Chi­nese per­se­cu­tion of Chris­tians worst since Mao

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY BRAD­FORD RICHARD­SON

Watch­dog groups say the per­se­cu­tion of Chris­tians and other re­li­gious mi­nori­ties in China is at its most in­tense since the Cul­tural Revo­lu­tion, as churches are shut­tered, Bi­bles con­fis­cated and be­liev­ers ar­rested at rates not seen in decades.

Ev­i­dence of the crack­down was in plain view this week when po­lice raided Early Rain Covenant Church, an un­der­ground parish in the south­west­ern Sichuan province, to pre-empt a me­mo­rial ser­vice com­mem­o­rat­ing the 29th an­niver­sary of the Tianan­men Square mas­sacre of antigov­ern­ment pro­test­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to Chi­naAid, an ad­vo­cacy group that doc­u­ments hu­man rights abuses in the com­mu­nist na­tion, 17 peo­ple were vi­o­lently detained. They in­cluded pas­tor Wang Yi and his wife, who at­tempted to block the door.

Pas­tor Bob Fu, founder and pres­i­dent of Chi­naAid, said the num­ber of peo­ple ar­rested in China for ex­er­cis­ing their re­li­gious free­dom “has reached the high­est level since the end of the Cul­tural Revo­lu­tion.” He cited in­ter­nal fig­ures show­ing a nearly five­fold in­crease in the num­ber of Chris­tians who were per­se­cuted by the gov­ern­ment last year.

“For Chris­tians alone, last year we doc­u­mented per­se­cu­tion against 1,265 churches, with the num­ber of peo­ple per­se­cuted over 223,000. And that is just the tip of the ice­berg,” Mr. Fu said.

“In 2016, there were 762 cases of per­se­cu­tion, ac­cord­ing to our doc­u­men­ta­tion, with the num­ber of peo­ple per­se­cuted 48,000. It re­ally is al­most five times [as much].”

He said Chi­naAid knows of 3,700 Chris­tians who were ar­rested last year, up from 3,500 in 2016. Some re­li­gious dis­senters and hu­man rights ac­tivists have been detained for years, Mr. Fu said, with their fam­i­lies left to won­der whether they are still alive.

Chris­tian per­se­cu­tion is spik­ing as po­lit­i­cal and re­li­gious free­doms are cur­tailed un­der the lead­er­ship of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, crit­ics say.

Mr. Fu said Mr. Xi will go down in his­tory as “a sort of Chair­man Mao Jr.,” who car­ried out a “lit­tle Cul­tural Revo­lu­tion.”

New Reg­u­la­tions for Re­li­gious Af­fairs went into ef­fect on Feb. 1, re­quir­ing houses of wor­ship to regis­ter with the gov­ern­ment.

Mr. Wang, the pas­tor ar­rested last week, was a vo­cal critic of the reg­u­la­tions. He told China Source this year that the in­tended ef­fect of the leg­is­la­tion was to “limit cit­i­zens’ re­li­gious ac­tiv­ity to the time and lo­ca­tion [the gov­ern­ment] de­cides.”

“Ul­ti­mately, my po­si­tion is quite sim­ple,” Mr. Wang said. “As far as faith is con­cerned, these new reg­u­la­tions are evil; as far as the con­sti­tu­tion is con­cerned, they are il­le­gal; as far as pol­i­tics are con­cerned, they are fool­ish. As the pas­tor of a house church, I in­tend to peace­fully re­ject this reg­u­la­tion’s le­git­i­macy and im­ple­men­ta­tion.”

Mr. Fu said per­se­cu­tion against Chris­tians in­creased dra­mat­i­cally since the Feb. 1 reg­u­la­tions took ef­fect.

“Since that time, there have been thou­sands of churches banned,” he said. “We haven’t even had time to count them.”

The State Depart­ment re­leased a re­port in April that again sin­gled out China as one of a hand­ful of na­tions tagged as fla­grant abusers of cit­i­zens’ right to re­li­gious free­dom.

The re­port last week by Chi­naAid found that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment was car­ry­ing out a “far-reach­ing strat­egy to con­trol, govern, and ma­nip­u­late all as­pects of faith,” in­clud­ing us­ing tor­ture to “force con­fes­sions and com­pel in­di­vid­u­als to re­nounce their faith.”

In a press con­fer­ence, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said the United States would not “stand by as spec­ta­tors” to these sorts of atroc­i­ties.

“We will get in the ring and stand in sol­i­dar­ity with ev­ery in­di­vid­ual who seeks to en­joy their most fun­da­men­tal of hu­man rights,” Mr. Pom­peo said in his brief re­marks.

“For Chris­tians alone, last year we doc­u­mented per­se­cu­tion against 1,265 churches, with the num­ber of peo­ple per­se­cuted over 223,000. And that is just the tip of the ice­berg.” — Bob Fu, Chi­naAid

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