An expert on Chinese human rights violations, in particular religious freedom, reported on Tuesday that the communist government continues to persecute unregistered house churches, but has modified its strategies.
In the China Aid Association’s first Annual Report on Persecution of Chinese House Churches by Province, the organization’s president, Bob Fu informed that incidents of raids on house churches has decreased in 2006 compared to previous years. CAA’s sources accounted for government detention of over 600 Christians in 2006, down from more than 2,000 reported arrests in 2005.
However, the figure reflects a change in the government’s tactics more than a direct decrease in persecution.
According to the report, Public Security officials interrogate church members during a raid rather than officially arresting them. Most of the reported arrests in 2006 were church leaders.
“Given the population of geographical size of China as well as the desire of Public Security Officials to keep such arrests hidden from the outside world, it would be impossible to measure the exact number that have occurred,” said Fu in a statement released Tuesday.
In comparison, though, 2006 saw the closures and demolition of more house churches than in 2005. Three house churches – including a mega-house church where some 10,000 Christians were praying during the invasion - were destroyed in Zhejiang province in 2006.
The report also pointed out the new trend of targeting house church leaders with criminal accusations, according to the CAA report. Well-known house church pastors are convicted of illegal business practices for printing and distributing Bibles and Christian literatures. Other leaders are charged with inciting subversion and threatening national security.
Zhejiang and Henan provinces, where the protestant house church movement is strong, suffered from the worst persecution, according to the report. From January to December 2006, 246 pastors and believers were arrested in nine raids, ten leaders sentenced to imprisonment, three churches destroyed, and many reports of abuse during detention.
“Zhejiang and Henan province should be put on notice having the worst religious persecution record,” said Fu. “It is morally imperative for any conscientious foreign investors in Henan and Zhejiang to address this serious issue.”
The CAA president will testify before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on the condition of in China on Wednesday.