Source: Intercessors Network

OlympicsChristians throughout China fear tough restrictions on their freedom to worship in the coming year following the launch of a government crackdown ahead of the August 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Christians across China are reporting a shortage of Bibles, even in cities where Bibles previously were readily available. There are reports of ongoing house church raids and arrests, and an unprecedented number of foreign Christians have been expelled from China in recent months.

The crackdown comes in the wake of several important developments in recent years. These include the publication of the book Jesus in Beijing, which alerted government authorities to the increasing influence of Christianity in academic and professional circles; the release of the DVD series “The Cross,” which stressed the growth and commitment of the house church movement in China; and the outcome of a religious survey that in February estimated the total number of religious adherents in China at more than 300 million, three times higher than the official figure of 100 million.

Chinese officials have also reacted negatively to media reports that several large Christian organizations – many of them foreign organizations – are planning outreaches during the Beijing Olympics. For example Associated Press has reported the plans of several mission organizations to “send thousands of volunteer evangelists” to the games.

Even before the plans for the Olympic outreach were leaked in the Western media, Chinese officials met to address the growing influence of Christianity. An “anti-infiltration” campaign code-named “Typhoon No. 5” was launched that month with the goal of drastically reducing contact between foreign Christians and Chinese believers. For years local authorities had turned a blind eye to foreign Christians working in universities, hospitals, orphanages and business ventures throughout China. Now, however, it seems the government is prepared to revoke visas for any foreign Christian suspected of sharing their faith with Chinese citizens.  

While foreign Christians are expelled, local Christians face harsher treatment. Officials have forbidden local believers to meet and are watching them closely. A local newspaper recently printed an article about a Uygur believer, naming him as an illegal evangelist and promising to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. Another foreign Christian expelled from Xinjiang said authorities accused him of using a legitimate business to “support the illegal propagation of Christianity” and of “endangering national security.” His “crimes” included sharing his faith with local believers, baptizing people and distributing Bibles and related materials.

While China allows limited freedom for the members of five officially-recognized religious groups raids on house churches have continued unabated this year. On a recent raid on a house church service police took photos of every Christian in the room and asked for names and identification. Most of the Christians were released immediately, but three church leaders were taken for interrogation. Police also confiscated bibles, hymn books and musical equipment without providing a receipt.

Members of the underground Catholic church in Hebei province reported a door-to-door police search for underground priests. Once caught, police pressured the priests to join the government-approved Catholic church. Those who refused were arrested or lost their jobs. Police recently arrested 54-year-old Gu Changrong for sharing her faith with the secretary of the local Communist Party. The official called the police and accused Gu of “poisoning Communist Party members” with the Christian message. She was sentenced to one year of re-education through labor for “using evil cult organizations to obstruct the exercising of state laws.”

At the same time, believers across China are reporting a shortage of Bibles and other Christian resources city where Bibles previously were readily available. Bibles have been deliberately withheld from house church pastors by those within the Government approved Church movement. As preparations continue for the 2008 Olympics, critics around the world are calling China to account for ongoing human rights abuses – including religious freedom abuses.


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