Authorities in China's southern Yunnan province have detained a Christian woman for doing ministry work and accused her of "using an evil cult to undermine law enforcement" as persecution of believers in the country continues to rise.
Persecution watchdog China Aid reports that Tu Yan, a Christian originally from Hunan province, was doing ministry work in Dali, Yunan on Oct. 22, 2016, when officers from the public security bureau arrested her and four other Christians, including her boss. Though three of those detained were released on bail, Tu Yan's case has instead been transferred to the procuratorate for further investigation.
In February, Ren Quanniu, Tu's lawyer, told the organization that last month, he had visited the public security bureau with Tu's father and sister, requesting she be released on bail. Though they were told the officers would respond at a later date, they have still received no answer, nearly a month later.
Despite Tu's insistence that she is a Christian, the public security bureau claimed she was a member of the cult organization "Three Classes of Servants".
In recent years, President Xi Jinping has tightened government control over religious activity in the country. In its most recent World Watch List documenting Christian persecution throughout the world, watchdog Open Doors placed China among the worst offenders against religious freedom in the world.
"As Christians are the largest social force in China not controlled by the Communist Party," Open Doors noted in its 2017 report, "there are increasing efforts to bring them under state control."
According to Asianews, authorities recently arrested four missionaries and deported at least 32 more as part of the ongoing crackdown against Christians. The missionaries had been working in the northeast Yanji region of the country for decades, providing assistance to fugitives fleeing North Korea.
The outlet notes that while missionary work from the foreigners is illegal in China, evangelism from South Korean missionaries has been overlooked on the grounds that these missionaries prove humanitarian service.
Despite such persecution, Pope Francis has defended China's practice of religious liberty and said he would love to visit China "as soon as they invite me."
"In China the churches are full," Francis insisted. "You can practice your faith in China."
According to Breitbart, the pontiff said that the Vatican is engaged in ongoing dialogue with China and that a commission has been set up that meets every three months, with Beijing and the Vatican alternating as hosts of the encounter.