Archive for the ‘Christian Persecution’ Category

Chinese Christians: We Are Ready to Be Imprisoned and Die for Our Faith
Charisma News | 7/25/2014

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Around 400 police officers attempted to forcibly remove the church cross of ShuiTou Salvation Church in Pingyang County, Wenzhou City, Monday morning. (AsiaNews.it)

At 3 a.m. (Beijing time) on Monday, during the 32nd night of a vigil of Christians guarding their church cross, about 400 police officers attempted to forcibly remove the cross of ShuiTou Salvation Church in Pingyang, Wenzhou City.

Police beat Christians with iron batons, severely injuring at least four. Bloody pictures and videos of riots from the incident are circulating on China’s social network. Local Christians reported that 1,000 Christians formed a human blockade and guarded the church and that even though the police retreated after a one-hour attack, the Christians remain ready for continuous attacks from the government.

Continuous Cross Demolition and Harassment

The ongoing anti-church campaign in Zhejiang Province has seen more than 360 churches completely or partially demolished under the guise of "removing or modifying illegal constructions." In a news release International Christian Concern (ICC) reported, and later The New York Times corroborated, that religious buildings have been targeted at the exclusion of all others.

Since 9 p.m. on Sunday, police started to harass churches close to ShuiTou Salvation Church in Pingyang County, Wenzhou City. At 3 a.m. the next day, the police suddenly concentrated its force to attack ShuiTou Salvation Church itself. A local contact told ICC that while it was unclear how many Christians were injured, at least four were severely injured, two of whom were transferred to the First Provincial Wenzhou Hospital of Zhejiang.

"We will continue to guard our church cross to the end," said a local co-worker of Pingyang County. "We divide people into two groups and take turns to guard the church through the night."

ICC heard from local Christians that local government officials are even "competing" to be the champion of removing church crosses for the purpose of bolstering their own political careers.

"Guarding the church cross that is not against any law, Christians are publicly harassed by government officials," said a local Christian.

Ready to Sacrifice for Faith, Like the Three Friends of Daniel

Faced with repeated injustice from the Chinese government’s massive anti-church campaign for months, three Christians, Zhan Yingsheng, Zhang Zhi, and Ye Wanjing, issued three public letters on July 16 with farewell notes, claiming that they are ready to die for their faith if necessary. Ye Wanjing wrote: "I am not going to die for the physical cross on my church and, to be honest, I rarely paid attention to the physical cross on the top of the building. However, faced with injustice, my conscience of being a Christian pressured me to do my responsibility. I hope to learn more about Jesus Christ’s calling of ‘die to myself.’"

"My heart is bleeding when I see hundreds of church crosses fall one by one in Zhejiang Province," Ye Wanjing wrote. "Facing the fierce attack, my co-workers and I do not have confidence that we are able to guard the church cross from being demolished; as an individual, I pray that the Lord gives me the will to be a martyr."

"I have packed clothes and toiletries, ready to go to prison anytime," Zhang Zhi wrote in the public letter. "I have told my wife and parents. Even though they are worried, they understand."

ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, Sooyoung Kim, said, "Zhejiang provincial authorities have carefully planned and carried out their systematic attack against Christianity and churches. We call on the government of China in the strongest possible terms to immediately stop the anti-church campaign that hurts its own people’s heart. The world needs a peaceful China that respects human dignity and freedom of religions."

http://www.charismanews.com/world/44801-chinese-christians-we-are-ready-to-be-imprisoned-and-die-for-our-faith

 

Zhejiang Province Unleashes Massive Attack on Over 64 Churches in China
An Outright Violation of Central Government’s Stated Goal of Religious Freedom for Its Citizens
International Christian Concern

05/22/2014 Zhejiang Province, China (International Christian Concern) – On April 28th, Zhejiang province officials bulldozed the 4,000-seat Sanjiang Christian Church in Wenzhou City despite a weeks-long protest involving hundreds of Christian attendees who formed a human chain around the church. What appeared to be an isolated event, has on further investigation by International Christian Concern (ICC) been revealed to be a widespread and massive anti-church crackdown with 64 churches in Zhejiang Province alone having been destroyed and/or their crosses (or steeples) torn down. ChinaAid is reporting that authorities once tore down 50 crosses in one day in Wenzhou City. Another 85 house churches recently received government orders to stop gathering and may face closure by the government by the end of May.

