Various watchdog groups, including the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, are sounding the alarm about the rise in persecution against Christians and believers of other faiths in China.
Pastor Bob Fu, founder and president of ChinaAid, told The Washington Times that the number of people arrested in China for exercising their faith “has reached the highest level since the end of the Cultural Revolution,” which was implemented under Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong in the 1960s.
“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,” 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).”
ChinaAid recorded the arrest of 3,700 Christians in 2017, up from 3,500 the previous year.
The persecution of Christians has ramped up under President Xi Jinping, who Fu describes as “a sort of Chairman Mao, Jr.” carrying out his own “little Cultural Revolution.”
Pastor Yang Yi, a vocal critic of Xi, has been arrested multiple times this year for conducting services of which the Chinese government did not approve.
On Monday, both Yang and his wife and 15 other members of their church — Early Rain Covenant Church — were arrested while seeking to hold a service commemorating the 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
In February, the Chinese government instituted the “New Regulations for Religious Affairs” that requires houses of worship to register with the government.
“Ultimately, my position is quite simple,” Yang said of the new policies. “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.”
Last month, the State Department rebuked China’s government for shutting down a Christian service led by Yang.
“We are deeply concerned by reports of Chinese government harassment of Early Rain Covenant Church members,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said. “We call on China to uphold its international commitments to promote respect for religious freedom for all.”
A report released by the State Department’s Commission on International Religious Freedom in April designated China as a “Country of Particular Concern.”
“In 2017, the Chinese government escalated its efforts to prevent Protestant churches from operating outside the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM),” the report stated.
“As a result, unregistered churches were pressured to register with the state, labeled as ‘evil cults,’ and faced ongoing destruction of purportedly ‘illegal’ church properties.”
In January, the Chinese government demolished the Golden Lampstand Church, a megachurch serving a Christian congregation of 50,000 in Shanxi Province, located to the west of Beijing, according to The New York Times.
"Paramilitary People’s Armed Police forces used excavators and dynamite on Tuesday to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen in Shanxi province" — a $3-million megachurch with 50,000 congregants. pic.twitter.com/E8i0fTwYfe
— upFront (@upFronteZine) January 11, 2018
Forbes reported, “It is becoming increasingly difficult for believers to congregate in larger groups, and restrictions forbid children under the age of 18 from receiving ‘religious education,’ making it nearly impossible for children to participate in church.”
According to the State Department, Christians made up approximately 5 percent of the population of China, which translates to more than 60 million people.
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