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ChinaMap reflects the 30 most recent Persecution Reports. Click HERE for the Map Legend.
Chinese officials are now denying that they have initiated a demolition campaign against churches in the Zhejiang province in Eastern China. The issue sprang to international attention when thousands of Christians stood guard against bulldozers ordered to demolish parts of the Sanjiang church in the port city of Wenzhou. With more than a million of the province’s nine million residents believed to be practicing Christians Communist party officials have said that the growth is “too excessive and too haphazard.”
The attempt by the Chinese government to tear down a protestant church that it deemed “too large” has brought Christian persecution back into the spotlight. The reality is that while some elements have improved for China’s Christians they continue to face high restrictions. Protecting religious freedoms will have broad impact for other fundamental rights in the country.
In November of 2013, Chinese police arrested nearly two dozen member of the Nanle County Christian Church in Henan Province. A few of those members, including the churches pastor, remain in detention. Meanwhile, police continue to block access to the church building for services and church members protesting the arrests and closure of the church have been assaulted by government hired thugs. The church is a member of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and is therefore technically a legally registered church in China.
Over the past weekend news reports began to pour in of the human shield formed by thousands of Christians in Zhejiang Province, China, to protect a newly-built $3.8 million dollar church from being demolished by local authorities. Below is a copy of an open letter sent by the church calling for support and prayer from the worldwide Christian community and detailing the campaign against crosses and churches in the province over the past few months.
Defending the rights of religious minorities and others in China is often a dangerous career. In March, police in Northeast China arrested several Christian human rights lawyers who were investigating a "black jail." China is increasingly using unofficial "black jails" to hold political prisoners without charge. Outside of the legal system, these jails can indefinitely hold everyone from house church Christians to Falun Gong practitioners to petitioners seeking justice from the federal government in Beijing. Last week, family and supporters of the detained lawyers traveled to Northeast China and were beaten by police for protesting the lawyers detention.
A recent study has show that there are more incidents of religiously motivated violence in countries that lack religious diversity. Both Somalia and Afghanistan are among the least religiously diverse countries in the world and top the list for countries with the most religiously motivated incidents of violence. Across the Muslim world, Christians living in Muslim majority countries face daily persecution. Take a moment to pray for them today.
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that thousands of Christians have formed a human shield around a newly-constructed church in Zhejiang Province after authorities earlier this week threatened to demolish the building. The Sanjiang Christian Church reportedly cost over $4.8 million to construct and was built over a six-year period in Wenzhou, one of China’s most Christianized cities.
Police in Central China's Henan Province came out in force on Wednesday to stop Christians from attending an annual service at the Nanle County Christian Church. Police blocked buses attempting to enter the city for the service and set up a blockade in front of the church building, attempting to bar members from entering. Some members that made it into the building were later trapped as those outside were ordered to disburse by police. A group of Christians then simply began to worship on the street. One Christian reported: “There was no way we could hold a normal gathering. We had to worship the Lord at the gate. There, we sang hymns and worshipped. After the authorities grabbed our musical instruments, we praised God with our hands.”
Few in the United States and Europe are aware of just how much Catholic leaders in China must sacrifice in order to stay true to their faith. Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin is an example. Publicly defying the Communist controlled Catholic Patriotic Association in 2012, Bishop Ma has been placed under house arrest for almost two years and forced to attend "re-education" classes. His is just one in many cases of Catholic clergy being detained or even disappearing at the hands of the Chinese government.
Authorities in China's Southeastern province of Guangdong threatened Christian care facilities for the elderly and mentally handicapped with closure last week. Police came to a branch of the "Loving Care Center" in Huizhou saying that the "church" was operating illegally and that they planned to demolish the facility. Christians report that police are also putting pressure on the properties landlord to evict the Christians. The facility currently cares for 19 patients.
The leader of a house church in Shandong Province is reporting that his church has only grown after authorities raided services last year and ordered the church to cease meeting. Pastor Zhou, who himself was taken into custody at one point, says “Do they think the church is banned just because they say they ban it?” Zhou said. “Who can fight the will of God? They did say they banned the church, but they couldn’t do it. Now, we have more people than before.”
