Chinese persecution of Christians worst since Mao
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