CHINA CLAMPDOWN TIGHTENS
- ‘Bounty’ on underground Christians
- Cross removals continue
- London embassy refuses Release petition
The Chinese authorities are offering cash rewards for information about so-called ‘illegal’ church services. It’s part of an ongoing crackdown on Christianity in the country.
Officials are offering cash rewards of up to £1100 to people willing to inform on the underground church. Money is being paid out for information ranging from reporting on Christian groups to turning in believers.
China has torn down 4,500 crosses from churches in one province alone, as harsh anti-religion laws continue to bite. And China is refusing to receive a Release petition calling for those laws to be changed.
More than 9,000 people have signed the Release petition expressing deep concern at the growing and sustained campaign of repression against Christians under regulations introduced in February 2018.
The petition calls for the repeal of those religious laws, which are in violation of China’s own constitution.
Every attempt to reach out to the Embassy has been blocked. So Release is preparing a final effort to present the petition on Martyr’s Day – June 29.
Meanwhile the extent of the cross removal programme is emerging in China, as officials tear down the symbol of Christianity from registered churches.
Release partners China Aid says officials in Henan Province have now torn down 4,500 crosses from churches. These are all churches that are government-recognised and approved places of worship.
They also continue to close other unregistered places of worship – house churches.
One Christian told China Aid: ‘We have no solution. Many [Christian] brothers and sisters do not dare to worship together and must gather privately and in secret.’
Other churches are being forced to meet at irregular times to avoid coming under state surveillance.
In March, officials closed Panshi Church in Jinshui District after the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau accused it of organising ‘illegal’ religious events.
They ordered the church to immediately stop every event, then shut down the venue, removed every sign and picture related to the Christian faith, and put an official seal on the gate of the church.
China has also been arresting Christian lawyers for going to the courts to mount a legal defence against the cross demolitions.
Lawyers have been seized, disappeared and forced into making confessions. Some claim to have been tortured. For defending the rights of Chinese citizens using the legal system they are being regarded as enemies of the state.
Jiang Tianyong is a Christian human rights lawyer who recently finished a two-year jail term for allegedly ‘inciting subversion of state power’. He is still suffering from the effects of his imprisonment, where he was tortured by the authorities to try to force him into making a confession.
His wife, Jin Bianling, who now lives in the USA told Radio Free Asia that her husband always has tears in his eyes. ‘He told me he hadn’t been allowed outside in a very long time. He couldn’t sit up straight, but could only sit sideways or lie down.”
Jin is urging the Chinese Communist Party to allow Jiang to go to America for medical treatment.
In 2011, Release featured an interview with Jiang Tianyong in the short film Forbidden City, which you can see here
Premier Radio interviewed Release about the bounty offered on Christians. You can read their story here
Release’s China petition adds this appeal to the authorities:
‘As fellow Christians in the UK we do not understand why the state is so fearful of believers that it has to monitor and imprison them, when a nation as developed as China in the 21st century is strong enough to allow those with differing beliefs to exist side by side.
‘We respectfully call on your Government to rethink and repeal its new religious ordinance, which is even in violation of [China’s] own Constitution. It targets citizens who want nothing more than to live out their faith in peace, and lawyers who desire only to uphold the rule of law. Both groups want the best for their nation and pose no threat to the Government, the state or the people of China.’