Friday, December 21, 2007

Police target Christmas services to arrest believers:'International community should be concerned about increased persecution' in China

Dozens of Christians have been questioned, arrested, jailed or beaten in a series of attacks on house church Christmas programs as China tries to wipe out "subversive" or "reactionary" forces before the 2008 Olympics, according to China Aid Association.The organization has released a list of the most recent assaults on Christians, including the detention in Henan province of Pastor Liang Qi Zhen, vice president of the Chinese House Church Alliance."After disbursing Liang's congregation, police officials took him by force and transported him to an undisclosed location where he was tortured for several hours. Liang's ears and right hand were injured during the lengthy assault," said the organization, which seeks to be a window into China so the world can "witness the oppression, imprisonment and torture of Christians…"The organization also said of the 270 protestant pastors arrested in Shandong province recently for participating in the Bible study, only 200 have been released and 70 remain in custody.In Jiangsu province, a house church was attacked by police officials during members' Christmas celebration, and four women were "detained," including one who was hospitalized, the group said. In Yunan province, members of the Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs raided a house church meeting and arrested several people, including the woman who rented the property. They burned hundreds of Christian books and ordered the landlord to stop renting to the woman, CAA said.House church members are labeled by authorities as "cultists" because they do not belong to the state-sanctioned official church organizations, and frequently face a year in labor camps when arrested, the group said."To arbitrarily arrest peaceful Christians for celebrating Christmas shows how much religious freedom Chinese people have," said Bob Fu, president of China Aid. "The international community should be concerned for the increasing religious persecution in China in recent months, especially in light of the Beijing Olympics just a few months away."There have been multiple reports from human rights advocates and Christian ministries that repression of Christianity by the Chinese government is intensifying in the lead-up to the Games.Those reports include the recent arrest of Shi Weihan, 37, who runs a Christian bookshop near the Olympic Village. Compass Direct has reported his bookshop has sold no other books but those given government permission, but he, his wife and several employees recently were arrested.Writer Graeme Philipson, in Melbourne, Australia, noted that, "China will use the 2008 Olympic Games to market itself to the world. All countries do this, but the Chinese example will look more like Berlin 1936 than Sydney 2000.""Visitors to China next year will see the new stadiums and the expressways and skyscrapers and apartment complexes. They will probably even be able to access their hometown newspapers on the web," Philipson continued. "They will probably not stop to think that the 1936 Olympics were followed by the most vicious repression the world has ever seen."Radio Australia reported earlier that China's Vice Prime Minister, Li Langing, said winning the 2008 Games proved the international community appreciated the social stability in China and that justifies China's fight against "cults."The crackdowns have prompted Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, to write Chinese Communist Party leader President Hu Jintao pleading that he would listen to the victims of persecution.The pastor asks the Communist leader "to seriously consider the misery of the common people and urge the officials subordinate to you to stop persecuting Christians and implement their promises in the Constitution on religious freedom … just as you said, we can have a harmonious society when we build it on the foundations of love, friendship, fairness and justice.""We sincerely pray to the Lord to punish the evil and promote the good so that the common people can receive blessings and that China will have real religious freedom. I believe this is also the wish of President Hu," the letter said.However, CAA also has revealed a confidential document issued in July by a local Communist Party branch that reveals "that the central government has directed a national campaign specifically against unregistered Christian house churches."The document apparently was formulated by the nation's Department of United Front of District Committee, District Bureau for Religious Affairs of Ethnic Minorities and Duodao Branch of Public Security Bureau.The purpose, the document said, is to "fight against infiltration activities by hostile overseas forces under the guise of Christianity and safeguard the stability in our society and in the religious arena."The plan seeks a socialized mechanism "of management of religious affairs" by having government-sanctioned churches cooperate with police in their plans."As for the self-appointed missionaries (house church leaders), the document urges authorities to 'tackle the problem in three ways: education and stop, order them to stop their activities and crack down on their activities according to law,'" China Aid said.Leaders "should be investigated and due penalties rendered," the document said."All their illegally acquired income shall be confiscated."Finally, the document advocated secrecy."We should only perform the special administration, but not talk about it. Without approval from the district's leading team for the special administration, no agencies in all the areas shall disclose the information in this document to any media. All the documents for the special administration are classified as 'confidential' and must be printed in serial numbers. After the documents are used, they shall be stored at a confidential room and their content must not be disclosed," China Aid reported the document said."This campaign is another clear example of absolute violation of the relevant international human rights covenants and China's own Constitution on protection of citizen's religious freedom," said Fu, "We urge the Chinese government to stop this kind of illegal secret practice if China intends to be a true respected responsible stakeholder in the international community."Fu, who escaped from China after being imprisoned for teaching Bible classes and now runs China Aid to help persecuted Christians, also has confirmed China will target 43 types of people with investigations – and possibly bans – when the 2008 Olympics are held in Beijing.
And those targeted will include "religious infiltrators," employees of media organizations, those tied to "illegal" religious organizations and others, the report said.That comes from a "secretly issued" notice from China's Ministry of Public Security that went to security officials and departments throughout the nation."CAA learned from reliable internal Chinese government sources that in April of 2007, the Ministry of Public Security of the Chinese government issued a general nation-wide order, requiring strict examinations on all people both in China and overseas who will participate in the Olympic Games," the organization said. "These include members of the Olympic Committee, athletes, media and sponsors. With this, they also provide a list of 43 types of people in 11 categories to be barred from attending the Olympic Games."The document, a "Notice on Strict Background Check on Applicants for the Olympic Games and the Test Events," targets those who are considered "antagonistic elements," followers of Falun Gong and other "cults," as well as "religious extremists and religious infiltrators."The report, China Aid Association said, breaks down the categories to identify and target "frequent traffic violators in running red lights and j-walking," anyone who has had "close contact" with anyone considered suspect in "counter-revolutionary activities or other crimes of endangering the security of the state," anyone who belongs to an independent house church in China, which are identified as "illegal religious organizations" and those who have given "illegal sermons."Also targeted and banned will be "people who illegally distribute religious publications and video-audio materials" and "people who have illegally established both in China and abroad religious organizations, institutions, schools, sermon sites and other religious entities."

As in the days of Noah....

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