PERSECUTION of Christians in China is as severe now as during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and is expected to worsen in the coming year, owing to growing intolerance in Hong Kong and increasing digital surveillance in churches, a charity has warned.
Release International, which supports persecuted Christians, said that China had been tightening its crackdown on the Chinese Church under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic (News, 22 January).
Its half-a-billion digital surveillance cameras are linked to the social-security system, giving authorities the power to deduct welfare or pension payments from so-called “offenders”.
A pro-democracy campaigner, Bob Fu, who is now in exile in the United States and works with the charity, said: “Digital authoritarianism is a growing challenge. The Chinese Communist Party has hundreds of millions of face-recognition cameras all over China. They keep watch over every street corner, from the four walls of church buildings, and even from pulpits.”
Andrew Boyd, of Release International, said: “Our partners say persecution is now as severe as at any time since Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Given the ongoing repression in Hong Kong and of the Uighur people, increased persecution over the Chinese New Year seems inevitable.
“Not only have we seen continued attempts to eradicate the house-church movement, but we’ve seen China taking increasingly public steps towards shutting down and controlling its officially sanctioned churches, including demolition.”
While most of the Uighur population in China are Muslim, and subject to persecution that the new United States government has said amounts to genocide, Release International has reported on the case of Alimujiang Yimiti, a Uighur Christian who, it says, is being persecuted for his ethnicity and his faith. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
More than 200 elders, pastors, and deacons of the Early Rain Covenant Church, in Chendu, have been arrested. Its lead pastor has been sentenced to nine years in prison.