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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ebola Lockdown May Be Extended

Lockdown, which started Friday, aims to allow health workers to locate hidden Ebola patients, educate others on how to avoid the deadly disease More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid