been highlighted as a country of concern in several recent reports on persecution, including the investigation by the Bishop of Truro, which featured research from Release International, among others.
Mr Robinson said, ‘We’re greatly encouraged the UK government has accepted in full the recommendation to put religious freedom as a consideration when allocating the aid budget.
‘There is one freedom that underpins every other – and that is the freedom of belief. And this freedom is under severe threat in China.
‘Freedom of faith is guaranteed under Article 36 of the Chinese constitution. But in practice, the authorities bulldoze churches, tear down crosses and imprison pastors. Lawyers who speak up for them in the courts simply disappear. And it’s getting worse’.