"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."