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China Aid founder summarizes characteristics of 2014 persecution against churches

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

China Aid

China Aid founder and President Bob Fu gave Radio Free Asia his summary of persecution endured by Chinese churches in 2014 during a Dec. 23, 2014, interview. Fu stated that there are four distinct characteristics of the persecution in 2014, which can be read in the excerpt below.

Radio Free Asia

Reverend Fu Xiqiu, President of the U.S.-based non-governmental organization, China Aid Association, that has always monitored the circumstances of religious freedom and human rights of mainland China, briefly reviewed mainland China’s circumstance of religious freedom in the past year.

Rev. Fu Xiqiu: Clearly, the religious persecution in 2014 has a few important and distinct characteristics.

Firstly, 2014 saw the harshest suppression of “Three-Self” churches since the Cultural Revolution which is demonstrated by the massive crackdown launched from the beginning of the year on “Three-Self” churches under the guise of “Three Rectifications and One Demolition.” The various infringements on religious freedom, be it tearing down churches, forcibly demolishing church crosses or converting churches into “community centers,” have all reached the harshest level of persecution since the end of the Cultural Revolution.

According to our incomplete statistics, from January to November 2014, more than 400 churches with names have either been forcibly torn down or had their crosses forcibly relocated or demolished. These things only happened during the Cultural Revolution! But in 2014, they happened in some major cities and regions of Zhejiang Province, then sporadically took place in some other provinces. This is a very noticeable change in 2014.

And we know that in the past, the persecution of Christianity, including Catholicism, mainly focused on unofficial, unregistered house churches. House churches of Protestants and Catholic churches faithful to the Vatican took the brunt of the persecution.

In 2014, the Chinese government classified house church leaders as “cult” leaders to allow for persecution.

The second distinct characteristic is to classify house church leaders, especially in some regions where house churches flourished, as alleged “cult” leaders, target them collectively and suppress them with criminal charges. The scope and intensity of this kind of persecution has reached a historic high.

We can see that in many provinces across the country including Inner Mongolia, Shandong, Henan, Hunan, Shanxi, and Xinjiang, several big cases and religious cases involved allegedly “using cult to undermine law enforcement,” which is a criminal charge used to arrest/detain or arrest/sentence people. In some cases, more than ten leaders of a church were taken into police custody in one event, such as the religious case in Shaoyang, Hunan. The suppression happened in a particular political context. Last year, it was apparent that the authorities took advantage of the crackdown on “Eastern Lightning,” amplified and extended it to many traditional house churches.

In 2014, the authorities applied criminal charges against house churches and tightened its control over children’s conversion to Christianity.

The third characteristic is related to the second one, which is to apply the charge of “using a cult to undermine law enforcement.” This criminal charge used to be applied only to Falun Gong practitioners or “Eastern Lightning,” but in 2014, it was applied against house churches. Besides this, a few politics-related charges, such as “illegal business operations,” “disrupting social order,” and “gathering a crowd to provoke a fight” were all applied to pastors of some churches. For example, during the demolition of churches that happened in Wenzhou, some church pastors were formally arrested on these charges. They were put on trial by courts although they haven’t yet received a final sentence.

On July 4, Pastor Zhang Shaojie of Henan Nanle Church was sentenced to 12 years in prison on two charges. He did nothing but help believers defend their rights, but the government distorted his actions into the crime of “fraud” and applied another charge without evidence against him—the crime of “gathering a crowd to disrupt social orders.” Actually, in the past two decades, no “Three-Self” church leaders have ever been given such a harsh sentence.

Several church leaders at Zizhou, Shanxi, who did nothing but go to the police station to demand the return of unlawfully confiscated church possessions, such as bibles and some other items, were formally arrested on the charge of allegedly “gathering a crowd to assault a national agency.”

Another important characteristic is that the control over and suppression of children’s freedom of religious belief became more intense in 2014 than previous years.

These are the four important characteristics I could think of now.

The Chinese government’s promotion of the so-called “construction of theology with Chinese Characteristics" was also a very dangerous move in 2014.

We also see that despite the protest of Beijing Shouwang Church, which has lasted five years, the church still hasn’t been granted the right to choose its own meeting place. The persecution of Shouwang Church also intensified significantly this year. In the past three or four years, often about 20, 30 or 40 believers who had attended the church’s outdoor worship service would be taken to different police stations and then released after a short detention. But in 2014, we saw an escalation of persecution because many believers were criminally detained.

Shouwang Church has persisted for five years in very difficult situations. We also saw that the government promoted the so-called “construction of Chinese Christian theology,” under the cloak of which is the attempt to obscure the universality and Christology of the Christian Church in theology. Under the guise of “Chinese characteristics” and so-called “localizing theology for China,” their intent apparently is to eradicate the important distinction that “church is church, God is God” at its root from the Chinese Communist Party’s ideology of “harmonious society.” This is an extremely dangerous move, and it is a new move that happened in 2014.

At this time last year, Nanle Church was experiencing massive suppression and persecution. [More than] ten courageous rights defense lawyers gathered in Nanle to show support, and they even gathered at the house of Pastor Zhang Shaojie. The house was besieged by authorities for a few days during Christmas-time and people in the house celebrated Christmas under house arrest.

This year, on December 17, Nanle authorities dispatched several hundred paramilitary police and policemen who forcibly demolished the church’s central church building to prevent believers from celebrating Christmas.

Let’s continue to fight for a China of love, peace, and justice. God bless China!

As a non-governmental Christian rights defense organization, China Aid’s mission is to promote religious freedom in China, religious freedom for everyone and the rule of law in China.

On this Christmas Eve, I’d like to express Christmas blessings to believers in China, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. At this turning point in China’s history, may God grant us bravery and courage in the midst of persecution to continue to devote ourselves to the Gospel and the arrival of a China of love, peace, and justice.

To read the original version, in Chinese, click here

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Tel: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
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"Bob Fu has dedicated his life to bringing freedom of religion to the Chinese people. His story is a testimony to the power of faith and an inspiration to people struggling to break free from oppression."
—Mrs. Laura Bush

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