While China has announced it is abolishing it's notorious system of labor camps, where "dissidents" could be sentenced to up to four years of imprisonment without a trial, other methods of punishing and imprisoning house church Christians remain. So called "black jails" exist outside the judicial system. Four human rights lawyers investigating one of these jails in Northeast China have been detained. Two have disappeared and two others have been sentenced to two weeks of detention. This report says that the black jail was being used to hold house church Christians among other political "criminals."
On Saturday, in Shanghai, an incredible event took place. 5,000 Christians gathered to mourn the death of Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, the leader of China's underground Catholic church who spent two decades imprisoned for his faith. That authorities even allowed the funeral to take place is something of a small miracle, though they did insist that the funeral not be held at a church, and clergy ordained by the Chinese government's Catholic Patriotic Association were told to stay far away. Many, to their credit, attended anyway.
In what is perhaps a surprise to no one, China has condemned a recent United Nations report on the horrific human rights situation inside North Korea. China is North Korea's strongest ally and regularly protests attempts by other nations and the international community to censure North Korea for its development of nuclear weapons and its complete lack of any basic freedoms. North Korea is also considered the world's worst persecutor of Christians, with as many as 30,000 Christians believed to be imprisoned in political prison camps and hundreds of thousands more living with the daily fear of arrest and even execution if their faith is revealed. Most observers believe that the North Korean regime would quickly collapse without the massive amount of food aid delivered by China.
In scattered provinces across China, Christians are studying law and learning how to offer a defense against government pressure on the church. While China's constitution protects full religious freedom and the Communist Party claims to allow religious freedom, across China millions of Christians are forced to choose between worshiping in government controlled "Three-Self" churches or in illegal house churches. Those who worship in house churches are subject to arrest and harassment. Increasingly, however, Chinese Christians are beginning to vocally and publicly standing up for their right to worship.
Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, the president of the underground Bishops conference of China, died on Sunday evening in home at the age of 97. Father Fan was arrested in 1958 for his faith and spent 20 years imprisoned in a work camp before his release in 1978. Despite this imprisonment, Father Fan continued in ministry, eventually becoming the bishop of Shanghai. China does not recognize the authority of the Vatican and runs it's own Catholic church through the Catholic Patriotic Association, regularly ordaining clergy not recognized by the Vatican. An underground Catholic church also exists, though it is routinely harassed and dozens of priests have been detained by authorities over the past decade.
In January, 15 Christians belonging to the Holy Love Fellowship in Beijing were arrested and held in criminal detention for a month. Although all but one has been released, the church has now been banned from meeting and unidentified thugs have shown up an harassed church members. The church is now faced with the decision to continue meeting at the risk of further arrests and harassment, though one source reported the church is determined to do so despite the risks. While China publicly claims to offer complete religious freedom, in practice the Communist Party still maintains a close eye on religious adherents and allows local governments to routinely arrest Christians. In addition, by law, no one under the age of 18 is allowed to attend a church service.
Wenxi Li was arrested by the Chinese government last year for his help in setting up a Christian bookstore. His family recently reported that Li has been spending his two-year prison sentence serving as a witness for Christ, leading fellow inmates to Jesus. China continues to routinely arrest and harass Christians, especially those who practice their faith outside the government controlled "Three-Self" churches. Li's family report they have also been harassed since he was imprisoned, a common practice of government officials attempting to intimidate the family into silence.
While conditions have improved considerably for Christians in China over the past twenty years, incidents of arrest and discrimination at the hands of government authorities are still common. In this incident, reported yesterday by China Aid, a Christian was detained by local officials in Sichuan Province and then forced to stand without clothing in very cold temperatures for two hours. Millions of Christians in China choose to worship in illegal unregistered house churches and face harassment rather than join the government controlled "Three-Self" Church.
