News / Asia

Christians in China Claim Government Harassment

FILE - A woman prays at Sheshan Cathedral in the outskirts of Shanghai October 28, 2013. Picture taken on October 28, 2013.
FILE - A woman prays at Sheshan Cathedral in the outskirts of Shanghai October 28, 2013. Picture taken on October 28, 2013.
Sarah Williams
Last week, Christians in the southeastern Chinese city of Wenzhou prevented an attempt by demolition workers to remove a cross from the roof of the Guantou church. 

Chinese Christians and human rights activists view the incident as the latest attempt by authorities to subvert Christianity.  In April, the city’s huge Sanjiang Church was demolished, allegedly because it failed to meet building codes. 

“Look at what just happened in Zhejiang [the province containing Wenzhou],” said Bob Fu, pastor and founder of the China Aid Association, an organization which provides legal aid to Christians in China.

“We just documented over 83 churches, either the church was destroyed or the crosses of the church were forcibly removed in the past few months,” said Fu.

Growing numbers

The destruction comes amid a significant growth in the number of Chinese who call themselves Christians.  A 2010 Pew survey estimated that Christians comprise five percent of the country’s population, or 67 million people.  It is hard to obtain an exact figure, because many Christians worship at underground or so-called house churches.

“China is in the midst of a huge religious revival, across the board, which includes Christianity,” said Daniel Bays, emeritus professor of history at Calvin College, and author of the book, A New History of Christianity in China.

“There are signals that the government is always concerned about religious groups, and that includes Christians, so that religious groups that are not registered in some fashion with the government or the [Communist] party come under automatic suspicion,” said Bays.

But the Sanjiang church had been government sanctioned, which is why its destruction shocked Chinese Christians.  VOA attempted to contact the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. but they refused to comment on the issue.

Officially, China is an atheist nation which recognizes five religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism and Taoism. But Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs say they face religious persecution.

Some observers believe by 2030, China could have the largest number of Christians in the world if the religion’s growth continues at its current rate.

“I think from the Chinese government documents, both the public documents and those secret documents we obtained, it seems there is an increasing worry about the rapid growth of Christianity overall, first in Zhejiang, apparently also reflects the top Communist Party Leader’s worry,” said Fu. “So this is one way to contain the growth of this Christian faith.”

Official reluctance on Christianity

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who also heads the Communist Party, hailed the contributions of Buddhism to China earlier this year.  He also praised other traditional faiths, including Confucianism and Taoism.  There have also been attempts by some officials to portray Christianity as a foreign religion forced upon China in past centuries.

“There are still some old cadres in the party who really dislike Christianity as a leftover piece of the imperialist structure, the structure by which the foreign countries of the world, the U.S. and the Europeans, forced China to take its missionaries in to propagate Christianity and [they] still have a great historical resentment and view Christianity as a Western religion,“ Bays said.

But there are internal pressures as well. A Roman Catholic priest, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, angered Chinese officials in 2012 when he announced he was leaving the state sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association as he was being installed as the auxiliary bishop of Shanghai.

The government organization has clashed with the Vatican.  Ma was later detained at a seminary and lost his position. 

“His case is a vivid dilemma of the church-state relationship overall,” said Fu.  “It’s a control effort , when Bishop Ma announced he just wants to wear one hat with the appointment of the Vatican, that caused him trouble.”

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Wangchuk from: NY
June 18, 2014 11:09 AM
The CCP has always been hostile towards religion & religious believers. The CCP wants all Chinese to acknowledge it as the supreme authority & doesn't like it when religious groups acknowledge a deity or someone else as their supreme authority. The CCP wants to be "god" to the Chinese people. Although freedom of religion is guaranteed under the PRC Constitution there are frequent violations of the religious freedoms of Chinese, Uighurs & Tibetans by the PRC authorities.

by: Joseph Effiong from: calabar - nigeria
June 16, 2014 11:02 PM
Is china a liberated nation ? China is still in bondage. No freedom of worship and even expression. Those Christians that stands with God in time of persecution in the hands atheists administration will have God's rewards.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs