China's Christians being persecuted under country's draconian anti-church drive

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 22, 2013 08:40 hrs

Christians and human rights advocates are alarmed over an aggressive crackdown on house churches in China.

Under the crackdown, the Christian faithful are forced to call their gatherings 'patriotic' assemblies or sent to prison where they can face torture.

According to China Aid, a Texas-based human rights group, cases of the government persecuting Christians rose 42 percent in 2012, amid a three-phase plan by Beijing to eradicate the home-based churches, Fox News report.

Experts said that the Communist Party in China has long felt threatened by any movement that galvanizes a large sector of the population, fearing it could wield political clout.

But the nation has become more systematically hostile to worshippers, Bob Fu, China Aid founder and president said.

Fu told that there have been new tactics of persecution as well, especially with the government using secret directives and memos with long-term, step-by-step strategies to eradicate house churches, adding that this is a very serious stuff.

According to the report, last year, the government mounted a new three-phase approach designed to wipe out unregistered house churches by forcing them to join the official 'Three-Self Patriotic Movement' and stop defining themselves as churches.

The phase included having China's State Administration for Religious Affairs secretly investigate house churches and create files on them, the report found.

Fu said the government is using a wide array of subtle and ham-handed tactics to persecute Christians, targeting house church leaders and churches in urban areas.

Those semi-official agencies, including industrial and commercial affairs departments, used various excuses to 'harass, interfere and ban' church services.

At least 132 cases of persecution affecting 4,919 Christians, including 442 church leaders, were reported last year, up from 93 cases and 4,322 Christians in 2011, respectively.

According to the report, a total of 62 cases the highest countrywide were reported in Beijing, affecting 934 Christians, followed by 11 cases in Xinjiang in northwest China that affected 382 Christians.

Fu said the systematic targeting of the estimated 80 million Christians living in China has become commonplace.

Fu, a 45-year-old scholar and activist born in China, ran a house church himself in Beijing until he and his wife, Heidi, were arrested for doing so in 1996.

He fled to the United States a year later and made national headlines last year while championing the plight of Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer and dissident who fled house arrest to take refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing as then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Washington for talks with Chinese officials, the report added. (ANI)

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