Pressure on Chinese Christians is Rising

Two ministers of Beijing’s biggest “house church” were detained earlier in May, and two reports warn of further religious freedom restrictions.

Jiafu Qie was arrested on April 28.He was taken from his home to the police station in Changping District and released after ten days.

Chunzi Huang, however, went missing on May 1; her arrest was confirmed only after her sister went to enquire at the police station in Chaoyang district. The next day, police told the family she had been moved to a detention centre to serve 10 days in administrative detention. At posting time of this article, there was no further news about her situation.

Zion Church, Beijing’s largest unofficial “house church” with 1,500 members, was forced to close in September 2018 after it refused a government request to install CCTV cameras in its auditorium. The church, however, continued its activities and “the arrest of both ministers is likely intended as a warning to their senior pastor, Ezra Jin, who has remained very active in ministry despite the closedown of his church in Beijing in 2019,” said an Open Doors local partner, whose name is being withheld because of security concerns. “He is the one who needs our prayers.”

‘Rally around the Party’

Ezra Jin Mingri was summoned to the police station for two hours in July 2020 and ordered to cancel a lecture he was due to give about “Christianity and China’s Higher Education,” according to ChinaAid’s 2020 annual report.

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The report, published last month, lists ongoing and new pressure points on China’s Christians. There has been an increase in cases in which Christians have been charged with “harming national security,” as well as increasing surveillance of churches, it said.

Also, the “sinicization” of religion campaign has been further ramped up with instructions to local authorities to ensure that “religious community leaders and believers in general must closely rally around the (Communist Party’s) central committee with Xi Jinping at the center,” ChinaAid said.

While there definitely was increased surveillance of China’s Christians, an Open Doors local partner said it is too early to talk about an increase in cases that allege “harming national security”. “To the best of my knowledge, there were not more than five cases where Christians were charged with ‘subversion of state power’ last year,” the partner said.

Another report, published one day earlier by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said religious freedom conditions in China had worsened in 2020.

“The government intensified its ’sinicisation of religion’ policy, particularly targeting religions perceived to have foreign connections, such as Christianity, Islam, and Tibetan Buddhism,” the Commission said.

It also said Chinese authorities “harassed, detained, arrested, and imprisoned members of Protestant house churches who refuse to join the state-sanctioned ‘Three-Self Patriotic Movement.’”

The Commission added China to its list of Countries of Particular Concern for another year.

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