PERSECUTION of Christians in China has increased by more than 700 per cent in the past eight years, a report by the US charity China Aid suggests.
The report, Chinese Government Persecution of Christians and Churches in China January–December 2015, found that, since 2008, levels of persecution have increased on average by 101 per cent each year. It also says that Chinese house churches are frequently targeted by government officials.
Persecution has been most fierce in Zhejiang province, where thousands of crosses have been torn down, 20 churches demolished, and at least 28 pastors or prominent Christians arrested (News, 24 March). Civilians who try to get in the way of demolitions have been beaten and detained, it says.
The crackdown is part of President Xi Jinping’s “tightened control over society”, China Aid argues. Human rights and the rule of law have deteriorated to the extent of bringing China back to “an era of political terror” reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution.
The report catalogues dozens of cases of beatings and detention of Christians.
President Xi spoke last year of the need to “guide religion to make it serve the purpose of promoting economic development, social harmony, cultural prosperity, ethnic unity, and the unification of China”.
Although the report focuses on persecution of Christians, it notes that Tibetan Buddhism and Islam have “likely experienced even more intense government persecution, for instance in predominately Muslim Xinjiang, bans on hijab for women and long beards for men”.
Dozens of house churches have been raided, and members detained, and accused of holding illegal gatherings.
The report says that the Communist Party of China (CPC) is attempting to “Sinicize Christianity” and neutralise it. It quotes the drive to encourage Christians to donate blood at Easter, which is “turning the core belief of Christianity — the shedding of Christ’s blood for the sins of mankind — into a blood-drive opportunity”.
“The CPC seeks to strip Christianity of its universality and to replace the sacred principle of ‘Christ as the head of the church’ with submission to the CPC,” it says.
The anti-persecution charity Release International has urged the Prime Minister to act on the report. It suggests that Mr Cameron should use his relationship with President Xi to demand more religious freedom in China.
“In all conscience, Britain cannot put trade before human rights,” the chief executive of Release, Paul Robinson, said.