A return to Mao era persecution in China?

CHINA (BP) -- Police raided church services Sept. 30 in various Chinese provinces in escalating persecutions said to be "returning to those evident in Mao's era."

Chinese police burned the cross atop this church in Henan Province in a period of escalating persecution compared to the Mao era.
Screen capture from ABC News
Government officials disrupted services at five or more churches in at least four provinces in central, southern and southwestern China, removing crosses, blocking entrances, disbanding worship and harassing members, International Christian Concern (ICC) reported today (Oct. 3).

"Christians in China are bracing themselves for the worst clampdown since the Cultural Revolution," ICC Regional Manager Gina Goh said in the ICC press release. "The scale and tactics employed by the authorities are unprecedented and disturbing. Every day there are churches across China that become fresh victims of persecution."

In Sept. 27 testimony at a U.S. Congressional hearing in Washington, China Aid founder and president Bob Fu also described Chinese Communist Party (CCP) persecution as comparable to Maoism.

"The CCP's policies and principles for the management of religious affairs are returning to those evident in Mao's era," Fu said. "Different from Mao's era, in which the goal was to 'eradicate religion' organizationally, or even corporeally, through 'socialist reform,’ the current Sinicization in order to bring religion in line with the CCP's ideology aims to eradicate the mind and soul of religion."

Fu testified before the Committee on Foreign Affairs in a hearing on "China's War on Christianity and Other Religious Faiths." Persecution of Christians, who comprise 5.1 percent of China's 1.38 billion people, has escalated under the presidency of Xi Jinping that began in 2013, and a new round of restrictions announced at the CCP National Congress in 2017.

In the latest cases the ICC reported, officials interfered at both state-sanctioned and unregistered churches in Henan, Guangzhou, Guizhou and Sichuan provinces. A member of Autumn Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan posted the online message, according to ICC, "More than 20 police officers surrounded the church.... I wonder how many more are downstairs? Early in the morning the police came and blocked the main entrance of the church. I didn't expect that they would now encircle the church."

Days earlier, the pastor of a Beijing congregation the government shuttered and fined $170,000 was hit with a scooter and suffered minor injuries, ICC quoted an unnamed source, in what the source considered "a warning."

"ICC condemns the Chinese government's scheme to taint religious freedom and urges the international community to continuously voice their concerns and stand with the oppressed," Goh said.

The persecution is marked by "a substantial regression in the Chinese government's administrative policies," Fu told committee members. "Driven by the so-called 'defense of national security' agenda, Xi's administration intends to construct a 'trinitarian' model of 'orientation towards political decision, all-around administrative control, and suppression with harsh laws.'"

The seven-year prison term of Pastor John Cao on fabricated charges, and the unjust prison sentences of about 10 Christians in the Yunnan Religious Case are among examples Fu mentioned in testimony.

Fu suggested that, among other measures, the U.S. maintain a list of persecuted Christians in China, consider incremental sanctions against the most egregious provinces, and encourage U.S. businesses with ties to China to adopt programs to advance religious freedom in China.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has condemned the persecution of Chinese Christians and other religious minorities there, including Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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