The wave of church and cross demolitions occurred after Xia Baolong, the Communist Party secretary of Zhejiang Province, conducted an inspection tour of the province earlier this year and was disturbed by a forest of crosses in the skyline and the number of large church buildings that host thousands of worshippers. “He found the cross on top of BaiXi Christian Church too ‘conspicuous’,” according to an ICC contact.

The “anti-church” campaign has been carried out under the vague provisions of urban development and beautification laws. The stated intent of the campaign was to "aggressively demolish illegal buildings in accordance with the law." However, ICC’s investigation has revealed that even government-approved churches are facing demolition or cross removal such as the forcible removal of the cross on the steeple of BaiXi Christian Church in Wenzhou City on May 6, 2014.

The campaign is also almost exclusively targeting Christian sites. An ICC contact said, “The Zhejiang government has selectively enforced the law on only church buildings. Other ‘illegal’ structures did not receive demolition orders.

During an interview with ICC, a Zhejiang believer said, “President Xi Jinping won’t be pleased by what the provincial party secretary, Xia Baolong, is doing because Xia is breaking people’s hearts and making local citizens scared of the government’s unpredictable policy. It is harming a harmonious society which the central government says it is working hard to build.

Sooyoung Kim, ICC’s Regional Manager for East Asia, said, “Xia Baolong, the local provincial party secretary, is blatantly undermining China’s carefully crafted human rights image presented to the international community as he continues to implement his anti-church campaign to limit religious freedom and the gathering of Christians. He has ignored the desperate pleas of thousands of his own citizens, and the glare and condemnation of the international media spotlight.

“Concerned Christians must call the Chinese embassy and ask them to reign in Xia Baolong’s attacks on churches in Zhejiang Province. Ask them to enforce Article 36 of China’s constitution, and to immediately cease the demolition of churches and the removal of church steeples and crosses.”

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington, D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church.

http://www.persecution.org/2014/05/23/zhejiang-province-unleashes-massive-attack-on-over-64-churches-in-china/

 

Church-State Clash in China Coalesces Around a Toppled Spire
IAN JOHNSON
NYT | MAY 29, 2014

WENZHOU, China — For nearly a year, the Sanjiang Church was the pride of this city’s growing Christian population. A landmark in the fast-developing northern suburbs, its 180-foot spire rose dramatically against a rocky promontory. Wenzhou, called “China’s Jerusalem” for the churches dotting the cityscape, was known for its relaxed ties between church and state, and local officials lauded the church as a model project.

Late last month, however, the government ordered it torn down, saying it violated zoning regulations. After fruitless negotiations and a failed effort by the congregation to occupy the church, on April 28 backhoes and bulldozers knocked down the walls and sent the spire toppling to the ground.

“People are stunned,” said one member of the congregation, who asked that she be identified only by her English name, Mabel, out of fear of government reprisals. “They have completely lost faith in the local religious authorities.”

This urban area of nine million in eastern China, nestled between rugged mountains and a jagged coastline, has moved to the center of a national battle with a Communist Party increasingly suspicious of Christianity and the Western values it represents. Since March, at least a dozen other churches across Zhejiang Province have been told to remove their crosses or have received demolition orders, a significant escalation in a party campaign to counter the influence of China’s fastest-growing religion.

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A state-sanctioned church in Wenzhou, run by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. Churches across Zhejiang Province have been told to take down crosses. Credit Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times

The government has defended its actions, saying the churches violated zoning restrictions. However, an internal government document reviewed by The New York Times makes it clear the demolitions are part of a strategy to reduce Christianity’s public profile.

The nine-page provincial policy statement says the government aims to regulate “excessive religious sites” and “overly popular” religious activities, but it specifies only one religion, Christianity, and one symbol, crosses.

“The priority is to remove crosses at religious activity sites on both sides of expressways, national highways and provincial highways,” the document says. “Over time and in batches, bring down the crosses from the rooftops to the facade of the buildings.”

