Breaking News:
Yan Xiaoje
(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
By Ava Collins
(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—Aug. 28, 2015) Authorities in China’s coastal Zhejiang province sentenced a pastor to eight days in administrative custody for “disturbing public order” after he forwarded prayer requests regarding cross demolitions via the Chinese messaging service WeChat.

Pastor Yan Xiaojie of the China Christian Evangelic Mission was detained on Aug. 26 by the Longwan District Public Security Bureau for forwarding “seven messages on Aug. 25 requesting intercession on behalf of the cross” to a “small group of religious co-workers.” Police claimed that the content of the messages was fictional and an attack on the government.

Yan is currently being held in the Wenzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau detention center, and is scheduled to be released on Sept. 4.

China Aid has closely followed the ongoing campaign of cross removals in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, which has drawn increasingly active protests from the city’s large Christian population. As government officials continue demolitions, many local Christians have been threatened and detained for resisting.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
The seal covering the church door.
(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
By Ava Collins

(Shantou, Guangdong—Aug. 27, 2015) Authorities sealed a house church in China’s southern Guangdong province after church leaders repeatedly refused to join the government-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM).

The Chenghai District Religious Affairs Bureau in Shantou declared that the church was holding “illegal gatherings” and s
ealed the church door on Aug. 18. The church leader, surnamed Guo, was out of town at the time of closure and was unable to negotiate with authorities until her return.

Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, said Chenghai District police asked Guo’s husband to sign documents to join the TSPM and threatened that “something bad” would happen if he refused. He told the officers that he could not take the documents, but his wife could answer them when she returned.

“The Religious Affairs Bureau wants us to join the Three-Self, but I will not agree,” Guo said. “We have endured for many years already. We will never compromise to them.”

The church has been meeting for four years, with membership in the hundreds and a weekly attendance of more than one hundred. Guo told China Aid’s reporter that the church’s possessions have not been confiscated at this time, but believes the police may be waiting for her to return before proceeding.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Shanghaiist
By Katie Nelson
Aug. 28, 2015

Christian lawyer Zhang Kai was taken away by government workers on Tuesday night, his colleague said, as authorities have been carrying out orders to remove crosses from church roofs across the city.

(Photo: HKFP)
Yang Xingquan said in an Associated Press report yesterday that not even Zhang's family had heard from him, two days after he was apprehended.

Zhang was one of the lawyers offering legal assistance for Zhejiang churches targeted in a government "clean-up" campaign that has resulted in thousands of crosses being taken down from local Christians' places of worship and some of the buildings being completely demolished.

AP reports that Zhang and his assistant were escorted away by government workers while in a church in Wenzhou, known as "China's Jerusalem" due to its large Christian population, on Tuesday night.

"Calls to Wenzhou police were hung up upon the mention of the lawyer," the report said.

Bob Fu, founder and president of China Aid, has urged for the immediate releases of Zhang, his assistant Liu Peng and other pastors who've been detained in a statement published to Facebook yesterday.

"The recent unjustified escalated persecution against Chinese churches is a complete contradiction to both what the Chinese own Constitution enshrines and its international commitment to religious freedom," he wrote. "The arbitrary detention and forced disappearance of human rights lawyer Zhang Kai and dozens of pastors in Zhejiang represents a new low on the rule of law in China. They did nothing but to legally defend hundreds of church's crosses from being barbarically demolished."

(Photo: Facebook)
Fu further called on the international community to put pressure on China over "the total disregard of basic human rights and religious freedom".

Huang Yizi, a Protestant preacher who spoke out against church demolitions in Wenzhou, was sentenced to a year in jail in March for "gathering crowds to disturb public order".

Zhang, Huang's lawyer at the time, told reporters that he thought "the whole trial was manipulated by the authorities".

Residents of Wenzhou said in the AP report that at least 11 pastors and church members had been taken away in the past week.

Contact the author of this article or email tips@shanghaiist.com with further questions, comments or tips.

By Katie Nelson in News on Aug 28, 2015 2:30 PM


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
International Business Times
By Adam Lidgett on August 27 2015 4:00 PM EDT

Church activists and at least one Chinese Christian lawyer were arrested Tuesday by Chinese authorities for their opposition to the government’s removal of crosses from churches, the Guardian reported. Differing reports say that police arrested between nine and 11 people in the Chinese province of Zhejiang.

A woman prays at Sheshan Cathedral outside Shanghai. Oct.
28, 2013.
(Photo: Reuters)
One of those arrested was believed to be Zhang Kai, a Chinese human rights attorney who had been offering legal help to some churches. Police contacted by phone hung up when the attorney's name was mentioned, the Associated Press reported.

“We think it is a campaign targeting church leaders across the province,” one unidentified church leader told the Guardian. “It can only be a coordinated action initiated by the provincial government.”

Since 2013, more than 1,200 crosses have been removed from churches, causing friction between China’s Communist Party and the church. China said in 2013, when it started removing the crosses, that it was targeting illegal buildings. Zhejiang province has been heavily targeted in the removal campaign. About 300,000 Catholics and 1 million Protestants live in Zhejiang, making it one of the most heavily Christian-populated areas in China.

(Photo: Twitter)
Activists have denounced the removal of crosses, angering Chinese authorities, who ordered plainclothes police to go to homes of the activists they intended to arrest. Police did not inform the activists why they were being taken into custody. Neither Zhang’s family nor his law firm had heard from him since he was detained Tuesday.

“They did it on the quiet, in the middle of the night,” a church member told the Guardian. “They didn’t tell anybody in our church that this would happen."

Even before 2013, however, the Chinese government had shown hostility toward Christians in the country. The government arrested 20 Christians in Beijing in 2001 as they were preparing for an Easter service, citing possible dissent as a reason. This incident, as well as Tuesday’s crackdown, has caused some critics to say the government is trying to limit Christianity and its visibility in the country.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—Aug. 28, 2015) China Aid learned this morning that Pastor Yan Xiaojie was sentenced to eight days in administrative detention for sharing news of persecution in Wenzhou, Zhejiang on the Internet.

China Aid will continue to monitor and update this story as more information becomes available.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
New York Times
By Chris Buckley
Aug. 27, 2015

Hong Kong — A lawyer who energetically represented Christian churches whose crosses were torn down by the Chinese government has disappeared, probably into police custody, a colleague and supporters said on Friday.

