A new set of rules imposed on a village in China's Yunnan province seek to prohibit conversion to Christianity.
A notice posted in Huang Fei village, Yingjiang County, warns that anyone who chooses to follow the Christian faith, which it calls an “evil cult," can expect to face significant financial penalties.
Human rights organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which has seen a copy of the notice, says that it threatens to punish anyone who is caught “believing in Jesus Christ and other sects" by imposing on them a considerable fine," which may include the confiscation of livestock.
One source told CSW: "This is not only the case in this village, but also in many other Dai villages in the surrounding area, including Ruili, although some rules are written down and some are unwritten.”
In addition to the developments in Huang Fei, CSW reports that the Li community in Hainan province has also introduced ‘village rules’ that permit villagers to isolate and target Christian individuals and families, including with financial penalties.
While these two incidents appear unrelated, CSW notes that "there is some concern that this recent spike in targeting Christians in ethnic minority villages in both provinces may indicate a form of unified arrangement on behalf of provincial authorities."
CSW’s founder Mervyn Thomas said: “Any prohibition against conversion is a violation of the right to freedom of religion or belief as set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which specifically protects the right to change ones religion or belief. We call on the international community to take note of this new trend of violations in China and to raise these and other human rights violations with the Chinese government in bilateral and multilateral dialogues.
"We also urge the Chinese Government to protect the right of all people in China to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”