The Sanjiang demolition in particular drew national attention because the church was officially sanctioned, not one of the independent, underground churches that often run afoul of the government. Moreover, a central ally of President Xi Jinping played a decisive role in its destruction.

The case created a backlash even in government-controlled religious circles, with prominent theologians at government seminaries publicly criticizing the handling of it.

“Nothing hurts the people more than bulldozing their church,” Chen Yilu, head of the government-sponsored Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, the country’s most influential, said in an interview. “It was handled too aggressively.”

Gao Ying, dean of the official Yanjing Theological Seminary in Beijing, said: “The Sanjiang Church was a legal and registered congregation. I think they deserved a better outcome.”

The leveling of the Sanjiang Church came amid growing tensions not only between Christianity and the Communist government, but also between Christianity and other religions. It was preceded by a local petition accusing the church of destroying the area’s feng shui, geomantic principles that underlie traditional Chinese folk religion. Others complained that churches were crowding out traditional temples, which compete for space in the hilly region.

“As Christianity becomes stronger, it jostles up against other religions,” said Mayfair Yang, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has done field work on religious land conflicts in Wenzhou.

Increasingly, those other religions are receiving greater support from the Communist Party. In March, Mr. Xi praised Buddhism for its contributions to China. And late last year, on a visit to Confucius’ hometown, he picked up two volumes on Confucianism and, in a reversal of the party’s longtime antagonism, issued a rare endorsement: “I need to read these books very carefully.”

While churches in China are mainly privately financed — Sanjiang was built with $5.5 million in donations — traditional religious sites have expanded with strong government support. The government has also made a U-turn on how it treats indigenous religious practices. Just a decade ago, the Communist Party condemned fortunetelling, feng shui and many traditional funerary rites as “feudal superstition.” Now, these are protected under government programs to support “intangible cultural heritage.”

Christianity, however, is seen by some in the government as a colonial vestige at odds with the party’s control of political and social life.

“There’s also uneasiness that some of these Christian religions are getting infusions of logistical and financial and doctrinal support from abroad,” Professor Yang said.

Protestantism is also linked to a national debate about “universal values.” Some Chinese Protestants argue that rights such as freedom of expression are God-given, and thus cannot be taken away by the state. These beliefs have led many Protestants to take up human rights work. A disproportionate number of lawyers handling prominent political cases, for example, are Protestant.

Fenggang Yang, a professor of religion at Purdue University, said that Protestantism did not directly challenge the state, but that leaders had come to see it that way.

“The political threat of Christianity to the regime has been exaggerated by some officials,” he said. “So much so that it’s become a shared perception by top officials.”

Officials refused to comment for this article, but in reports in the government-run news media, they have said they are simply trying to come to grips with the sometimes anarchic construction in this freewheeling city.

Wenzhou has demolished 32 million square feet of buildings, mostly commercial properties, since last year, according to news reports. Officials were quoted as saying that Sanjiang Church was built without proper zoning, taking up five times the 20,000 square feet allowed by its permits and sitting on land zoned for agricultural use. Non-Christian religious sites are being torn down, too, they said, including a smaller folk religion temple near the church.

“Right now, certain believers online suspect that the government ‘selectively operates law’ in the case of forced demolition of Sanjiang religious facility,” a Wenzhou official was quoted as saying in the government-run Morning Express newspaper. “Here, we’d like to restate that we will continue to abide by the party’s religious policy, respect religious freedom of the people and provide protection for legal religious venues.”

The church’s problems seem to have begun with a visit to the region in October by the provincial party secretary, Xia Baolong, a close ally of President Xi. Visiting a new economic zone north of Wenzhou, Mr. Xia was reportedly disturbed that a religious building, especially one seen as representing a foreign belief, dominated the skyline. The next month, members of the congregation said, they were told to remove the cross atop their church’s steeple.

