Church Crackdowns Continue in China
By Gina Goh
07/24/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Looking toward the epicenter and origin of the COVID-19 outbreak, we hoped that Christians in China would finally get a break from persecution while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) scrambled to contain the new infectious disease. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. During the initial phase of the pandemic, when the entire country was under various degrees of lockdown, Christians did experience a brief moment of rest from persecution as everyone was asked to stay home and maintain social distance. However, these tranquil days didn’t last long. The crackdown resumed as soon as the country began to lift restrictions.
Tortured by the State
On March 14, police in Hunan province arrested Zhao Huaiguo, pastor of Bethel Church in Cili, for “subversion” after police raided his home. A source shared that local authorities had been hostile toward Pastor Zhao ever since his church refused to join the state-sanctioned church and rejected government officials’ intervention.
His wife, Zhang Xinghong, told Radio Free Asia that after her husband was criminally detained, state security personnel told her that he was arrested for re-posting messages about the coronavirus pandemic, using VPN software to avoid the Great Firewall, and sharing political content. His whereabouts remain unknown.
A Chinese priest who has refused to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) was taken away on April 3 by security forces. For four days, priest Huang Jintong from the Mindong Diocese was subjected to torture and deprived of sleep for extended periods until he nearly had a mental breakdown, and agreed to join the CCPA.
On May 3, local authorities violently raided Xingguang Church in Fujian province during Sunday worship. Several members were injured during the process as the police wrestled them to the ground and dragged them across the floor. Some were detained briefly at the police station for defending their church. This house church has refused to join the state-approved Three-Self Church and has been repeatedly targeted for its resistance.
Three-Self Churches Also Suffering
Surprisingly, the government has also targeted established state churches. On Easter Sunday, a state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church in China’s Qinghai province was demolished. A team from the Xining City authorities brought down Donghu Church, labeling the church as illegal while citing “safety concerns” after many previous attempts failed to shut down the church.
Anhui province saw crosses removed from two TSPM churches on April 15 and 27, both established by American missionaries more than a century ago. Another church in Huainan city experienced the same fate at the beginning of May.
Preventing Christian Gatherings
On April 26, the CCPA and its bishops’ forum, the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China, jointly announced the further delay of church activities, intending to reduce gatherings as part of measures to battle the coronavirus. It is believed that the delayed opening is merely an excuse to prevent Christians from gathering. Throughout May, no church activities or Marian pilgrimages should take place. All dioceses and parishes were told to suspend all pilgrimage programs. The opening of seminaries and religious institutes has also been delayed.
In the CCP’s worldview, if Christians love God more than the Communist Party, then persecution is the prescription. As Christians in China struggle to resume a sense of normality in their lives, the CCP is making life needlessly difficult for them. Please pray for the persecuted Church in China during this time of transition. Pray that the government will relax its stringent and unfair measures and stop all attempts to stifle the Church in China.
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