Though the government of China maintains its stance on championing for religious freedom, major news network and human rights watchdogs have reported on cases involving a systematic crackdown on Chinese Christians all over the country. According to these reports, Christian persecution has risen sharply especially during the Christmas season.
According to a AFP (Assoc. French Press) press release, several Chinese Christians were allegedly placed under house arrest by police. Apparently, the individuals had been passing out gospel leaflets when they were cited by the police, and promptly barred from leaving their homes. This incident reportedly occurred from December 12 – 21 in Beijing’s Sanyuanqiao district.
The individuals involved had wanted to celebrate Christmas at a restaurant, only to find policemen guarding their doors. “The police did not allow Qi Zhiyong and Zhang Qianjin to leave their homes. They also forced the landlord not to let us use the place, so the activity was canceled,” Hua Huiqi said to AFP affiliates. Hua had been amongst those confined in their homes during the celebrations. Other individuals involved have since then confirmed Hua’s allegations. “Last night, police [indeed] refused to let me go out," Qi said from his home, this Saturday. Thus far, government sources have remained silent over this issue.
Several human rights organizations have also reported similar crackdowns. On Christmas Eve, policemen reportedly disrupted Christmas mass at an underground Catholic church in Eastern China. In the process, the police also arrested the church’s priest. According to sources from the Hong Kong-based Center for Human Rights and Democracy, armed policemen burst into the church scattering the two thousands attending worshippers. In the ensuing chaos that followed, policemen destroyed the stage, seats, main gate, and pulpit.
As of late, the government only acknowledges registered churches – classifying unregistered churches as cults or sects. Nonetheless, many individual Christian churches choose not to register due to having to adhere to strict government regulations. Church activities such as evangelism and preaching to minors is strictly prohibited.
In the following week, the government has passed new laws promising to protect “religious freedom” amongst registered religious organizations. The laws make no mention of protecting unregistered churches.
Many human-rights groups now fear the government will step up suppression efforts under the pretense of protecting “religious freedom.”