The lawyer, Zhang Kai, is based in Beijing but went missing on Tuesday night in Wenzhou, a coastal city in eastern China where Christians have opposed a government program to demolish church crosses, Yang Xingquan, a colleague of Mr. Zhang’s at the Xinqiao Law Firm in Beijing, said in a telephone interview.

“We’ve heard no official information about his whereabouts,” Mr. Yang said. “He was in Wenzhou when he disappeared on the 25th, but since then we’ve heard nothing from him or about him.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Yang urged the government in Wenzhou to release Mr. Zhang and his assistant, Liu Peng, who is also missing. Police officers in Lucheng District, Wenzhou, where the two men were last seen, either refused to say anything or said they did not know anything when called.

Mr. Zhang appeared to be the latest lawyer detained in a widespread campaign to silence lawyers who take on causes anathema to the Communist Party, said Patrick Poon, who monitors developments in China for Amnesty International. Mr. Zhang’s cellphone was off.

“His detention is another example of the recent crackdown on lawyers and Christians,” Mr. Poon said. “Again, it gives a chilling effect on lawyers that they are risking their freedom if they get involved in cases targeted by the government.”

Since July, the Chinese authorities have detained hundreds of lawyers and activists who have sought to expand citizens’ rights by taking on politically contentious cases involving abuses of police power, restrictions on expression and restrictions on religion. Amnesty International estimated this month that more than 230 had been detained and at least 26 were still being held by the police.

Mr. Zhang and Mr. Liu were in Wenzhou advising Protestant churches about the demolitions when they appeared to be detained on Tuesday night, said Radio Free Asia, which first reported Mr. Zhang’s disappearance. Several pastors and preachers in Wenzhou were detained by the police on Wednesday, according to the report.

Wenzhou has become a battleground over the rights of Chinese Christians. The city is a vigorously commercial part of Zhejiang Province, and the churches there have grown larger, helped by donations from prosperous members.

Yet since April, the government has sought to diminish the prominence of the churches by tearing crosses from their roofs and sometimes demolishing entire churches, arguing that they breached building rules. An internal provincial government document indicated that the demolition has been aimed at Christian churches.

The destruction has angered Christians and rights advocates, and even members of China’s state-sponsored churches, usually reluctant to openly dissent, have criticized the demolition.

“Seeking justice, promoting reconciliation and advancing rule of law are an historic mission, called for by God, that Christian lawyers must answer and cannot shirk,” Mr. Zhang wrote on his blog in April. “Confronted with cases of oppression of Christian belief, more Christian lawyers are willing to withstand the pressure and walk alongside those who suffer.”


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Zhang Kai
(Stock photo courtesy of Zhang Kai)
China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie

Update (9:24 a.m. CDT, Aug. 28, 2015): China Aid received information about Zhang Kai’s arrest that indicates he and his assistant, Liu Peng, were arrested by police who climbed the walls of the church Zhang and Liu were in at 11:20 p.m. on Aug. 25. Rumors relate that Zhang was arrested for defending the rights of Wuxi Church in Wenzhou’s Longwan District.

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—Aug. 27, 2015) At this time, China Aid has received no new information about lawyer Zhang Kai’s arrest on Aug. 25. However, the director of Zhang’s law firm released the following statement yesterday:

Solemn Declaration

I was shocked by the news that attorney Zhang Kai and his assistant, Liu Peng, employees of this law firm were arrested at midnight on August 25, 2015, in Wenzhou. As the director of the law firm that Zhang Kai belongs to, I issue my statement as follows:

1. Attorney Zhang Kai is a legal practitioner with all legal documents. His law practice in Wenzhou is legally protected, and he has all the necessary documents to handle this case.

2. Liu Peng is an intern at our law firm, with all necessary legal documents; his activity is protected by the law.

3. We strongly protest against the Wenzhou authorities arrest of Attorney Zhang Kai and his assistant, strongly appeal to the Wenzhou authorities to release Zhang Kai and his assistant immediately and unconditionally.

4. We are concerned about the Zhang Kai’s situation and ready to go to Wenzhou, to provide human rights defense, and to strongly call on the whole society to pay attention!

Yang Xingquan, Director of Beijing’s Xinqiao Law Firm , August 26, 2015



China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Christians from Wukeng Church received
injuries while guarding their cross.
(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
By Brynne Lawrence

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—Aug. 27, 2015) Constant Christian opposition failed to deter officials in China’s coastal Zhejiang on Aug. 6-7 as they executed their plan to remove several more church crosses in the prefecture-level city of Wenzhou; only one church’s cross survived the planned demolition.

Officials in the city of Rui’an attempted to demolish Wukeng Church’s cross on Aug. 6; however, the cross remains standing thanks to church members’ refusal to back down despite the officials’ violent actions. Six women were hospitalized after they were injured while they hugged the cross in an attempt to protect it.

At around 11 p.m. on the same day, Christians in Pingyang County noticed more than 20 government vehicles, carrying officers in the direction of several churches.

Shortly after midnight on Aug. 7, government personnel arrived at Caobao Church in Pingyang County. Police blocked all the entrances to prevent unauthorized transportation from entering the compound. According to one church attendee, the officials didn’t grant church members access to their building and prevented the ones already inside from leaving.

“We can’t go outside even if we want to,” a church member told China Aid’s reporter. The church member also said that the police at Caobao Church would also remove the cross topping Sabbath Church, which is located across the street from Caobao Church.

Once the resisting Christians at Caobao Church were successfully disengaged, the officials cut down the cross. Some church members at the scene expressed concern that other churches would suffer a similar fate that night.

The simultaneous destruction of Meiyuan Church’s cross, also in Pingyang County, confirmed their fears. As in the previous incidence, officials barricaded the road and refused to allow Christians inside the church to leave. In less than an hour, police successfully destroyed the cross.

The local government also sent officials to Rui’an’s Sunao Church on Aug. 7, which church members had been guarding for 20 days. During the cross’s demolition, an 11-year-old girl resisted the authorities’ actions by singing “The Cross is My Glory.”

