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Chinese pastor arrested for 'advocating terrorism' in unprecedented case

by Heather Preston
Zhao Weikai credit csw thumb.jpg - Banner image

The leader of an unregistered church in China has been formally arrested on charges of "unlawfully possessing items that advocate terrorism or extremism." 

It's thought to be the first such case involving a church leader in the country.

Mr Zhao Weikai, who is a leader of Xuncheng Reformed Church in Taiyuan, in north China, received notification of his arrest on 20 July, following a raid of his home in May in which local police officers confiscated computer equipment and books. 

Mr Zhao was then placed in detention.

The pastor and his wife claim they have received repeated harassment by the authorities after removing their children from state education.

According to religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), an increasing number of Christians in China are concerned about sending their children to government run schools because they "promote atheism" and teach "that religion is evil." 

CSW Advocacy officer Jane told Premier that if these charges do relate to the Weikai family's decision to homeschool, this could set a "worrying" precedent.

"Many Christians who have chosen to home school are coming under huge pressure by the authorities for their children to be put into government schools. Numerous schools affiliated with churches have also been shut down," she added.

Jane says Mr Zhao's case also marks an escalation in the measures being used against the wider Church in China.

"We've seen an increase in pressure on state sanctioned registered churches by authorities to demonstrate their loyalty to the ruling party by singing pro-communist songs in their services, raising the national flag and sometimes removing religious symbols from their churches.

"At the same time, we are seeing a huge pressure on the unregistered independent churches to close down completely. We're seeing church leaders being threatened regularly, interrogated by security agents and police because of their religious activities."

The detention centre where Mr Zhao is being held has turned down his lawyers' request for a meeting with him on the grounds that the case involved suspicion of 'endangering national security.'

CSW is calling on the Chinese government to uphold and respect the right to freedom of religion or belief and "stop the practice of using false charges to target leaders and members of religious communities."

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