“Xia Baolong came to inspect last autumn, and he saw the cross,” said an official in the Wenzhou government’s religious hierarchy. “He said: ‘Take down the cross. It’s so high, and it’s not appropriate.’ But the people said: ‘Well, we’ve already put it up there, and from a faith point of view, it’s our faith, the cross. How can we take it down?’ ”

Officials argued that the church violated zoning rules, but the provincial policy paper suggests that argument was a tactical cover. The paper, called “Working Document Concerning the Realization of Handling of Illegal Religious Buildings,” said the policy would face international scrutiny so officials should be careful to cloak their effort under the guise of cracking down on building codes. “Be particular about tactics, be careful about methods,” it said, urging officials to focus on the idea of “illegal construction.” “This is crucial to investigate and prosecute from the perspective of laws and regulations to avoid inviting heavy criticism.”

The document is undated, but government religious officials say it was issued last summer by the Wenzhou administration of religious affairs in conjunction with a government bureau charged with demolishing illegal buildings.

In March, the government increased the pressure, saying if the cross was not removed and most of an auxiliary building torn down, the entire church would be demolished.

Senior members of the congregation and Wenzhou officials tried to broker a deal. But in interviews, they said they were opposed by a majority of the congregation, who would not agree to remove the cross, and by provincial officials working for Mr. Xia, who insisted that the church was illegal and must be torn down.

The 2011 agreement to build the church had been signed by the congregation and by the local bureau of religious affairs, representing the government. That the religious affairs bureau now says it did not get the land rezoned strikes many as an internal government problem. So, too, does the argument that the church was bigger than planned, a violation that officials and members of the congregation agree the government encouraged.

“They said, ‘This will be your last church for 20 years, so make it big,’ ” said a member of the Sanjiang congregation involved in the negotiations. “They also told us that the development zone was a big project and needed a big church as a sign of how this was an outward-looking community.”

An official in the city’s religious affairs bureau acknowledged that “officials said it could be bigger, but perhaps this was a mistake.”

The provincial government announced this month that it had arrested two Wenzhou officials and was investigating another three in connection with the church. The accusations against them appear to be that they approved the church’s prominent location and size.

Sim Chi Yin contributed reporting from Wenzhou. Lucy Chen and Mia Li contributed research from Beijing.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/30/world/asia/church-state-clash-in-china-coalesces-around-a-toppled-spire.html

 

ND Expert: Chinese government threatened by Christianity
Kellogg Institute for International Studies | July 28, 2014

Government authorities in southeast China are continuing what local church leaders call a campaign against Christianity — knocking down crosses and razing sanctuaries at dozens of churches in the Zhejiang province.

Christianity has grown so rapidly, it’s viewed as a threat by the Communist government, according to Kellogg Faculty Fellow Lionel Jensen, associate professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Notre Dame.

“Zhejiang has a very substantial population of Christians, of which as many as 2 million are Catholic,” says Jensen, who specializes in the history of Chinese religion and thought and Chinese nationalism. “The government has demonstrated its concern about rising religiosity among Chinese by suppression and persecution. Such coercive and extra-legal behavior by official authorities has become very common and extends to indigenous, traditional practices as well, such as worship at village shrines and temples to local gods, not to mention monasteries.”

According to Jensen, China is breaking its own laws.

“Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution states explicitly that freedom of religion is a fundamental right,” he says, “and further specifies that ‘no state or public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.’ Removing crosses, and even more egregiously, destroying churches, demonstrates the incapacity of the state to abide by its own laws.”

Officials have questioned church members about their employment and their children’s schooling, implying that jobs and education might be at risk, and they are citing building code violations.

“These attempts to employ bizarre quasi-legal technicalities reflect very real concern by lower-level government operatives who see the expansive physical presence of Protestant and Catholic practitioners in cities like Wenzhou (called ‘China’s Jerusalem’) as a threat to order and stability,” Jensen says. “They act in violation of the constitution because they are well aware that the central government will not punish them.

“What is really interesting in this last year of stepped-up religious repression,” Jensen says, “is the persistent energetic reaction by the faithful and by civil rights lawyers to resist the persecution and call the government to task for its responsibility in denying the public a guaranteed right. The opposition is not anonymous; it is vociferous and energetically assertive — a development that does not bode well for social stability while ensuring the escalation of lawful protest and civil disobedience."

http://kellogg.nd.edu/faculty/news/ljensen.shtml

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