Other churches whose crosses were removed from Aug. 5-7 include Shanqian Church in the Wenzhou city of Yueqing, another church in Yueqing, Nanshuyang Church in Pingyang County, another unnamed church in Pingyang County, and Fanxia Church in Yongjia County. Authorities have also threatened to remove the crosses from another church in Rui’an and from churches in eight other sub-districts of Wenzhou. Authorities in Huzhou, Zhejiang also threatened Zhacun Church, causing the church to release a letter calling for help.

Christians in Wenzhou noted that government officials are currently targeting churches with smaller congregations. According to a local church member “… [The officials] do not dare to remove crosses of churches with many members. They are removing crosses of churches that have fewer people and are located in rural areas. Many church members are guarding their cross … It will not be easy for them to remove them, unless someone in the church compromises. Then, they will be able to remove church crosses faster. If we do not compromise, it will not be that easy for them to remove the church crosses.”

Officials stated that they plan to raze the crosses atop 135 churches in Pingyang County, indicating that they have no plan to halt further demolitions. In the two weeks spanning from July 24-Aug. 7, the government tore down 30 church crosses. Some churches hired lawyers to protect their legally mandated rights as a result of these on-going attacks.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
By Chris Buckley
Aug. 27, 2015

Hong Kong — Courts across Xinjiang, the volatile region of western China, have sentenced 45 people to prison in recent days after convicting them of supporting organizations accused of terror attacks or of helping others flee abroad, Xinhua, the main state news agency, reported on Thursday.

The Xinhua report did not describe the ethnicity of the defendants, but their names indicated that they were Uighurs, the Turkic minority in Xinjiang that has become increasingly estranged from Chinese government policies, especially restrictions on their culture and Muslim religion.

The government held up the convictions as proof that it would not tolerate violent opposition in Xinjiang, which in recent years has suffered a spate of violent attacks by Uighurs, in many instances using knives or rudimentary explosives. The government describes the attacks as terrorism, frequently masterminded from abroad, but human rights groups and advocates of Uighur self-determination have said that the violence is often primitive and locally inspired, and driven by Uighur despair.

“The people’s courts have zero tolerance for terror crimes,” said an unnamed official from the highest court in Xinjiang, according to Xinhua. “They will continue to use the law to strike hard against the crime of illegally leaving the country, and use the law to strike hard against criminals who flee abroad and attempt to join in jihad.”

Courts in Aksu, Ili, Kashgar and other cities across Xinjiang convicted the defendants for crimes in 10 separate cases that included “organizing, leading and participating in terror organizations,” as well as organizing people to flee abroad, Xinhua said.

The Chinese government has sought to stop Uighurs from fleeing abroad. They have often settled in Turkey after circuitous journeys through Southeast and Central Asia. In July, Thailand deported about 100 Uighurs back to China.

“There have been growing numbers of Uighurs escaping from China, and this crackdown is directly related to trying to stop the escapes,” Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, a group that advocates Uighur self-determination, said in a telephone interview from Stockholm. Uyghur is an alternative spelling of Uighur.

“But I believe that the Uighurs are fleeing abroad because of the specific policies that the Chinese government has enforced to oppress them,” he said. “These aren’t terrorists; they’re Uighurs wanting a safe place to live.”

Many of the cases announced on Thursday involved people accused of organizing others to leave Xinjiang, which is next to Central Asia. And the prosecutors depicted the defendants as bewitched by Islamist extremism and violent separatism.

In one case, the five defendants had fled on a truck to Tajikistan, where they were detained near the frontier with Afghanistan and sent back to China.

The prosecution charged that they wanted to join the Taliban and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a group that China depicts as the instigator of violence in Xinjiang. Many experts are skeptical that the group is as powerful and extensive as the Chinese government says.

In another case, the prosecution claimed that the three defendants hoped to reach Turkey using fake Turkish passports so that they could join a violent group and carry out jihad, according to Xinhua.

The Xinhua report did not say whether any of the defendants had admitted to the charges against them. In China, defendants come under intense pressure to make such confessions.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Beijing — Aug 27, 2015, 4:44 AM ET

A well-known Chinese Christian lawyer had been out of contact for almost two days after being taken away by government workers in an eastern province where local authorities are under a deadline to remove the Christian symbol, the cross, from church roofs, his colleague said Thursday.

The Beijing law firm had received no word on Zhang Kai, and neither had his family, said Yang Xingquan.

Zhang has been providing legal counsel for churches in Zhejiang province in their resistance to the government order, which has been criticized as unconstitutional and infringing upon the right of religious freedom.

Zhang and his assistant were in a church in the city of Wenzhou on Tuesday night when they were taken away by government workers, Yang said.

Wenzhou, a coastal city in Zhejiang, is known for its entrepreneurship as well as its many Protestant and Catholic churches.

Calls to Wenzhou police were hung up upon the mention of the lawyer.

Local Christians said at least 11 pastors and church members had been taken away by police this week, most likely to deter resistance by churches against the cross removal.

Zhejiang authorities began to remove crosses last year, citing violation of building codes. A rule set earlier this year mandates that all crosses be wholly affixed to building facades, which state media say is for safety concerns.

Critics say the government is trying to reduce the visibility of Christianity, which has been growing rapidly in China and may even rival the ruling Communist Party in size.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
New York Times
By Javier C, Hernandez and Crystal Tseaug
Aug. 26, 2015

Hong Kong — For years, the Rev. Philip Woo, the feisty leader of a small Protestant church here, has delighted in testing the limits of China’s restrictive laws on religion. From his perch in Hong Kong, he has delivered fiery sermons on human rights, led seminars on social problems for mainland students, and ordained pastors in the mainland without permission from the ruling Communist Party.

The Rev. Philip Woo, who leads a Protestant church in Hong
Kong, said he was reprimanded for his religious activities.
(Photo: Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times)
But Mr. Woo, a longtime Hong Kong resident, was startled when he was summoned across the border recently for a meeting with officials from the State Administration for Religious Affairs. Over tea, he said, the officials rattled off a list of laws they said he had violated, and they ordered him to stop.

Hong Kong’s vibrant Christian community has long been a magnet for mainland Chinese visitors. Tens of thousands of people cross the border each year for Sunday school, seminars and megachurch gatherings in this former British colony, which enjoys greater freedoms, including religious liberties, than the mainland.

