Fines for Worship, Prison for Bible Study in China

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Amid increasing attempts to suppress
religious activities, Chinese authorities have
detained, fined, and imprisoned Christians for
public worship, buying and selling
devotionals, and group Bible study.
In late April, a court in Xinjiang convicted
five Protestants who attended a Bible study
in 2016, charging them with “gathering a
crowd to disrupt social order,” Asia News
reported.

The verdict came with five-year
prison sentences for two pastors, and four-
and three-year sentences for three others.
They plan to appeal.
Earlier in April, authorities raided a Christian
concert and arrested those attending.
Taiwanese Pastor Xu Rongzhang was singing
“Jesus Loves You” when the raid took place,
China Aid reported. Before releasing them,
officials forced the Christians to say they
would not organize large gatherings again
and told Xu not to hold any meetings of
more than 10 people.
A Chinese court also recently convicted
prominent Christian human rights lawyer Li
Heping on charges of subverting state
power. Judges sentenced Li to three years in
prison but suspended the sentence for four
years. If he does not reoffend during that
time, Li will stay out of prison.
Since 1997, Li has defended dissidents,
victims of forced evictions, and members of
the banned Falun Gong religious group.
Officials detained him and nearly 250 others
in 2015, in what Amnesty International
condemned as a nationwide crackdown
against human rights lawyers and activists.
Amnesty said the Communist Party’s official
newspaper described it as an attempt to
destroy a “major criminal gang.”
Several of those lawyers and activists
remain in detention, even though Western
governments urged Beijing to release them.
Earlier this year, officials in Xinjiang targeted
a network of Christian house churches and
arrested more than 80 people. They fined
and later released them, according to China
Aid.
All these incidents illustrate the worsening
persecution of Christians under President Xi
Jinping’s crackdown on religious activity and
human rights. Critics say he wants to
eradicate any potential opposition to the
ruling Communist Party.
Because religious freedom in China
continued to erode in 2016, the U.S.
Commission on International Religious
Freedom (USCIRF) called on the U.S. State
Department to keep China listed as a
country of particular concern in its recently
released 2017 report.
USCIRF reported China’s government revised
regulations to more tightly control religious
groups, increased penalties against “illegal”
Christian churches and activities, and
formally prohibited any religion from harming
“national security” concerns.
A campaign to remove crosses from
churches has continued, and officials
targeted and imprisoned Christians who
spoke out against it, including Pastor Bao
Guohua and his wife, Xing Wenxiang. Not
even members of state-sponsored churches
were safe from persecution.
China also continues to suppress other
religious groups, including Uighur Muslims,
Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong, while
continuing to forcibly repatriate North Korean
refugees, according to USCIRF.
“It is crucial that the U.S. government not
only integrate human rights messaging—
including on freedom of religion or belief—
across its interactions with China, but also
consistently make clear that it opposes
Beijing’s overt violations of international
human rights standards,” USCIRF said in its
report.
From Christian Headline

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