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Report: Chinese expand persecution tactics
John Evans & Art Toalston, Baptist Press
April 05, 2011
6 MIN READ TIME

Report: Chinese expand persecution tactics

Report: Chinese expand persecution tactics
John Evans & Art Toalston, Baptist Press
April 05, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Chinese

government intensified its pressure against Christians in 2010 for a “fifth

straight year of escalating persecution,” according to ChinaAid Association, a

Christian human rights organization based in Washington.

Beatings, torture, arrests, harassment and church demolitions are among the 90

recorded cases of persecution, a nearly 17 percent increase over 2009,

according to a report released March 31 by ChinaAid.

A photo shows the moment the cross at the Chengnan Three-Self Church was torn down when authorities in China’s Jiangsu province forcibly demolished the building on Nov. 19 of last year.

The cases “are just the tip of the iceberg,” according to a ChinaAid news

release. “The Chinese government’s stranglehold on information and the

authoritarian regime’s other security measures make getting a true picture of

the extent of persecution impossible.

Nevertheless, the fact that the

documented incidences of persecution came from all parts of China and involved

people from all levels of society makes the report a useful guide.”

The report suggested the increase in persecution may have been triggered by the

awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiabao and the

thwarted attendance by more than 200 delegates from Chinese house churches at

the Lausanne Congress on Global Evangelization in South Africa.

The report stated that Chinese authorities, in addition to continuing to target

house churches and their leaders in urban areas, are adopting three additional

tactics of persecution:

  • The government is severely cracking down on Christian human rights lawyers,

    who have increasingly defended persecuted Christians in the country’s court

    system. More than two-thirds of persecution cases in Beijing involved such

    lawyers, who are subjected to harassment, beating and abduction.

  • While the government is decreasing official prison sentences against

    Christians who can defend themselves against such measures in the legal system,

    mafia-type violence and intimidation (some people have simply disappeared) is

    being used, which leaves Christians no legal recourse.

  • The government is punishing Three-Self Patriotic Movement Churches (official

    churches) that have failed to submit to its complete control. Congregants are

    beaten, churches forced to disband, and some buildings torn down.

The report documented 3,343 people who were persecuted in 2010, a nearly 14

percent increase from 2009. Detentions increased by 43 percent, and 336 house

church leaders were persecuted. Overall, the report said persecution was more

than 193 percent worse in 2010 than 2006.

Concerning the three new tactics of persecution, the ChinaAid report noted:

  • “Full-scale suppression of Christian human rights lawyers groups: In 2005,

    Dr. Fan Yafeng, a Christian constitutional law scholar, launched a movement

    within the church to use legal means to protect citizens’ rights, a model based

    on the principle of non-violence and in accordance with the actual political

    and legal situation in China. In the years since, working in partnership with

    Li Subin, Li Baiguang, Zhang Kai, Gao Zhisheng, Jiang Tianyong, Li Fangping and

    other prominent Christian lawyers and legal professionals, he established

    Christian Human Rights Lawyers of China, an unstructured non-governmental

    organization. From its original single mission of defending the rights of the

    church, the group’s legal rights defense work has gradually expanded to

    defending the rights of other citizens and groups, including other persecuted

    religious groups and individuals, rights defense of petitioners, peasants who

    have lost their land, victims of the compulsory family planning policy who try

    to defend their rights, etc. In 2009, the government severely cracked down on a

    number of large house churches and sentenced a group of influential house

    church leaders to long prison terms. During this process Christian Human Rights

    Lawyers of China publicly participated in many major cases (Linfen Church in

    Shanxi, Alimujiang in Xinjiang), thus greatly raising the church’s awareness of

    rights defense through legal means. In the meantime, the model of the church

    defending its rights spread rapidly to the rest of the country and reached its

    climax in the latter half of 2010. Also in the latter half of 2010, the

    government began to severely crack down on the members of Christian Human

    Rights Lawyers of China in a full-scale campaign, and the focus of their

    persecution was Dr. Fan Yafeng.

  • “Abuse, torture and mafia tactics: As a result of the vigorous rights defense

    movement activities of Dr. Fan Yafeng and Christian Human Rights Lawyers of

    China in effectively using the existing legal system in China, some local

    governments were forced to appear in court and hold dialogs with persecuted

    Christians or non-Christians. This greatly increased the cost to the government

    of its persecution activities and in some cases resulted in the failure of the

    persecution. Therefore, beginning in the latter half of 2010, the government

    began to circumvent regular legal means and instead began to allow law

    enforcement officers to wreak physical and mental havoc on the targets of their

    persecution rather than punishing them through legal and accepted methods. In

    December 2010, Dr. Fan Yafeng was tortured during his nine-day detention. What

    is worrying is that, judging from the cases in the first three months of 2011,

    such persecution tactics are being promoted.

  • “Severe crackdown on Three-Self Patriotic Movement churches that do not

    accept government control: 2010 was also a year of persecution of Three-Self

    churches. This is a special phenomenon and it signifies that it is not just the

    house churches but the whole of Christianity that the government regards as a

    threat. Any Three-Self church that dares to adhere to true Christian belief and

    is not willing to be controlled by the government will be the victim of a

    severe crackdown sooner or later. These persecuted churches are all large

    churches led by pastors who adhere to the principles of the faith. The

    persecution methods are severe and include beatings, abuse, and forced

    demolition of church buildings. Of course, as a result of the persecution, the

    reputation of these churches is being turned around, and more house churches

    and Three-Self churches are coming together, to help each other and to face

    persecution together. For example, Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese

    House Church Alliance, made a number of trips in 2010 to the Chengnan

    Three-Self Church in Tinghu district, Yancheng, Jiangsu province where he

    encouraged the clergy and believers and also provided help.”

The report, titled “2010 Annual Report: Chinese Government Persecution of

Christians & Churches in Mainland China, January-December 2010,” can be

accessed at http://bit.ly/fEZTHv.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Evans is a freelance writer in Birmingham, Ala.; Toalston is

editor of Baptist Press.)

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