CHRISTIANS in China will face a crackdown this year, Release International is warning.
In its report Persecution Trends 2018, the charity forecasts that house churches in China will face “increasingly tough measures to control their activities”, and highlights the coming into force of new Religious Affairs Regulations in February, “giving the State much greater control over churches and other places of worship”.
Concerns are voiced about President Xi Jinping, who is said to be “determined to ensure that the party remains at the centre of national life and policy, where it can promote increasing Sinicisation (‘to be Chinese is to be communist and atheist’)”. In 2016, he gave a speech on religion, warning against “overseas infiltrations through religious means”, and calling on religions to “Sinicise” or “adopt Chinese characteristics”. In October, the Communist Party voted to amend the constitution to include “[President] Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” as one of its guiding principles.
China remains a “country of particular concern” for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, whose last report noted that, “as China’s President Xi Jinping further consolidated power, conditions for freedom of religion or belief and related human rights continued to decline.” Like Release, it raised concerns about “Sinicisation”, crackdowns on house churches, and revised regulations governing religion, “including tighter government control over religious education and clergy, and heavy fines for any religious activities considered ‘illegal,’ as well as new language formally forbidding religion from harming ‘national security’ concerns.”
Between 2014 and 2017, the authorities removed crosses or demolished churches at more than 1500 locations in Zhejiang Province, known as the “heartland of Christianity”. Christians were arrested for displaying the cross in their homes.
Last year’s Pew report The Changing Global Religious Landscape quoted statistics that suggest that five per cent of China’s population is Christian, with the caveat that “although there are many news stories and anecdotes about Christian growth in China, there is little nationally representative survey data from this century that clearly validates these reports.”
The Release report also referred to “an increasing number of attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen” in Plateau State, Nigeria. One partner reported that, in one recent five-week period, 12 communities were targeted in attacks, in which 75 people had been killed, 489 houses had been burned, and 13,726 out of a total population of 80,000 were displaced.
It forecasts that the Islamist terror group Al-Shabaab is “likely to continue to extend its reach” from Somalia into Kenya, this year; raises the alarm about the rise of Hindu nationalism in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi; and seeks to highlight the rise of “radical Islam” in Central Asia.
It also draws attention to the 30,000 Christians in concentration camps in North Korea.