Officials tear Christian mural from home, arrest pastor.
A leading campaigner has warned of a gathering storm for persecuted Christians in China. Release International partner, Bob Fu, says the persecution of Christians has worsened dramatically under President Xi Jinping, and is set to get worse now Xi has been declared president for life.
Bob Fu gave his warning at a Release International event in London, entitled Christian Persecution in China. He said:
‘Churches have been totally destroyed under President Xi’s rule. There is a new spiritual storm coming to the Chinese Church. It may even be worse than during the Cultural Revolution.’
President Xi has imposed tough new restrictions on religious freedom, which came into force on February 1. These are already beginning to bite.
The latest crackdown in March has been in Luoning County, where the authorities have banned preaching and gathering for worship and have been arresting Christians. Officials have smashed windows, torn religious murals from homes, removed crosses from churches, cut off electricity and confiscated property. They have even stationed security guards in private homes to prevent family prayers. ‘It feels like another Cultural Revolution,’ one Chinese Christian remarked.
‘Since February, even organising a prayer meeting in your home is totally forbidden,’ said Bob Fu. ‘If you disobey, your home will be subject to destruction and confiscation. According to the new regulations you cannot share religious messages with anyone under 18. And students, young people and Communist party members have been forbidden from entering churches.’
Persecution is likely to increase in the coming months and years, believes Fu, who has advised presidents Clinton and Obama on US relations with China. The signs are that the Communist party is tightening its grip on the nation under President Xi Jinping, who was proclaimed president for life in March by the National People’s Congress.
‘Expect to see more control. The word is Sinicisation, [this is the process of making more Chinese in character or form] which aims to bring the churches under the absolute control of the Communist party. Even registered churches are being forced to install face-recognition cameras and provide office space for Communist party members to monitor the church.’
‘Already we are seeing Christians labelled as belonging to ‘evil cults’, simply because they have been found reading books like Pilgrim’s Progress and Streams in the Desert,’ says Bob Fu.
One target of the Communist party is to curb the rapid growth of the Church. When the party took power in 1949 there were around a million Christians in China. By the 1980s, the Church had grown ten-fold, despite attempts to eradicate the faith during the Cultural Revolution. Today, the number of Chinese Christians is estimated at more than 100m. There are now more Christians than members of the Communist party in China, and that figure is set to more than double.
Says Bob Fu: ‘Sociologists estimate that by 2030, the number of Chinese Christians will reach at least 224m, even at the slowest projected rate of growth.’ This is the real reason for the clampdown, he believes.
According to Bob Fu, of Release partner ChinaAid, a leaked Communist party document reveals the tough new restrictions on the Church are to ‘contain the overheated growth of Christianity.’
Bob Fu, who now lives in exile in Texas, believes, ‘God is sovereignly reviving his church in China. The reason the church in the west is not currently experiencing revival is because there is less persecution.’
Release International CEO, Paul Robinson, who hosted the London event, said: ‘We are calling on the UK church to stand with their brothers and sisters in Christ by declaring ‘We will not abandon them!’
Release International is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Through its international network of missions, UK-based Release serves persecuted Christians by supporting pastors and Christian prisoners and their families, supplying Christian literature and Bibles, and working for justice.