News / Asia

Religious Rights Groups: China 'House Churches' Face Increasing Persecution

Chinese youths detained by police officers from an area where members of a unregistered church planned to hold Easter service are led into a police station in Beijing Sunday, April 24, 2011.
Chinese youths detained by police officers from an area where members of a unregistered church planned to hold Easter service are led into a police station in Beijing Sunday, April 24, 2011.
William Ide

Religious rights groups in the United States say the decision by Chinese authorities on Sunday to detain nearly 40 members of an unapproved evangelical Christian church as they tried to hold Easter service highlights the struggle for freedom of religion in China.  

Although China's constitution allows for freedom of religion in state sanctioned churches, religious rights advocates say government persecution of so-called "underground" or "house" churches, like Sunday's crackdown on the Shouwang Church in Beijing, is increasing.

Mark Shan is a spokesman for ChinaAid, a rights group that tracks cases of religious persecution in China. "In the past five years, every year, the degree of persecution increased, from the perspective of how many church's were persecuted, how many Christians were arrested, sentenced, abused or tortured.  So it's a national phenomenon; it's a common phenomenon.  Every year is like this," he said.

Members of the Shouwang Church say more than 500 members of the congregation were also put under house arrest.  It's unclear, however, whether any of those detained or under house arrest will face formal charges.

Mark Shan says the crackdown is not limited to Beijing.  "From Henan, Shandong province this month, even Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, the crackdown has never stopped and it is more serious than last year," he said.

According to official Chinese government statistics, about 15 million Protestants and five million Catholics worship at registered churches.  Experts say an estimated 50 million others are believed to pray at so-called "underground" or "house" churches like Shouwang, which refuse to submit to government regulation.

Joseph Kung of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, a group that monitors the treatment of Roman Catholics in China, says that although the Chinese economy is booming, such advances have done little to slow the persecution of Catholics in the country. "There are people still in jail, and priests still in jail.  Bishops are still in jail, we do not know where they are.  We don't even know whether they are still alive," he said.

Kung, a relative of the late Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei, was referring to Bishop Sue Zhiming and Bishop Shi Enxiang -- two Catholic underground church leaders who disappeared more than 10 years ago.

Kung says members of the underground Catholics constantly struggle to worship discretely in homes across China or in fields to avoid being discovered by authorities. "The police still find them out and once they find them out, without any notice they will just simply barge in and take the priests away, take the parishioners away and sometimes take the sacraments away and so forth.  So there really is no freedom for the underground Catholic church in China," he said.

Sunday's crackdown on the Shouwang Church follows a string of detentions of dissidents, activists and human rights lawyers.  Authorities in China have been particularly vigilant in recent weeks, following anonymous calls on the Internet for so-called "Jasmine" protests each Sunday.

Joseph Kung says the online calls might have made authorities nervous. "And also I believe that they want to show their independence.  But I really can't second guess the mind of the communists.  They could do anything they want," he said.

ChinaAid's Mark Shan agrees that the online protest calls might be having an affect.  But mostly, he says, Chinese authorities are concerned about the growing influence of house churches.

Last October, the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, invited more than 200 Chinese house church leaders to attend a meeting in Cape Town, South Africa.

"So from that time, the Chinese government also many scholars, even Christians ourselves, were surprised to see.  Wow!  The house church is really something; it is really large scale because you can see the whole country, they can choose 200 delegates to represent the whole house church.  So that was something that caused the Chinese government to really panic," said Shan.

In December, Shan says, Chinese authorities launched a crackdown called "Operation Deterrence" against house churches.  He says that although the Beijing government eased up in February, when calls for the Jasmine protests grew, it now is intensifying the campaign.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid