Over the last 10 years there have been definite improvements for Christians in China. Youth work, Sunday school work and Christian bookshops are all flourishing, which was not the case 20 years ago. However, this does not mean that cases of persecution do not sometimes still occur.
According to the CAA 2012 Annual Report issued by ChinaAid, a Texas-based Chinese Christian organization headed by former Beijing house-church leader Bob Fu, there has been a worrying increase in cases of persecution across China since 2011.
Data is necessarily incomplete, as some cases are almost certainly never reported. However, in 2012 ChinaAid discovered 132 cases of persecution of Christians across China—up 42 percent since 2011. These involved 4,919 individual Christians, including 1,442 leaders. The number of people involved increased 14 percent from the previous year. The worrying element is the sharp and steady increase of Christians persecuted since 2007.
Some of the more serious cases in the report are given below:
The large Shouwang house church in Beijing continues to be harassed after two years. The church estimates that by September 2012 its members had been detained no less than 1,600 times by police. Fifty members have been evicted from their homes and about a dozen have been forced out of their jobs.
In Xinjiang, a Han Chinese house-church meeting in Khotan (Hetian) has been harassed by local officials since March 2012, when police raided a meeting held by 50 Christians. Christian lawyer Gao Zhisheng who “disappeared” was last heard of at a remote prison in Shaya, Aksu in Xinjiang. His younger brother and father-in-law were finally allowed to see him on January 12 this year, his first family visit since March 2012. Gao was a prominent and bold defender of house-church Christians. Brother Alim, who is still in prison in Xinjiang for his evangelistic activities, has had his visiting rights severely curtailed, which is a blow to his wife, two small sons and other friends and relatives. Keep him in prayer.
Parts of Inner Mongolia remain under an out-of-date repressive religious policy. Two Christian ladies in Tongliao, Ms. Sun Yuefen and Ms. Ren Zhimin, were both sentenced to two years of “re-education through labor” (a euphemism for labor camp) in August last year, falsely accused of cult activities.
In Shenzhen a house-church pastor, Mr. Cao Nan, who has been doing open-air evangelism on the streets and in parks, was arrested on December 8, 2012 and falsely accused of being involved in superstitious Qigong activities.
Although most cases of persecution involve house-church believers, sometimes Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) registered churches are not immune. One such case in 2012 was that of the TSPM church in Yushu, Jilin in Northeast China. Since 2010 the church has been under intense pressure, as it has refused to agree to its illegal demolition and relocation by corrupt local officials and developers. Since late last year it has been taking legal measures to fight for its rights.
China is a large country and the majority of Christians meet in relative freedom. Even still, the fact that such cases of persecution and harassment can still occur is cause for concern and for urgent prayer by God’s people worldwide.