But as the government of President Xi Jinping has stepped up efforts to limit the influence of Christianity in the mainland, including a controversial campaign to take down crosses in parts of eastern China, the activities of some of Hong Kong’s churches have come under official scrutiny. The attention from Beijing has raised concerns here about encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy and prompted criticism from the city’s Christians.

“We thought China was more welcoming to religion,” Mr. Woo, 61, said. “Now we fear it is getting tighter.”

In recent months, Chinese officials have barred mainland residents from attending some religious conferences in Hong Kong, increased oversight of mainland programs run by Hong Kong pastors, and issued warnings to outspoken leaders like Mr. Woo.

“Many pastors are worried,” said the Rev. Wu Chi-wai, executive director of Hong Kong Church Renewal Movement, a Christian group. “Some are reconsidering their work in the mainland.”

As a spiritual revival has swept through China in recent decades, the Communist Party, which is officially atheist, has generally grown more tolerant of people exercising their faith outside party-controlled churches and temples. Christianity is China’s fastest-growing religion, with at least 67 million followers, many of whom worship in independent, underground or unofficial churches, often with the acquiescence of the government.

But Mr. Xi has presided over a crackdown on civil society, with a focus on individuals and organizations with ties to foreigners, including lawyers, nonprofit groups and religious leaders. The party has long associated Christianity with subversive Western values, and over the past year, officials have accelerated efforts to demolish churches, shutter Christian schools, and remove crosses.

Chinese leaders have historically shown greater lenience toward Hong Kong, which was a hub for Christian missionaries under British rule. It is now home to about 850,000 Christians, 1,500 churches, a Christian newspaper and a Baptist university.

But during the pro-democracy protests last year known as the Umbrella Revolution, the party signaled its anxiety over the influence of Christians here who bring their teachings to mainland China. Pro-Beijing news outlets have pointed out that several leaders of the demonstrations were Christians.

In March, about 100 people from mainland China were barred from attending a gathering of more than 2,000 pastors and other Christians in Hong Kong, according to China Aid, a Christian human rights group based in Texas. The meeting was hosted by China Ministries International, a California-based group founded by Chinese-Americans that describes its goal as “the Christianization of China.” Pastors from China, the United States and Canada spoke on subjects including church-state relations and marriage. In interviews, several people who were blocked from attending the conference said they were warned by the police that going to Hong Kong would be “making trouble.” Some said they were monitored in the days leading up to the conference.

“We believe in Jesus, and that is not a violation of the law,” said Lu Jingxiang, a pastor from Anhui Province, in eastern China, who said he was told his travel documents could not be processed.

About 60 percent of Hong Kong’s churches were engaged in work in mainland China such as theological training last year, according to a survey by Hong Kong Church Renewal Movement. But spreading the gospel in the mainland can be difficult. Hong Kong residents are often treated as foreigners, and they are not permitted to establish churches, hand out pamphlets, proselytize or preach.

While provocative pastors like Mr. Woo have sought to challenge the laws in recent years, several leaders of large churches in Hong Kong said they adhered to the restrictions in the mainland. “We go to China to show care to our motherland,” said the Rev. Ho Kwok-tim, who leads Hong Kong New Life Church. “We are definitely not going to do anything that is in conflict with the country or the regime.”

The Rev. John Qian, a former pastor in Hong Kong who helps run religious charity programs in mainland China, said the authorities there had begun to more closely monitor his work over the past year. The police have told him he must notify them when he visits a mainland church, he said. And this year, when he ordered nametags and vests for a conference in Hong Kong, the mainland worker who handled the order was detained and the materials were confiscated, he said.

“This is an infringement on Hong Kong’s freedom and undermines ‘one country, two systems,’ ” Mr. Qian said, referring to the term used to describe the relationship between China and Hong Kong.

When Mr. Woo was called to the State Administration for Religious Affairs across the border in the city of Shenzhen last month, the authorities seemed most bothered by his aggressive use of social media to recruit mainland students for his seminars. He was also told to stop training mainland Chinese students in Hong Kong, he said.

After meeting with the officials, Mr. Woo signed a letter saying that he had violated a Chinese law that prohibits foreigners from conducting religious training without permission, and he was allowed to return home.

Since then, Mr. Woo has traveled to the mainland several times without problems. But he said he has halted the work of the Shenzhen branch of his organization, Christian Church of Chinese Ministry, and moved his staff to a remote location to avoid government scrutiny.

Shenzhen officials did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Despite the recent tension, some Christian leaders said they did not believe China was tightening its grip on religion in Hong Kong and that Mr. Woo’s situation was unusual. “The Chinese are friendly with some churches and unfriendly with others,” said the Rev. Lo Lung Kwong, a theology professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He added, “They have their list.”

An expansive new security law adopted by the Chinese government this summer has exacerbated worries here. One provision of the law identifies religion for the first time as an area of national security. Hong Kong government officials have sought to reassure the public, saying the provision does not apply in Hong Kong.

Last month, about 10,000 people, the majority of them from mainland China, filled a convention center in Hong Kong for an annual gathering of Protestants known as Homecoming. The atmosphere was spirited and raucous, filled with song-and-dance performances that drew on themes from the Bible. “It is not as old-fashioned and traditional as China,” said Zhuang Bujin, 52, a homemaker from Fujian Province, in southeast China.

Pastors at the conference addressed issues not frequently discussed in mainland churches, several participants said, such as divorce and mental illness. “Here, the topics are not subject to religious or political censorship,” said Nie Xusheng, 42, a pastor from Chongqing, in southwest China. “In China, we wouldn’t have this many people gathered.”

David Zhang, 21, a student from Tianjin, near Beijing, said he was inspired by the emphasis on social action and the call to work together to root out evil, themes he said he rarely heard in the mainland. “When we’re in church back home, we’re sometimes a little restrained,” he said.

He said he believed Chinese society was becoming more accepting of religion but some people still perceived it as a threat, leading the government to overreact. “We can only pray that our actions will speak louder than the misconceptions,” he said. “We pray for our government and our neighbors to be enlightened.”


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—Aug. 26, 2015) China Aid received information confirming that authorities detained Zhang Kai, the lawyer who has been leading the legal defense for church’s affected by the province-wide persecution campaign in China’s coastal Zhejiang. Zhang has been held for more than 24 hours.

In addition to Zhang’s detention, more than 10 Wenzhou church leaders were also taken into police custody for questioning in the past 24 hours.

China Aid also learned that Hangzhou lawyer Zhuang Daohe has been placed under house arrest. Zhuang recently met with Rabbi David Saperstein, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious freedom, in Shanghai. His confinement is believed to be related to this meeting. 


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Reuters
By Ben Blanchard
Aug. 26, 2015

China will wage an unceasing fight against separatism in its restive mountainous region of Tibet, President Xi Jinping said, as the government repeated it would never accept exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama's genuine autonomy proposals.

This year marks several sensitive anniversaries for the remote region that China has ruled with an iron fist since 1950, when Communist troops marched in and took control in what Beijing calls a "peaceful liberation".

It is 50 years since China established what it calls the Tibet Autonomous Region and also the 80th birthday of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since fleeing Tibet in 1959 following an abortive uprising.

At a two-day conference this week of the senior leadership about Tibet, only the sixth ever held, Xi repeated the government's standard opposition to Tibetan independence, saying he would fight an "an unswerving anti-separatism battle", state media said in comments reported late on Tuesday.

"We should fight against separatist activities by the Dalai group," Xi was quoted as saying.

The Dalai Lama denies seeking independence, saying he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet, something he calls the Middle Way and which Beijing believes is merely a smokescreen for independence, arguing Tibet already has real autonomy.

An accompanying commentary published by the United Front Work Department, which has led unsuccessful on-off talks with the Dalai Lama's envoys, said the government had not accepted, and would never accept, the Middle Way.

The Middle Way seeks to cleave off one-quarter of China, as it would include historic parts of Tibet in neighbouring Chinese provinces, the commentary, carried on the department's WeChat account, said.

"The so-called 'Middle Way' is in essence a splittist political demand," it said.

Activists say China has violently tried to stamp out religious freedom and culture in Tibet.China rejects the criticism, saying its rule has ended serfdom and brought development to a backward region.

Xi called for efforts to promote "patriotism among the Tibetan Buddhist circle and effectively manage monasteries in the long run, encouraging interpretations of religious doctrines that are compatible with a socialist society", state media said.

There should also be more campaigns to promote ethnic unity and promote a sense "of belonging to the same Chinese nationality", he added.

Tibet remains under heavy security, with visits by foreign media tightly restricted, making an independent assessment of the situation difficult. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
China Aid
By Ava Collins

(Guiyang, Guizhou—Aug. 26, 2015) A church deacon and her husband were forcibly taken to the local public security bureau by police in China’s inland Guizhou province in late July. While the husband was released after two days of interrogation, criminal charges have been filed against the wife.

Zhang Xiuhong, the chairman of Guiyang’s Huoshi House Church’s deacon committee and staff member in charge of church finances, and her husband Chen Zukai were both were taken into custody for “illegal business operations” on July 28. Though Chen was released, Zhang is still being held and attempts to see her by family and legal counsel have been unsuccessful.

A Huoshi House Church member named Mr. Luo told China Aid’s reporter that the husband and wife were taken to the public security bureau. “They were taken between four and five o’clock. Zhang Xiuhong was taken first.” According to Luo, Zhang was intercepted by police in a parking lot outside the church building after exiting her vehicle, which a police officer then drove away. Soon after, Chen was detained near their home, after returning from a walk with the couple’s children.

Upon Chen’s release, he was not allowed to see his wife. Later that evening, public security arrived at the couple’s house with a search warrant and confiscated a computer hard drive and USB flash drive. They left an official notification of Zhang’s criminal custody.

When lawyer Xiao Yunyang, attempted to visit Zhang on July 30, he was told he would not be allowed to see her because her data had not been entered into the computer system yet. The next day, the station claimed she would be interrogated and no visitors would be allowed.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Radio Free Asia
By Luisetta Mudie
2015-08-25

As the ruling Chinese Communist Party gears up for a massive military parade to mark the end of World War II in September, authorities across the country are detaining former army veterans, tightening controls on ethnic minority groups, and rounding up anyone with a complaint against the government.

Chinese paramilitary police march near Tiananmen Square in
Beijing, March 7, 2014.
(Photo: AFP)
Thirty heads of state, including Russian president Vladimir Putin and South Korean president Park Geun-hye, will attend China's celebration on Sept. 3 of its victory over Japan, although Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe won't be among them, the foreign ministry said.

Guests also include former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Myanmar president Thein Sein, Vietnamese president Truong Tan Sang, and senior North Korean official Choe Ryong-hae.

Beijing is already under tight security as crack People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops practice with military hardware by night along the city's tree-lined boulevards, residents said.

A Beijing resident surnamed Li said she had been refused entry to Tiananmen Square at the weekend, amid tight security.

"I tried to go to Tiananmen [on Sunday], to go onto the Square, but I couldn't get in," Li said. "They're not allowing people to go in there right now, although you can go past it in the bus."

Petitioners targeted


Nationwide, police are targeting anyone with a potential grievance against the government, including petitioners, former PLA soldiers protesting a lack of pension, and ethnic minority groups.

Sichuan-based rights activist Huang Qi, who founded the Tianwang rights website, said local governments have been issued with a set of guidelines aimed at ensuring that petitioners don't even make it as far as Beijing in the next few days.

"Local governments have been taking outrageous measures, including the use of judicial action, to stop people getting to Beijing," Huang told RFA. "In the process they have been using criminal detention and other methods as a way of persecuting the general public."

"This is actually a disgrace for this military parade being held in mainland China ... [which is] a disaster for petitioners."

He said police and volunteer security guards are detaining petitioners on the streets and forcing them back to their hometowns.

Beijing-based petitioner Zhang Shufeng said she is currently in need of medical attention after being detained and beaten by police, and held under house arrest ahead of the military parade.

"What right to they have to curb my freedom of movement?" Zhang said. "My back hurts [and] they won't pay the medical bills."

Postal controls


Meanwhile, authorities in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang have stepped up controls on the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group ahead of the anniversary parade, an exile Uyghur group said.

"China is ... stepping up controls targeting the districts where Uyghurs live, carrying out security checks of everyone's bag as they go in and out," Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, told RFA.

He said the controls even extend to packages being sent by mail.

"Now, they are collecting the personal details of everyone who sends a package and everyone who receives one," Raxit said. "I think the authorities are bringing a state of terror on themselves ... and that's why they are coming up with such extreme policies."

An employee surnamed Liu at a courier depot in Xinjiang's regional capital, Urumqi, said Beijing is operating on high security alert.

"The security alert is very high now, and that includes Tianjin, where you can't send any goods at all right now," Liu said.

"If you want to send something to Beijing from here, it has to be requested from headquarters, and any consignments have to have the full, real name of the sender, because of the military parade," he said.

"This is a rule set by the national postal service," Liu added. "They are [also] not taking any consignments from Tibet at all now. It's too risky."

Clashes with veterans

Dissent is also potentially rife within the party's own ranks.

Police in the southern province of Guangdong recently clashed with several thousand PLA veterans demanding better retirement pay and conditions, escorting large numbers of them back to their hometowns over the weekend.

The clashes came after some 20 veterans were injured by police after 700 protesters converged on Guangdong's Yangjiang city government in a bid to make their demands heard on Sunday.

News of the clashes prompted hundreds more veterans to travel to the city to support them, veterans told RFA at the time.

"They have imposed an information blackout now, and they are taking us all home," a veteran surnamed Cai told RFA after arriving in nearby Guangzhou, en route to Yangjiang.

"Nobody can get into Guangdong province now," Cai said. "They are watching all the roads, and if they see one of our people, they take them away."

"They have already taken away more than 200 people [to my knowledge]," he said. "They are being taken away by interceptors from the place that they are from."

Cai said many of the protest leaders are now incommunicado. "We can't get in touch with them, and we don't know who detained them," he said.

Huang said the authorities are particularly worried about protesting PLA veterans.

"A lot of veterans are under surveillance or house arrest now, because this event has had a big impact," he said.

Amnesty for prisoners

China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC) is considering granting an amnesty for prisoners in certain categories to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of the war with Japan, Hong Kong media reported.

Those given a pardon could include survivors of the war with Japan and the civil war with the Nationalist KMT government, which fled to Taiwan in 1949.

According to Xiao Jiansheng, editor of the official Hunan Daily newspaper, the move echoes similar pardons granted by late supreme leader Mao Zedong.

"In Mao Zedong's time they would pardon political prisoners, but we haven't seen this at all since then," he said.

"They definitely want to make a symbolic statement, but at least it's an enlightened statement."

But Chongqing-based political commentator Zhang Qi said he thought the amnesty would only affect much older people.

"The people for whom this would be most meaningful would be young offenders of 18 and under," Zhang said.

"[President] Xi Jinping isn't doing this for human rights, or on the basis of the rule of law, but out of nationalism--to encourage a nationalistic mood."

Reported by Xin Lin, Yang Fan and Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wei Ling, Pan Jiaqing and Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Radio Free Asia
By Luisetta Mudie
2015-08-25

Authorities in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin have confirmed they are investigating a top rights lawyer of "subversion," amid growing calls for the release of dozens of people in a nationwide crackdown on the country's embattled legal profession.

Activists in Hong Kong demonstrate for the release of rights
lawyers detained on the Chinese mainland, Aug. 25, 2015.
(Photo: Radio Free Asia)
Bao Longjun, who was detained alongside his wife and fellow rights lawyer Wang Yu on July 9, at the start of a nationwide police operation, has now had "incitement to subvert state power" added to his charge sheet, his lawyer Chen Yongfu told RFA.

Previously, Bao, who is being held at under "residential surveillance"
at an unknown location, had been charged with the less serious "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble."

"Now that the police have confirmed the suspected charges, they will investigate," Chen said, after enquiring about his client's whereabouts at Tianjin's Hexi district detention center on Monday. "If he is formally arrested, then he will be transferred to the detention center."

Earlier this month, Tianjin police confirmed that they are holding Bao's wife Wang Yu on identical charges, also at an unknown "residential" location.

In recent weeks, police have detained or interrogated at least 269 lawyers, law firm staff, and associated human right activists, the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers' Concern Group (CHRLCG) said on its website.

More than 20 people remain in detention, 16 of them at undisclosed locations, while many more have been placed under surveillance, police warning or house arrest.

Chen said the additional charge would make it harder to meet with Bao.

"According to the Criminal Procedure Law, where the charges involve harming state security, lawyers must get permission from the authorities before they are allowed to meet with their client," he said.

Legal assistant Zhao Wei, who was detained during the crackdown on Wang, Bao and other colleagues at Beijing's Fengrui law firm, has been incommunicado for 37 days, her lawyer Ren Quanniu told RFA.

Ren said he had applied for a meeting with his client, but the letter was sent back, marked "return to sender."

"I think it's because I wrote 'application for a meeting with a client' on the outside of it," Ren said. "I suspect that it was returned on purpose."

Activists begin postcard campaign

Activists in Hong Kong have launched a postcard campaign calling for the immediate release of rights lawyers detained in the crackdown, and staging protests outside Beijing's representative office in the former British colony.

Pan-democratic lawmaker and barrister Albert Ho said an estimated 17 people are still being held illegally or have "disappeared."

But he said he and other lawyers would continue to put pressure on the authorities.

"As long as we don't give up hope, and we keep making a fuss, I hope that we will come through this dark period," Ho said. "We have seen a lot of young human rights lawyers who have refused to give in [to persecution]."

"We will have to show even more courage to stand up and fight for peace, justice and human rights," he said.

Meanwhile, Beijing rights lawyer Yu Wensheng has filed a freedom of information request with the authorities in a bid to discover the whereabouts of the detained lawyers.

"I have written to five different government departments, but I haven't had any kind of reply from any of them," Yu told RFA in a recent interview.

"Now, I will have to use legal channels to demand that they respond, and they are supposed to investigate any lawsuit I bring against them," he said. "They are supposed to report the outcome of this investigation to me."

"I am trying to use freedom of information requests to get a clear answer about this."

Guangdong-based rights attorney Sui Muqing has also been detained on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power," and his lawyer Liu Zhengqing has had no reply to his request for a meeting with his client.

"We don't even know where he is being held," Liu said. "I have repeatedly applied for a meeting, but they never reply."

"We have no way of knowing what is going on [with Sui]," he added. "My next step will be to try the Guangzhou municipal police department."

The crackdown on Chinese lawyers comes as the government intensifies a clampdown on all forms of civil society, including nongovernmental organizations, in an apparent bid to cleanse it of alleged "foreign influence."

Many who seek to help others defend their legal rights are accused of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," and sometimes the more serious national security offense of "incitement to subvert state power."

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Lingnei Church members re-erect their church’s
cross.
(Photo from a WeChat user)
China Aid
By Ava Collins

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—Aug. 25, 2015) The Lingnei Church in China’s coastal Zhejiang province re-erected the cross atop its building after authorities removed it early July 30.

This cross demolition is a part of the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign, ongoing since 2014, which has affected 1,200-1,500 churches through cross removals and building demolitions. Officials often arrest and detain individuals who resist these measures while attempting to protect their expressions of faith.

Public officials cleared Christians out of the church building at 4 a.m. on July 30, then removed the cross. Gaosha Catholic Cathedral and other churches in the area were also visited and had crosses demolished.

The same day, the Lingnei Church hired Beijing lawyer Zhang Kai to investigate the removal but found that no official organization claimed responsibility. With no legal justification, Zhang said the crosses were considered “stolen” and there was no barrier to replacing them.

Lingnei Church began re-erecting the original cross at 9 p.m, a process that lasted two hours.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Human Rights Watch
By Maya Wang

Over the last five weeks, Chinese authorities have conducting a sweeping roundup of human rights lawyers and activists, interrogating and briefly detaining over 200 people,with 25 still in custody. Most of those 25 are being held in secret locations with no access to family or lawyers. Under Chinese law, police can detain citizens for up to 37 days before the procurator must either approve their arrest or release them. For most of those still in detention, that crucial deadline has passed; their detention is now unlawful, not just under international law but domestic law. And to think that the official justification for rounding-up the lawyers was to “uphold the rule of law!”

Wang Yu, a lawyer at the Fengrui Law Firm, was detained in
Beijing on July 9, 2015 along with her husband and colleagues.
(Photo: Reuters)
The last time this many human rights lawyers and activists were taken into custody in China was in 2011, when the government responded to an online call for an Arab Spring-style “Jasmine Revolution” by detaining and forcibly disappearing over 200 activists, some of them prominent lawyers, in a broad sweep. Many of them later described torture in secret facilities.

Since then, the government has been trumpeting a supposed new commitment to “rule of law.” This rhetoric notwithstanding, police continue to ignore even the country’s weak protections for the accused. The government is showing once again that it considers respect for China’s laws optional – laws that already allow extensive authoritarian government conduct.

Worse still, the government has proposed to the legislature new legal provisions to fortify its capacity to silence rights defenders. The current crackdown on activists coincides with the government’s “public consultation” period in which anyone can submit views on draft revisions to China’s Criminal Law – including some that would punish lawyers for acts of free speech made in court. Because of the crackdown, few human rights lawyers are in a position to oppose the proposals.

And the Chinese government is once again demonstrating that under “rule of law” in China today, the state always prevails.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
The Washington Post
By Editorial Board August 21

The Chinese government has sent covert law enforcement agents to the United States to intimidate expatriates into returning to China, the New York Times recently reported. The effort — called Operation Fox Hunt — is part of an anti-corruption crusade targeting those who have supposedly committed crimes in China. But China’s reach is not limited to corruption cases. The Communist government also works to project its repressive policies and abuse of human rights beyond its borders, with repeated threats to cancel passports, withhold visas and even jail family members of former and current Chinese citizens who criticize the country from foreign ground.

Shohret Hoshur, a reporter for Radio Free Asia
(Photo:Smith Augustin Jr./Radio Free Asia)
The Chinese government exerts its influence overseas in many ways. Academics must tread lightly when speaking or writing about the country if they want visas for research. News organizations may lose access or advertising revenue if their reports displease authorities. In Britain last month, employees of the Chinese Embassy tried to persuade a hot air balloon festival to ban a balloon bearing the Tibetan flag.

More insidious, however, are the government’s efforts to control Chinese people outside of China. For example, Uighur journalist and U.S. citizen Shohret Hoshur has shed light in his reporting for Radio Free Asia on the conflict between ethnic Han Chinese and Uighurs in his home province of Xinjiang. Mr. Hoshur’s family has received threats for years. Now, one of his brothers is in prison, and two others have been jailed and are awaiting trial on charges of leaking state secrets.

There’s also Anastasia Lin, a Chinese-born Canadian actor who was crowned Miss World Canada in May. Ms. Lin, who wrote of her situation in a Post op-ed, was a vocal human rights advocate in the pageant. After her victory, Ms. Lin’s father in Hunan province told her she had to stop speaking ill of the Chinese government or stop speaking to him — the police had threatened him. Ms. Lin has not backed down; so far she has not secured a visa to compete in the Miss World championships in Sanya, China. We’d like to think other contestants would stay away, too, if all aren’t admitted, but we’re not holding our breath.

Mr. Hoshur and Ms. Lin are not alone: Many more advocates, journalists and dissidents in the United States and elsewhere take a risk or put their relatives in danger every time they speak out against Chinese policies. Their host nations should condemn not just secret operations such as Fox Hunt but also all Chinese efforts to squelch free speech abroad as they seek to do domestically. When repression in authoritarian regimes finds its way to freer societies, it is up to the free countries to do something about it.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Christian Today
By Carey Lodge | Christian Today Journalist | Published 24 August 2015

Over the past two years, countless stories of church demolitions and cross removals have come out of China. Estimates vary, but the total figure of churches affected is believed to be somewhere between 1,500 and 1,700 – a move that campaigners have branded unprecedented, or at least not seen since the harrowing days of the Cultural Revolution.

A cross on an underground Catholic church is silhouetted in
Tianjin, China, on Nov. 10, 2013. Church leaders have pledged
to "make the cross flourish throughout China" amid a
government crackdown.
(Photo: Reuters)
The demolition campaign began in Zhejiang province, on the east coast of China, in late 2013. The provincial government had launched a three-year 'Three Rectifications and One Demolition' campaign in March of that year, supposedly with the aim of exposing and removing "illegal structures" in the region. However, as the campaign got under way, it became apparent that religious buildings, specifically churches, were the real target.

