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China: churches continue to suffer under harsh government crackdown

May 2020

Chinese President Xi Jinping
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Churches in China are continuing to suffer as the state-sanctioned action against Christianity has ploughed ahead.

In an effort to make Christianity conform to Chinese communism, and not like ‘Western’ Christianity, the government has been putting increasing pressure on churches in the mainland.

According to reports from advocacy group Release International and China Aid, despite the coronavirus locking down whole provinces in China, the government has stepped up its repressive measures, tearing down churches, arresting church leaders, and removing crosses.

It has also been turning neighbours against each other. Recently authorities hailed ten of Weifang’s sub districts and twelve local villages as ‘role models’ in their efforts to crack down on ‘evil religions’ such as Christianity.

Meanwhile, Christian Uyghurs – an ethnic group persecuted by the Chinese state – are being ‘re-educated’ in huge detention camps in Xinjiang. While most Uyghurs are Muslims, Christians are deemed to be even more of a threat to social order, as generally they have converted from Islam.

A statement from China Aid warned that the intention of the Chinese government is to bring all churches and Christianity under the absolute control of the Communist Party.

The statement said: ‘These policies, if fully implemented, will cause house churches to lose any space for existence and development, and lose their autonomy.

‘These policies highlight the Chinese authorities agenda of taking full control of churches and wiping out house churches.

‘Even house churches that haven’t been outlaws – such as the previously government-approved “Three-Self Patriotic Movement” churches – are facing great challenges with congregating to worship. Congregations of more than 100 believers are hard to find, and most church venues in office buildings have closed.’

In 2018, when the Regulations on Religious Affairs rules came in, landlords were banned from renting buildings to unrecognised churches.

The regulations also banned Chinese citizens from travelling overseas to attend religious conferences, or from operating religious schools. All churches are required to implement communist values.

Throughout 2019, churches were demolished – including a 3,000-seat megachurch in Anhui – and during the same year, all house church leaders were summoned and interviewed by the police.

China Aid said it has documented widespread oppression in the country, including the arrest of pastors and church members, intimidating congregations, and restricting access to Christian literature.

Release International has called on Christians to continue to pray for pastor Zhang Shaojie, of Nanle County Christian Church, who is currently serving a 12-year sentence.

According to Release, he has been witnessing to his fellow inmates, and the prison officials have said they recognise his ‘uplifting’ influence.