In November of last year authorities in Henan, China, launched one of the most extensive crack downs on a official, government registered church in recent years. Nearly two dozen members of the Nanle County Christian Church were arrested, including church elders and pastors, while police blocked any attempt to hold future services. Lawyers who traveled to the area to represent the detained church members were attacked by hired thugs, as were international film crews that attempted to cover the arrests. Almost four months later, several of the church members remain in prison and are facing various trumped up charges. As their lawyers do their best to represent them in a highly corrupt and bureaucratic legal system, families of Christians from the church report ongoing intimidation at the hands of local authorities.
Two churches located in the coastal province of Zhejiang, China, have had the crosses atop their buildings forcibly removed after authorities decided they were too "conspicuous." The pastor of one of the churches said he had no input in the decision and that local authorities simply showed up with cranes to demolish the cross atop his church. Both churches effected belong to the official government controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement. Persecution of these churches is rare unless the congregations or pastor step outside of strict guidelines mandated by the Communist Party. Millions of Christians in China choose to worship outside of these legal churches in unregistered "house churches" despite the risk of arrest.
In the following article, former house church pastor Joshua Dao lambastes the Communist government of China for its ongoing efforts to suppress Christianity. Starting with the history of Christian persecution in China, Pastor Joshua goes on to describe specific incidents, including the recent arrest of two teachers at a Christian kindergarten. While China claims to allow complete religious freedom, in reality Christians are forced to attend government controlled churches or risk arrest. Churches that stray too far from government endorsed doctrine or activities, or churches that come into direct conflict with the government, face aggressive intimidation tactics and the arrest of their leaders.
When Xu Yonghai and a group of Christians went to visit a fellow believer under house arrest, they were detained by Beijing authorities. After spending more than a month under arrest, ten of the Christians from the group have been freed, but three remain in custody. One Christian in the group, Yang Jing, suffered from a heart attack during his detainment but was only given a cursory examination. China claims internationally to protect and provide for full religious freedom, however in practice Christians are required by law to attend only government controlled churches and are frequently arrested.
Zhao Guoli and his wife run an orphanage for the Nanle County Christian Church in central China. On Nov 15th, Zhao "disappeared" into police custody after traveling to Beijing in an attempt to mediate a land dispute between his church and the local government. Christians are often taken into police custody in China without any notice to their families or friends, leaving loved ones to search for days or even weeks at police stations for their family members. Since November, authorities in Henan Province have actively repressed the Nanle County Christian Church, at one point detaining nearly two dozen church members and hiring mobs to harass film crews attempting to cover the case.
Two Christian kindergarten teachers were taken into custody by Chinese police last week in the southern province of Guangxi. They were later charged with "engaging in illegal business operations", a trumped up accusation that their lawyers say are completely baseless. More likely, their arrest has to do with the Christian teaching materials used in their classes and the fact that the church was founded by a house church pastor, Wang Dao, who was heavily persecuted by the government and later forced to flea to the United States.
Three Christian members of the Nanle County Christian Church were recently found being held by authorities at a "black jail" in Henan Province, China. "Black jails" are unofficial detention centers where authorities are able to extra-judicially hold individuals for almost indefinite lengths of time. The discovery of the jail by local Christians and the report issues by human rights organization ChinaAid effectively led to the quick closure of the jail and the transfer of the three Christians to another location. In November of last year, authorities kidnapped or arrested nearly two dozen members of the Nanle Country Christian Church in the harshest crackdown on a government approved church in China in more than two decades.
Nine Christians in central China remain behind bars this week as their lawyers appeal for an investigation from a higher level court. The nine Christians, including Pastor Zhang Shaojie, were arrested back in November along with more than a dozen other church members belonging to the Nanle County Christian Church. The mass arrest was unusual because the church belongs to the government controlled "Three-Self" church organization. Most of China's Christians choose to worship in unregistered house churches and can be arrested for attending these "illegal" gatherings.
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ICC is constantly monitoring the state of Christian persecution in countries around the world and looking for ways that we can act as bridge between our supporters and the persecuted church. Beyond the projects you see above, we are working in many other areas to provide practical assistance to our brothers and sisters in Christ. View our other projects page to understand more of our work and keep up to date on our current projects.