CHINA has escalated its persecution of Christians in house churches and its suppression of Christian education during the past year, according to a report from the charity China Aid, which says that 2021 was one of the worst periods for religious freedom in recent history.
Pastor Bob Fu, who set up the charity to support the persecuted Church in China, said there had been an escalation in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s war against religious freedom in 2021.
In the annual report, there are details of dozens of attacks on churches, schools, and religious leaders, as well as the impact of new laws to suppress religious freedom online.
New measures on the management of religious schools say explicitly that their goal should be to make students “politically reliable”, and that leaders must support the CCP leadership or risk losing their position.
Several schools run by churches have been closed, and home-schooled teenagers from Christian families have been arrested. In a police raid on one house, a plaque on the wall that read “God loves the world” was taken down, and the family’s pet dogs were seized.
Mr Fu said: “The international community should be concerned that [there is] a concentrated effort against children in China by restricting access to religious information and religious education, especially Christian literature. This clearly violates both the children’s and parents’ rights as enshrined in various international legal norms for safeguarding children’s religious freedom.
“These dramatic measures solidify the widespread atheistic brainwashing within China’s state-controlled educational system.”
Violent tactics against Christians and Christian-owned properties have increased during the past year: pastors and their families have been beaten, and authorities have tightened restrictions to punish churches for celebrating Christian festivals, including Christmas. The report quotes an education bureau in the Guangxi region which said that “Western festivals with strong religious overtones, such as Christmas Eve and Christmas, have caused a serious negative impact on Chinese traditional culture.”
Christians have also been subjected to increased surveillance. Authorities chained the passageway outside the door of the minister of Early Rain Covenant Church, Wu Wuqing, and his wife to prevent their leaving, and security agents moved into the home of an elderly deacon and his wife to monitor their behaviour. Early Rain, one of China’s largest unregistered churches, has faced escalating persecution, including the imprisonment of their lead pastor and the detention of several members.
This year, China has introduced a new law banning the posting of religious content online, including recorded or live church services, without a licence (News, 4 March).
China ranks as number 17 on Open Doors’ World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution.