Protestants, Singled Out In A Crackdown Order

Feb 04, 2003 01:15 PM EST

South China - A group of religious activists claimed that police were ordered to isolate unofficial Christian groups in Baoding city, Hebei province, and spy on people worshipping at their churches.

The New York-based Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China qouted a classified document issued by the Public Security Bureau in Baoding city in August last year that police had been instructed to separate activities by the officially-sanctioned Protestant Church and other groups. The order was a proof that Chinese government was wary about Protestants who violated the authorities.

In a document entitled "Work Plan on Terminating Illegal Christian Activities," it recommends all officers in Baoding city to heighten their vigilance against "illegal Christians" between August and October last year.

In addition to a specific action plan for the three-month period, the document also laid down guidelines towards Protestant groups deemed a threat to the authorities.

The crackdown focused on finding out everything about illegal Christians, bringing organisers of illegal activities and independent missionaries to justice, and shutting down venues used by the illegal Christians.

The term "independent missionaries" apparently refers to evangelists who work independently from any churches.

The document also declared that the city must strive effectively to halt the emergence of illegal activities by Protestants. This clearly singled out Protestant groups as targets for control. It also urged the officers to do a "thorough and extensive" job in "unearthing every detail of illegal activities by Protestants . . . and put all information in dossiers".

The document was most critical about "cults working under the cloak of Protestants" and ordered officers to crack down on these groups "swiftly and without mercy".

The government controls Christian worship through its officially sanctioned Catholic and Protestant churches. Critics say Christians who worship outside these channels are often subject to harassment and even persecution by officials.

By Y.Hilado, ChToday Philippines