In a recent report listing the 50 worst Christian persecutors, China dropped a rank but is still within the top ten.
China was ranked tenth on the list by Open Doors, the world’s longest-running persecution monitor group. This is a drop compared to China’s ninth-place ranking in 2005 and 2004. At the start of the millennium, China was ranked third on the list.
Though the mainland government has shown great strides in promoting the growth and establishments of churches and seminaries, individual reports of suppression have raised questions on the nature of the nation’s policy on religious freedom.
Under the current religious policy, in effect since Mar. last year, Chinese citizens are guaranteed constitutional religious protection. However, religious institutions are required to register with the government, accept supervision of the government’s religious affairs department, and report their income and expenditures.
Though the government recognizes Catholicism and Protestantism as legitimate belief systems, Christian groups refusing to register are subjected to arrests and harassment by members of the government’s Public Security Bureau. These groups are often referred to as house churches; since they are often meet in private homes to escape the scrutiny of the police.
Some house churches have attempted to register, but with no success, as the government often perceive such groups as fundamentalist whom do not fit its “doctrinal or liturgical guidelines.” Chinese Methodists, Anglicans and Lutherans are often included in this list of undesirables.
Three weeks earlier, two Catholic priests – Father Lu Genjun, age 44, and Father Guo Yanli, age 39 – were arrested at the Baoding train station while waiting for a friend. The current situation of the two remains unknown at this moment.
"One of the concerns that we have in China, is that the Communist government has learned that one of the most effective tactics they have of disarming public opinion, is to charge church leaders with some heinous crime,” says Glenn Penner, spokesman for Voice of Martyrs Canada.
There is, however, some hope that China’s attitude on religion may change in the next few years. According to Asia News, though the central committee of the government has prohibited Communist party members from associating with religious groups, one-third of its members belong to some type of religious organization, while an estimated ten million engage in religious activity.
Nonetheless, in light of recent crackdowns, including the Tuesday mass-arrest of 36 Bible teachers and students in Anhui province has led some to cast doubts on the openness of the Chinese government towards Christianity.
This year's Open Doors list ranks North Korea as the number persecutor of Christians in the World. Saudi Arabia takes the second place, while Iran takes third. Rank 4-9 respectively goes to Somalia, Maldives, Bhutan, Vietnam, Yemen and Laos. China is ranked number 10 of the top 10. Each year, Open Doors International compiles a list of the top 50 persecutors of Christians in the world.