Running in parallel to this, an increasingly negative government rhetoric regarding Christianity emerged. The ruling Communist party (CPC) was evidently becoming progressively more suspicious of the influence of Christianity in China, where the faith is experiencing monumental growth. Reports suggest that up to 10,000 people are becoming Christians every day and while there were just one million believers when the CPC came to power in 1949, there are now thought to be as many as 100 million. By 2030, one expert has estimated that China will be home to more Christians than any other country in the world.

'Hostile foreign influence'

Various Chinese officials have expressed concern at the velocity of this growth. On July 1, 2013, the Secretary of the Zhejiang Provincial Committee of the CPC, Xia Baolong, warned against the influence of the underground Church in China. In October of that year, he ordered a church to remove its cross, insisting that its height – and therefore visibility – was "not appropriate", marking the beginning of the cross campaign. In January 2014, Xia began undertaking official inspections of church buildings in the region, with more receiving orders to remove their crosses, or having them forcibly taken down.
President Xi Jinping in May called for religion to be
incorporated into "socialist society", leading to concerns that
the CPC is trying to nationalise Christianity.
(Photo: Reuters)
As the province's top official, Xia is said to enjoy a close relationship with President Xi Jinping – previously Zhejiang's governor – and there has been some speculation that his crackdown on Christianity is part of Xia's personal bid to cement political power.Speaking anonymously to Christian Today earlier this year, an expert on China said that President Xi has introduced a hard-line approach to various parts of civil society, including religion, since taking office in 2013. He has also expressed a desire for China to return to traditional beliefs, rather than 'western' religions, and it's possible that zealous party members like Xia are trying to prove their allegiance by promoting the demolition campaign.

Bob Fu, founder and president of human rights organisation China Aid, confirmed to Christian Today that Xia is a "close confidante" of Xi, and that overall policies on civil society "took a dramatic worsening turn" when the president took power. "We have all the hard facts indicating that under President Xi, more dissidents have been arrested than the previous two decades combined, and more human rights defenders and lawyers have been detained or are missing," he said. "Really the ideological war has already been started by Xi Jinping, so just one part of the war against Christianity has been lit up from Zhejiang, but it's not a new thing from a national level."

Indeed, Chinese religious policy has long indicated a serious concern that 'hostile foreign influence' could infiltrate society and subvert party power; foreign missionaries were forced out of the country when the CPC took over and there remains a legacy of distrust. China last year announced plans to introduce its own brand of national theology and in May 2015, Xi called for a curbing of outside influences. "We must manage religious affairs in accordance with the law and adhere to the principle of independence to run religious groups on our own accord," Xi said at a top-level CPC meeting. "Active efforts should be made to incorporate religions into socialist society."

President Xi, Fu said, has a "very antagonistic perception against the Christian faith" and this seems to have been taken up by officials other than Xia. The chairman of Zhejiang's ethnic and religious affair committee, Feng Zhili, said the growth of Christianity was "too excessive and too haphazard" in speech early last year. He also criticised "deep-rooted" problems in the development of Christianity in the region, and condemned the way in which it he said it had caused "social friction".

According to Fu, Christians in Zhejiang play a very active role in society, from helping the poor and vulnerable to holding key roles in the public sector and this may have led to its targeting – "I think the Church has become a hub for many who need help, and essentially the CPC felt vulnerable," he explained. Interestingly, many of the churches that have had their crosses removed, or been entirely demolished, are in Wenzhou, a large city of more than three million people in the southwest of the province. Dubbed the "Jerusalem of the East", it reportedly has the largest Christian community in China.

Sanjiang Church was demolished in April last year, following
a stand off between Christians and local police.
(Photo: Twitter)
One of the most high-profile demolitions to date was that of Sanjiang church in Wenzhou. Thousands of Christians flocked to the church on April 3, 2014 to form a 24-hour human shield after it received a demolition notice claiming the building had been constructed illegally. As part of the government-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the 2,000 seater building had previously been thought safe from the crackdown. Though officials initially agreed to rescind the notice, the church was eventually demolished on April 28.

"This is unprecedented since the founding of the Three-Self movement in 1953," Fu said of the targeting of government-sanctioned churches. "It's a major shock to the Three-Self church leaders; that's why the whole campaign has been met with very strong resistance and resentment."

A 'war of minds and hearts'

Though Beijing maintains that it is merely trying to reduce the number of illegal buildings, the New York Times reported last year that a policy statement by the Zhejiang provincial government in May 2014 "makes it clear the demolitions are part of a strategy to reduce Christianity's public profile." There are now concerns that the campaign will be rolled out across other Chinese provinces; Fu said that some churches in Fujian province, just south of Zhejiang, have already reported an order pending to carry out cross removals, but it seems to have been "paused or delayed" for now.

"At the end of the day, it is – to use the Communist party's own words – about a war of minds and hearts," Fu said. "The CPC's top leaders see they are losing the battle, because even many of their own in the party have chosen to go to church and become Christians."

The CPC is the largest political party in the world, with around 80 million members. It is officially atheist, meaning that members cannot publicly hold religious beliefs, and Fu said that in Zhejiang there has been a kind of "purging".

"Members have to re-register with a form, and declare if they are affiliated with any religion. If they are, they have to either leave the party or the faith," he said. "I think there is an anxiety, though I don't think [Christianity] poses an immediate political threat to the Communist party. I think it's rather in a panic mode."

The future of Christianity in China

"The campaign continues," Fu said. "We continue to receive demolition notices in different areas, so there is no sign of it stopping....Also Xia Baolong still holds his power tightly, and he is close to the central leadership in Beijing, which is a sign that the campaign will be spreading to other provinces."

But as for the future of Christianity in China, Fu is optimistic. "I think actually this campaign will bring more glory to God than to the Communist party," he said. He believes it will result in a significant independent church movement, and says that it has already served to unite Catholics and Protestants, as well as Three-Self and house churches. "It will instigate an even stronger growth of the Christian faith," he added.

"I'm very optimistic, and really feel this is one of the coolest things God has been instigating in China. The CPC has become a true servant of God."


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org