China Increasing Crackdown On House Churches, Report Shows

Thursday, February 7, 2008

By BosNewsLife News Center

BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- China's Communist government increased its crackdown on house churches, detaining hundreds of Christians across the country throughout 2007, according to a new report released Wednesday, February 6.

United States-based religious rights group China Aid Association (CAA) said in its annual persecution report on China that more Christians were harassed by security forces than in 2006. In addition, last year saw "the largest persecution operation of expelling foreign Christians" since the early 1950s, the group stressed.

"In 2007, the known religious cases in which house churches were persecuted by the government covered 18 provinces and one municipality directly under the jurisdiction of the Central Government," CAA told BosNewsLife. "There were 60 cases of persecution, up 30.4% from that of 2006," which includes police raids on house churches.

The group said some 788 Christians were "persecuted", up 18.5 percent from 2006. They include 693 people who were detained, an increase of 6.6 percent from that of the year before, CAA said, adding that over half of those arrested were church leaders. Some 16 people were eventually sentenced to longer prison terms.


It also cited police actions against Christian publishers, related to operating, printing, transportation and distribution of Christian publications.

Among seven cases attracting international attention were those of Chinese Christian Zhou Heng, who was arrested for receiving a shipment of Bibles and for his involvement in Christian publications, and of Shi Weihan in Beijing, who was persecuted for supervising Christian publications, CAA said.

Also targeted were non-Chinese Christians, including, missionaries. Over 100 foreign Christians, most of them Westerners and some from South Korea, were arrested, interrogated and expelled from the country, CAA said. "About 70 foreign Christians were persecuted in Xinjiang [Province]" alone, the group explained. Some of them were Christian business people who were attacked by police for preaching the Christian faith and their association with local Christians and churches, according to the CAA report.


It said "persecution" of foreigners on this scale had not happened since the 1950s when the Chinese Communist Party drove out all of the foreign missionaries.

CAA said it is concerned that in 2009, after the Beijing Olympics, "the persecution on churches and Christians will escalate and the human rights condition will seriously worsen." The report comes after another influential advocacy group, Open Doors, added China to the top 10 of its World Watch List of countries with the most "severe persecution" of Christians.

China's government has denied human rights abuses, saying Christians are free to worship in the state-backed Catholic and Protestant denominations. Most of China's over 100 million Christians prefer to worship outside government control, rights groups say, one of the main reasons why 'house churches' flourish.


In a related development, CAA said it learned that the health condition of human rights activist Peng Ming has continued to decline in recent months. "Peng Ming continues to suffer from serious kidney, heart and other diseases while serving his sentence in Hanyang Prison," and his lawyer has asked for medical parole the group said.

Peng Ming was sentenced to life imprisonment in December 2005 on what rights groups say are trumped up charges of "organizing and heading a terrorist organization." The United Natons Working Group for Arbitary Detention has criticized his sentence, saying he is an official refugee with asylum status in the United States. US officials also urged his release.

In May of 2004 Peng Ming traveled to Thailand to visit his elderly parents. At some point during his travels Peng was lured into neighboring Burma, where he was kidnapped at gunpoint by eight Chinese special agents, according to several sources. (With BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos and Eric Leijenaar).

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