China Pressuring the Church in Hong Kong and Taiwan
05/10/2021 China (International Christian Concern) – The Chinese government, long criticized for its persecution of religion within its borders, seems to be expanding the reach of its persecution efforts outside the country. Police in Hong Kong recently blocked the website of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan for its connection to radio host Edmund Wan, who was arrested on February 7.
Wan had used his program to encourage Hong Kong protestors to study in Taiwan as Beijing tightened control over the historically autonomous southern city last year and had raised funds towards this end, some of which went to the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. Beijing pushed the passage of the Hong Kong National Security Law last summer, which criminalizes a wide variety of activities deemed counter the interests of the state. Religious leaders in Hong Kong have experienced significant pressure since that time as a result.
Many Christian leaders have fled to Taiwan from Hong Kong despite Beijing’s attempts to block their escape. 10,000 Hong Kong residents are reported to have moved to Taiwan in 2020, among them Christians who find themselves accused of inciting subversion of the state under the new national security law.
Speaking to ICC, Pastor Huang Chun-seng of the Chi-Nan Presbyterian Church in Taiwan said that Hong Kong pastors and Christian professors have sought refuge in Taiwan and that more continue to come. Others have gone elsewhere, with some settling in the UK, he said.
China aggressively persecutes Christians who choose to worship in institutions outside of the state-run Three-Self church and Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. House churches are regularly raided, church leaders imprisoned, and laypeople intimidated for practicing their faith outside the narrow confines established by the government.
A recent Freedom House report ranked China as one of the least free countries in the world, including for its lack of religious freedom. A 2017 report by Freedom House found that “at least 100 million believers belong to groups facing high or very high levels of religious persecution, namely Protestant Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and Falun Gong practitioners.” Research from other groups corroborate this finding.
ICC published an in-depth report in the summer of 2020 examining the legal mechanisms China uses to suppress religion. Topics covered in the report included an array of administrative decrees used to suppress religious expression, and the government’s ongoing campaign to “Sinicize” religion, or change religious identity into something more consistent with CCP values. The report also included a list of Christian persecution incidents from the previous year.
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