Christianity is the fastest growing religion in China, and as a result, the Chinese Communist Party has increasingly turned its attention to trying to control this burgeoning faith. The Chinese Communist Party views Christianity as a particularly dangerous threat not only because of the sheer number of converts in recent decades, but also because it attracts mostly Han Chinese citizens, who make up the core of the Chinese citizenry. By some estimates, there are now more Christians than Communist Party members in the People’s Republic of China. Within 15 years, the Chinese Christian Community is projected to be the largest in the world. Persecution of Christians in China is now at a record high, with current campaigns seen as test cases before a larger, country-wide program is undertaken.
China has two state-sanctioned churches: the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. Both churches are under the control of the Chinese Communist Party and must act with great circumspection and sensitivity to the wishes of the Communist Party. In some cases, the Chinese Communist Party has installed CCTV cameras facing the pulpits to ensure that sermons don’t deviate from Chinese Communist Party orthodoxy. For the Chinese Catholic Party Association, its connections with the Vatican are severed, and issues such as the appointment of Bishops have long been a source of discord between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist Party.
Aware of the pervasive interference by the Chinese Communist Party in official Church activities, most Chinese Christians practice their faith with the help of unsanctioned Churches. Many Protestants turn to House Churches, which typically meet in people’s homes or apartments. Increasingly, the Chinese Communist Party has been making moves to shut them down. Additionally, there are many underground Catholic churches in China that look to the Vatican for leadership.
Below you will find examples of the types of practices that the Chinese Communist Party employs to discourage the practice of Christianity, and to outright persecute those who constitute the leadership of various Christian denominations.
- The Chinese Communist Party increasingly demolishes church buildings, using such pretexts as the citation of zoning violations.
- The Chinese Communist Party is in the midst of a large scale cross removal campaign, and when crosses are allowed, it has issued detailed rules that require any new crosses to effectively blend in with the rest of the architecture so that they are difficult to see.
- The Chinese Communist Party has arrested and sentenced many Christian leaders, including attorneys who are trying to defend them. A sampling of such arrests include:
- Pastor Gu Yuese, the highest ranking Christian leader detained since the Cultural Revolution, who was recently arrested and sent to a black jail for his opposition to the Chinese Communist Party’s cross-removal program. At the time of his arrest, Pastor Gu Yuese was the pastor of the largest officially sanctioned Protestant church in China.
- Pastor Zhang Shaojie, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison after he became too influential for local Communist Party forces, and was ultimately falsely convicted of fraud and of “gathering crowds to disturb public order.” His persecution was also centered on a land dispute. Zhang was a pastor for a state-sanctioned Church.
- Attorney Zhang Kai, who was arrested for providing legal counsel for Churches that were opposed to the cross removal program. Zhang’s whereabouts are unknown.
- Pastor Huang Yizi, who was imprisoned for one year for his opposition to the Chinese Communist Party’s church demolition campaign, ultimately being convicted of “gathering crowds to disturb social order.”
- Pastors Bao Guohua and Xing Wenxiang, who are husband and wife, and were recently imprisoned for 14 and 12 years, respectively, in an effort to slander the practice of Christianity in the region. While they were arrested for their opposition to church demolitions, they were also falsely convicted for a series of financial crimes.
- Many of those who are arrested are subjected to torture and forced confessions, ultimately making statements that friends and family know are not true.
- Catholic pastors are required to carry ID cards stating their religious affiliation, and such requirements are expected to apply to Protestant pastors soon.
Despite the Chinese Communist Party’s increased persecution of Christians, they remain determined to live out their faith with integrity. China’s Christians need outside support and we hope that the Solidarity Sabbath will be one measure that helps them.
The above examples are just a small sample of the current state of religious freedom for Christians in China. For more detailed information, please see the following reports and stories:
China Aid – Report:
Annual Persecution Reports
China Change – Story:
Living Stone: A Portrait of a House Church in China
Catholic World Report – Report:
Partakers in Suffering: Recent Events in China's Hopeful Church
Financial Times Magazine - Report:
The rise of Christianity in China