Thirty years ago to the day on June 4, 1989, Chinese troops opened fire on students campaigning for democracy in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
Nobody knows how many they killed. Some say hundreds, some say thousands. The Chinese authorities prefer not to say.
The Tiananmen Square massacre is the country’s most notorious crackdown on human rights. In the months leading up to the crackdown, students from around the country gathered in Tiananmen Square, outside the Forbidden City.
Demanding increased freedoms, many of them camped out and raised a statue symbolising democracy.
As tensions between the students and government soared, the Communist Party declared martial law on May 20. On June 4, soldiers commandeered the square and main streets of the capital, opening fire on civilians and running them down with tanks.
Some of the democracy campaigners were Christians, hoping to herald in a new era of freedom in China. Instead, an iron fist closed around them.
Thirty years on Christians have fewer freedoms than at any time since Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Churches that cannot in all conscience come under the control of the atheist state are persecuted. And where the churches are growing, the authorities tear down their crosses and imprison Christian lawyers who contest that in the courts.
Yet despite the persecution, Christianity is growing rapidly in China. There are now widely reckoned to be more Christians than members of the Communist Party.
The Wall St Journal reports the Chinese church has experienced ‘spectacular growth’ in the years since the Tiananmen massacre.
‘Today there could be well over 100 million Chinese Christians. All but 36 million practice their faith outside government control. Purdue [University USA] sociologist Fenggang Yang has projected that China could have nearly 250 million Christians by 2030.’
That would make China the country with the highest number of Christians in the world by 2030.
Last year, President Xi Jinping tightened religious regulations in China. Leaked documents said it was to ‘contain the overheated growth of Christianity’.
Even for a church to be officially registered with the state is no guarantee of protection, adds the Wall St Journal: ‘Last year in Henan province, 10,000 Protestant churches were ordered shut, even though most were registered.
A million threats
‘During 2018, more than one million Christians were threatened or persecuted and 5,000 arrested,’ continues the article, which was co-authored by Release International partner Bob Fu.
Bob Fu was one of the students in Tiananmen Square the day democracy died – or at least was stillborn – in China. Soon after, he became a Christian. Today, he is in exile in the USA, where he founded China Aid, which campaigns for religious freedom in his homeland.
Release is petitioning China to drop its new regulations and allow freedom of worship.
Says Release CEO Paul Robinson: ‘Churches have been destroyed or seen their crosses torn down, pastors arrested and imprisoned and those trying to represent them in the courts detained and even tortured.
‘We respectfully call on China’s government to rethink and repeal its new religious ordinance, which is in violation of the country’s 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.’
Release is working with China Aid to provide legal support to persecuted Christians and help Christian families whose breadwinner has been imprisoned for their faith.
More on the Wall St Journal story: here
‘China on course to become world’s most Christian nation’ Daily_Telegraph