As a part of a larger crackdown on sundry "cults," the Chinese government is persecuting underground house churches. The repression includes dangling prisoners from the ceiling in cruel positions, reports British advocacy organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

In some cases, weights are attached to those hanging to increase the pain. Authorities have beaten other Chinese believers with batons and poles, Chinese Christians told CSW. One said detainees (not necessarily Christian) were tied onto crosses and leaned at an angle against the wall for as long as a day, causing horrific strain on internal organs.

Chinese authorities lump unregistered evangelical and Catholic churches with various superstitious cults targeted in the crackdown, CSW says. Government officials apply no objective or consistent criteria to determine what constitutes a cult, and local corruption, poor education, and refusal to allow independent registration perpetuate abuses, according to CSW.

Authorities use many forms of torture, from beatings and crucifixion to prolonged exposure to the elements. Four guards who heard a man calling out the name of Jesus repeatedly threw him to the ground until he died.

Arrests have increased, and hundreds of Christians suffer daily in labor-education camps in China, according to CSW. Some arrested and tortured believers are released only after they pay heavy fines. In some areas, fines are so crippling that church leaders, unable to support their families, are giving up their positions. Those suffering for their faith are often left destitute.

The government has stepped up a year-long campaign to demolish temples and churches as part of its effort to quell unofficial religions it fears will become as defiant as the Falun Gong meditation group, which staged large protests after it was outlawed as an "evil cult" last July. In the southeastern coastal area, local authorities have dynamited hundreds of temples and churches, according to Associated Press reports.

The government crackdown is also targeting unlicensed missionaries of various faiths, who are only allowed to preach in government-approved places of worship.

Suggested Action

Dr. Brent Fulton, president of the research organization China Source, says writing protest letters to Chinese authorities "plays into the government's hands," as it reinforces the official view that outside forces are using religion to subvert the government.

Instead, advocacy organizations recommend:

• Pray for the strengthening and release of Christians suffering for their faith.

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• Write local congressional representatives about your concern for Christians in China. As foreign-policy issues or bilateral talks with Chinese officials arise, representatives are likely to take action on behalf of persecuted peoples abroad if their constituents have voiced concern, says Jim Jacobson, a former congressional staffer who is now president of the advocacy group Christian Freedom International.

• Write to the White House to emphasize to the new administration the priority that religious freedom should have in bilateral talks with Chinese authorities.

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

• Write to the United Nations. The U.N. may not take action based on your protest, but such letters can influence talks between U.N. representatives regularly in contact with Chinese officials.

His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan
Secretary General
United Nations
United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017

• Visit the Web site of Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-Pa.), a longtime human-rights advocate, for more information, including addresses of prisoners with whom you can correspond (

Related Elsewhere

You can also contact your representative or senator online, as well as the White House.

Previous Christianity Today stories about China include:

House Churches May Be 'Harmful to Society' | But China's unofficial congregations resist "evil cult" label. (Jan. 25, 2001)

China's Religious Freedom Crackdown Extends to Foreigners | It is against the law for visitors to teach the Bible in China's house churches. (Nov. 13, 2000)

China's Smack Down | 53 Christian professors, students, and church-planters detained. (Sept. 11, 2000)

House Approves Divisive U.S.-China Trade Pact | But will permanent normal trade relations status help human rights? (May 25, 2000)

China Should Improve on Religion to Gain Permanent Trade Status, Commission Says | Religious liberty in Sudan and Russia also criticized. (May 8, 2000)

China's Three Self Churches, Seminaries Bursting | Younger Chinese drastically changing congregational demographics. (Dec. 29, 2000)

A Tale of China's Two Churches | Eyewitness reports of repression and revival. (July 13, 1998)

More on religious freedom worldwide is available in Christianity Today's persecution area.

The U.S. State Department's reports on religious freedom and human rights in China also offer insight into the government imposed religious repression the people of China are experiencing.

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