05/31/2022 China (International Christian Concern) – Christians in eastern China who are trying to travel abroad for various reasons, including emigration and studies, are facing difficulties obtaining passports. Authorities are denying them the documents they need, citing COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Christians from several families in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces said immigration officials questioned the purpose of their passport applications and later rejected the applications after discovering their religious adherence.
In Zhejiang’s Wenzhou city, which has a significant concentration of Protestant Christians, authorities have reportedly rejected the passport applications of many students seeking overseas education, an education consultant said.
The scenario is similar in Jiangsu province as well.
“Many students from Wenzhou with a church background had been planning to go and study at overseas universities, but the government has refused to give them passports,” said Zhu, a Christian from Xuzhou city in Jiangsu who would be identified only by his surname.
“The government is keeping up the pressure and these controls even though the pandemic isn’t that serious right now. We have come to another crossroads after 40 years of reform and opening up.”
The denial of passports comes following China’s May announcement that it would tighten control on “non-essential” foreign travel for Chinese nationals, citing a surge in the pandemic in various provinces. However, there was no mention of what might be considered a “necessary” overseas trip.
Chen, a Christian from the southern city of Guangzhou, said his passport application was rejected after immigration officials said traveling during the pandemic was not essential.
John, a Protestant pastor in Shandong province, noted that not only students but Christians across China are being denied passports.
“Nobody can get or renew a passport,” he said. “I think it will be hard for church leaders like me to go overseas in the future.”
A Christian from Zhejiang province, who spoke on condition of anonymity, commented that the denial of passports and travel bans is part of an ongoing crackdown on Christians by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under Xi Jinping.
“No gatherings are allowed, in the name of disease prevention, and the authorities will shut down any seminaries linked to house churches if they hear about them,” the Christian said.
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