China is often portrayed as a serious violator of religious freedom, but watchdog says the real picture of persecution in China remains unknown.
In the April issue of Lausanne World Pulse, a report written by the president of the well-known Christian persecution watchdog Open Doors International Carl Moeller, features on Chinese persecution. With the comments from China native Johnny Li, minister-at-large for Open Doors International, who has experience working with underground churches in Mainland, the clearer picture of missions in China is revealed.
The persecution in China varies a lot according to different province. "In some areas, house church Christians are left alone by local police and are able to sing at the top of their voices and build their own churches in defiance of formal legislation. In other areas, house church meeting are stopped and the church leaders are arrested, beaten and sometimes jailed," Carl wrote.
Carl has also quoted Li’s comments, "Whatever you hear about China regarding religious freedom or lack of freedom is probably true. It depends where you go. So many things in Beijing or in the big cities of China look just the same on the outside as they look in the United States. But in the rural areas, there is a lot of persecution in places hidden from view."
The international religious freedom report 2005 published by the U.S. Department of State also reported the similar phenomena. Prior to the new regulations that have become effective since March 2005, nearly all local RAB officials require Protestant churches to affiliate with the (Protestant) Three-Self Patriotic Movement/Chinese Christian Council. As the new regulations require religious groups to register places of worship, in a few regions, however, Protestant groups have registered without affiliating with the TSPM/CCC.
These exceptions include the Local Assemblies Protestant churches in Zhejiang Province, where no significant TSPM/CCC community exists, and the (Korean) Chaoyang Church in Jilin Province, both of which operate openly without affiliating with the TSPM/CCC. Additionally, the (Russian) Orthodox Church has been able to operate without affiliating with a government organization in a few parts of the country.
The inconsistency in the religious freedom situation in China has made the U.S. government keep monitoring China closely. While the U.S. has acknowledged the willingness of Chinese government to cooperate and make progress in the human rights issues, the U.S. State Department has designated China a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly severe violations of religious freedom.
China is ranked number nine on Open Doors’ World Watch List of countries where Christians are most severely persecuted.
"The Christian Church of China may not have as many martyrs as Colombia, face as many restrictions as Christians in Saudi Arabia or fight as many extremist mobs as their brothers and sisters in Indonesia, but the sixty to eighty million Christians in China remain the world's largest single persecuted community today," Carl lamented.
Nevertheless, under the severe persecution by the government, Chinese churches have experienced tremendous growth over the years. One new believer in China recently said to Li, "What would happen if I never had the opportunity to hear about this living God? We have nothing here. If we have no Jesus, we will become the worst of the worst in this world." Open Doors International urges all Christians seek to help millions of others in China hear the Word of God.