A group of Christians imprisoned since last summer by China’s Communist regime for organising church activities have been released on bail. Authorities in China's southwestern Yunnan Province announced the decision earlier this week, regarding five believers being held in the Nujiang Lisu area.
Religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) welcomed their release, but called for the outstanding charges to be dismissed. CSW’s Founder and President Mervyn Thomas commented: “It is unacceptable that they were detained for nine months simply for providing Bible and music lessons to an ethnic minority community in a disadvantaged area in China.”
Three ethnic Nu men from the local area, Wang Shunping, Nu Sangdeng and San Luobo, and two women from other parts of China, Hua Xiuxia and Dong Mengru, had been held since last August for allegedly ‘organising and sponsoring an illegal gathering’, which consisted of prayer and free Bible and music lessons for young people.
According to CSW, four other Christians who took part in the Bible study were taken into custody on 12 January 2023, but were released five days later.
“We continue to call on the Chinese authorities to respect the right of all citizens, including children and young people, to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, and to release all those detained for participating in peaceful religious activities,” Mervyn Thomas added.
According to CSW, Nujiang has been home to a Christian community for around a hundred years, but the charity says that some have observed efforts by the Chinese authorities to reduce the influence of Western missionaries.
Tighter regulations on religion in China were passed in 2018 and were underlined by President Xi in person in December 2021. The Chinese premier called for a more aggressive campaign against so-called 'illegal' forms of religion in China.
He insisted churches should be made to 'adhere to Marxist religious views' and called for the stricter enforcement of religion laws.
Under this crackdown, unapproved house churches are prevented from posting, viewing or sharing links to their online church services.
The regulations also prohibit churches from running a children’s ministry, effectively blocking under-18s from church activities.