A new report from persecution watchdog ChinaAid has revealed that a total of 20,000 Chinese Christians suffered religious persecution in 2015 as the Communist government continues its campaign seeking to stunt the growth of Christianity in the country. However, Christianity continues to grow at a dramatic rate.
"In 2015, ChinaAid documented 634 cases of persecution in which 19,426 religious practitioners were persecuted, representing an 8.62 percent increase from 2014's 17,884 religious practitioners persecuted," read a statement in the "2015 Annual Report Chinese Government Persecution of Christians and Churches in China" conducted by ChinaAid.
The report reveals that Christians have particularly been targeted in China's "Three Rectification and One Demolition" beautification campaign, which has seen the demolition of at least 1,200 crosses and numerous places of worship in the past couple of years. Earlier this year, the demolition of one church led to the death of a pastor's' wife in in Zhumadian, Henan province.
Hundreds of Christians, including pastors, lawyers, and activists, have been arrested for speaking out against the ongoing persecution, and many of them are still detained.
The report also pointed out that aside from Christians, Tibetan Buddhists and Muslims "likely experienced even more intense government persecution" by the atheistic Chinese government.
ChinaAid, which has been monitoring the development of religious freedom in China since 2002, notes that Christianity in the Communist country continues to grow despite ongoing persecution.
"Christians fasted, prayed and organized protests, and the steadfast response of these churches spread to other places, producing widespread public opposition to the government's brutal cross demolitions," it explained.
"These included large-scale fasting and praying by Christians everywhere, believers tying themselves to crosses, street protests of Christians holding small wooden crosses, church members re-erecting downed crosses, and even Christians physically fighting the government's cross demolition efforts."
In addition, the faith of many church members was strengthened by the victories of human rights lawyers who took to court Christian cases in the form of civil law, administrative law, and property rights law, the report notes.
Because of this, ChinaAid is optimistic that the Christian faith will eventually overcome all obstacles.
"Despite the worsening situation of religious freedom in China in the last decade, China Aid sees great hope in the fast growth of the house church movement across China and firmly believes that God's love and justice will eventually cover the vast expanse of this nation," concludes the report.
Another persecution watchdog, Open Doors USA, has placed the country at 33rd on its World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution.
In April, retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong called on Beijing to end the persecution of Christians and allow religious freedom, insisting that those who keep silent about such matters are guilty of being "accomplices."
"Facing all this persecution, we cannot take it for granted. We cannot stand idly. If we keep silent, we are accomplices," he said.