Washington, D.C. (ICC) -- A recent spate of attacks against Christians and house churches in China underlines the country's relentless habit of persecuting Christians, even at the cost of its own reputation in the international community.
Christians Beaten in Hainan Province
On Aug. 14, a number of Christians in Lingao town, Lincheng county, Hainan Province, were violently beaten by urban management officers when they tried to prevent construction at a building site.
The Christians were looking forward to a church that was originally intended to be constructed at the site, but when local government secretly sold the site to developers, they were left floundering in the dark. As they protested the construction, the violence began and several children and elderly people were injured, with two women going into a coma as a result of the retaliation. When the Christians informed the police, they refused to address the attack.
House Church Pastor Abducted and Assaulted
Also on Aug. 13, Li Shuangping, leader of Linfen house church, was abducted and beaten by agents of the local government. Li was reportedly driving home when he was forced to stop because a young man, who appeared to be intoxicated, staggered into the path of his car. As soon as he stopped, a black sedan drove up next to him and three men got out of the car. Along with the "intoxicated" young man, the four of them dragged Li out of his car, forced him into the black sedan, blindfolded him and restrained him with a rope.
When one of the men drove the car, the other three held him down in the backseat and assaulted him, punching and kicking him in the head, neck and torso. As he was being beaten, they were launching all manner of threats against him and his family, asking whether he would like to die as a result of leading a house church. When the car finally stopped, he was thrown into a cornfield and left alone to find his way home. Li believes that the events of Aug. 13 were secretly ordered by the local government, to threaten him and other house church leaders and to suppress the house church movement.
Local Church Victimized by Repeated Vandalizing
On Aug. 3, in the wee hours of the morning, in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan Province, unknown vandals sealed off the entrance to the Sunzhuang Christian church with tons of dirt, rock and debris that was piled up at the doorway, forcing the church shut. It is suspected that AR1933 vehicles, owned by the Henan province, were used to transport the debris and cut off access to the church. This was not the first time it has happened.
On July 24, the church had to face the same situation when the entrance was sealed off by a mountain of debris, until forklifts were dispatched from the Zhengzhou Bureau of Religious Affairs to clear away the rubble.
Despite receiving official recognition by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement when it gained approval to build a new church building, local government has made every effort to displace the Christians from the village, without the villagers' consent or any legal permits. As demolition efforts began, the church has faced numerous setbacks, including loss of power and water, without any meaningful intervention from local authorities.
Christians are continually facing persecution, while local authorities remain passive, indifferent and even culpable at times. As Ryan Morgan, International Christian Concern's regional manager for China, said, "Across China, Christians continue to face harassment, intimidation, assault and even abduction at the hands of local authorities who seem to have little concern of suffering consequences for their actions."
Christians Detained and Intimidated by Local Authorities
On Aug. 22, the social networking site of a Chinese human rights lawyer reported that local officials in the city of Tongren, Guizhong Province, interrupted a house church gathering, detaining the preacher along with members who had organized the gathering. The Christians were released after hours of interrogation and harassment.
During the interrogation, officials demanded that the preacher join the Three-Self Patriotic church, the only state-recognized Protestant church in China, accused of being an instrument for the government that persecutes Christians outside of it.
The General Situation in China
An estimated 20 million people belong to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, while the majority of Christians are part of separate house churches that are frequently targeted by the state for persecution. The highest figure of Christians in China has been suggested to be 130 million, although the state prefers the official number of 67 million.
Although some Christians are free to express their faith in certain regions of the country, the overall picture of Christian persecution in China is only worsening. According to the annual report of ChinaAid, a Texas-based Christian non-profit organization, it examined 132 persecution cases involving 4,919 people, finding that incidents of persecution rose 41.9 percent from 2011. Additionally, the number of people sentenced in cases relating to religious persecution rose by 125 percent from 2011.
If left unchecked, religious freedom for Christians in China is set to decay even further, as local authorities continue to get away with determined acts of violence against innocent citizens. China needs to pay more attention to the outcry against its poor record of providing religious freedom to its citizens. As Ryan Morgan says, "We call on the central government in Beijing to immediately step in and prevent the grave abuses against religious minorities being reported on a weekly basis. How can China claim to allow religious freedom when worshiping with fellow citizens in your own home or unsanctioned church means risking a police raid? It is unconscionable."
International Christian Concern is a Washington, D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides awareness, advocacy and assistance to the worldwide persecuted church.
Publication date: October 11, 2013