Following a series of crackdown at Christmas on Christians in China, a Christian persecution watchdog says persecution will continue in the New Year.
"From the policy level and also in individual cases' analysis, I don't think there'll be any improvement [in 2006]," said Bob Fu, the chairman of the U.S.-based China Aid Association (CAA), according to Cybercast News Service (CNS).
Fu added that conditions for Christians in China have actually deteriorated in 2005 and he expected the trend to continue.
Most recently, the CAA has unveiled a series of crackdowns on the Christmas gatherings of underground churches in some province in China.
In the remote northwestern Xinjiang territory, eyewitness report obtained by CAA said around 200 hundred police and religious affairs officials raided a Christmas gathering of 210 underground Christians. 12 leaders were arrested for holding “illegal religious gathering.”
Seven of them were released at midnight, but the remaining five were still under arrest as of Wednesday.
According to CNS, Fu also reported the disruption on a Christmas gathering held at a Roman Catholic Church in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province.
Even in the Chinese capital Beijing, Fu said a pastor was interrogated ahead of a large Protestant gathering and told to restrict numbers to 100. The pastor went ahead with the gathering despite of harassment. However, about 2,000 members of the congregation were questioned in the following days.
Under the Religious Law in China, all the religious groups are required to register their places of worship. Spiritual activities in places of worship that have not registered may be considered illegal and participants can be punished.
Many Protestant and Catholic churches have preferred to stay unregistered and risked punishment because they are unable to compromise with certain theological concept of the government sanctioned churches that they consider problematic.
China is again designated as one of the "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPCs) for its violation of religious freedom by the U.S. Department of State in 2005. International leaders and human rights groups have repeatedly criticized on the poor human rights record of China, yet the Chinese government has refused to accept the criticism.
According to CNS, while some believe that attention from abroad could make matters worse for Christians on the ground, Fu disagrees with the notion.
"The more of the world that pays attention to this very serious problem, the better," he was quoted by CNS.
"Now we should make our voice heard - let the Chinese government know that we know. It will make a difference."