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China vandalizing churches in ongoing sinicization move

Police and authorities in Henan, China, raided a Christian church at the break of dawn on Sept 5. Church crosses were removed and Christian slogan on the walls were erased. (Photo courtesy: VOA)
Police and authorities in Henan, China, raided a Christian church at the break of dawn on Sept 5. Church crosses were removed and Christian slogan on the walls were erased. (Photo courtesy: VOA)

(TibetanReview.net, Sep11, 2018) – China is persecuting not just Muslims in Xinjiang and Buddhists in Tibet with an emergency-like urgency but also Christians on the mainland who do not subscribe to the government-approved church body. Ratcheting up a crackdown on Christian congregations in Beijing and several provinces, the government of China has been destroying crosses, burning bibles, shutting churches and ordering followers to sign papers renouncing their faith, reported the AP Sep 10, citing pastors and a group that monitors religion in China.

The current religious persecution in China is being carried out under a drive to “Sinicize” religion by demanding loyalty to the officially atheist Communist Party and eliminating any challenge to its power over people’s lives. According to a 2012 Gallup poll, 77 percent of Chinese are either atheists (47 percent) or non-religious (30 percent) while only 14 percent considered themselves religious.

The report cited Bob Fu of the US-based group China Aid as saying that the closure of churches in central Henan province and a prominent house church in Beijing in recent weeks represented a “significant escalation” of the crackdown.

The report cited experts and activists as saying that as he consolidates his power, President Xi Jinping was waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982.

The report cited a Christian pastor in the Henan city of Nanyang as saying crosses, bibles and furniture were burned during a raid on his church on Sep 5.

China’s law mandates that religious believers worship only in congregations registered with the authorities. However, many millions belong to so-called underground or house churches that defy government restrictions.

In Beijing, the Zion church, known as the largest house church in Beijing, with six branches, was shut on Sep 9 by around 60 government workers who arrived at 4:30 pm accompanied by buses, police cars and fire trucks, the church’s pastor, Ezra Jin Mingri, was cited as saying. The officials declared the gatherings illegal and sealed off church properties, after having already placed a freeze on the pastor’s personal assets.

The report noted that all of China’s officially recognized religions appeared to have been affected by the crackdown.

In the most extreme very recent example, an estimated 1 million Uyghurs in Xinjiang have been arbitrarily detained in indoctrination camps where they are forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the Communist Party.

The report noted that China currently had an estimated 38 million Protestants, with experts predicting that the country will have the world’s largest Christian population in a few decades.

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