China's Christian Crackdown
"China's image as a global power, which it hoped to burnish by hosting the Olympic Games, was tarnished by its continued repression of unsanctioned and ethnic minority religious groups and other human rights advocates," says Scott Flipse, director of East Asia & Pacific programs at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
China Aid Association reports that while imprisonments dropped in 2007, the number of arrests went up by 6.6 percent. The group says authorities arrested 693 Protestants for affiliating with unregistered churches. More than three dozen received prison sentences of more than one year.
The 2007 incidents were relatively consistent with China's human rights record, says Flipse. But upcoming analysis of 2008 is likely to show a spike in rights violations, he says. Watchdog groups such as China Aid Association, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and Compass Direct expected a crackdown on house churches in October. Flipse said, "Unsanctioned religious groups, human rights lawyers, democracy and labor advocates, land petitioners, and independent journalists can expect to remain targets of repression from a government that fears them as 'undesirable social elements.'"
Among the incidents from last summer:
- Authorities removed human rights defense lawyers from Beijing before a scheduled meeting with members of the U.S. Congress.
- Officials in Henan arrested seven members of a house church and interrogated them to find out who had been designated to take donation money to a disaster area. Later this summer, they arrested two Protestants who were trying to do earthquake relief work and charged them with "religious inciting."
- Gansu Province police arrested two house-church pianists, accusing them of "engaging in cult activities and undermining public security."
Even though an October crackdown doesn't seem to have happened, 2008 has been a year of intensified action against unregistered churches and their leaders. The map, with data compiled by Flipse, shows verified arrests of Chinese Christians in the months before the 2008 Summer Olympics.
- August 25, 2008 | Zhengding, Hebei
Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo was arrested for violating the terms of his house arrest by resuming administrative duties in his parish. It was the twelfth time Bishop Jia had been arrested. He was released on September 18 and is not allowed visitors.
- August 8, 2008 | The Olympic Games begin in Beijing.
- July 14, 2008 | Jining, Shandong
Lian Dehai was taken by police and put in criminal detention.
- July 8, 2008 | Fanzhi, Taiyuan, Shanxi
A Catholic priest and two laypeople were beaten by a mob when the three were investigating building crews on land that had been confiscated from their church.
- July 6, 2008 | Beijing
Pastor "Bike" Zhang Mingxuan and his wife, Xie Fenglan, were forced to live on the streets, arrested, and severely interrogated. The officials said they pursued them "because Bike Zhang met the Americans, and destroyed the harmony of the Beijing Olympic Games."
- July 4, 2008 | Jining, Shandong
Zhang Zhongxin was accused of cult participation for missionary work in Tibet and other places. He was immediately sentenced and sent to two years of re-education through labor.
- July 2, 2008 | Beijing, Chongwen District
House church pastor Hua Huiqi, his father, his wife, and his brother were forcibly evicted from their apartment and beaten.
- July 2, 2008 | Hegang, Heilongjiang
Two female church members were taken to the police station and threatened with arrest if they ever attended church again. On the same day, house church missionary Jiao Chunbao was also forcibly taken to a police station and threatened.