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World News

Churches in China 'facing toughest persecution since Cultural Revolution' says Christian charity

by Donna Birrell

The charity Release International is warning of a renewed crackdown against churches in China. 

The charity which serves the persecuted church, says Chinese authorities have been arresting pastors and shutting down congregations as part of a crackdown on religion ordered by President Xi Jinping in December 2021. 

It says that police raids are being carried out with such ferocity that, according to reports, two women in a single congregation collapsed and had to be taken to hospital. 
Partners of Release International have also compiled disturbing video evidence of raids on Sunshine Reformed Church in Jilin Province. 
On August 21, local police raided the Sunday service of the church in Changchun. They burst in and hauled away the pastor, his wife and seven elders.
Outside, as congregation members tried to leave, it's claimed police beat the Christians, causing two women to lose consciousness. 
Release International says church members begged the police to stop the beatings. A woman who challenged a police officer was bundled into a squad car. Another Christian was dragged away by his collar and a police officer threatened a man who was filming evidence on his cell phone.
In another case, Release International says that in August a hundred armed police officers reportedly surrounded Christians at a summer camp for parents and children in Shanxi Province. The police detained adults and searched the homes of several church members, seizing their Christian books and documents.

The crackdown comes as the United Nations has accused China of possible crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs, with 'credible evidence' of torture.
Release says that although China's Uyghurs are mainly Muslim, they include Christians such as Pastor Alimujiang Yimiti. Pastor Yimiti was jailed for 15 years after telling a colleague on the phone that citizens were being monitored by state security. That phone call had been tapped and he was jailed for 'inciting separatism' and 'leaking state secrets'.
The charity claims authorities have forced Alimujiang and other prison inmates to constantly wear headphones tuned into communist propaganda and to memorise what they hear. 

'It's all about control,' says Paul Robinson, the CEO of Release International. 'What the Party cannot dominate and control it seeks to eliminate. And it's getting worse. Our partners tell us that churches in China are facing the toughest persecution since the Cultural Revolution.'
Tighter regulations on religion in China were passed in 2018 and 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. 


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