China’s sentencing of Christians exploded more than 10,000 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to a new report from China Aid Association, an organization that exposes religious freedom and human rights abuses.
The group’s annual report notes that it tracks six categories of religious persecution, and since it obtains information directly from Christians inside China, most of its information concerns the Christian house church movement.
The “Year of ‘Persecution and Endurance'” report said persecution rose, sometimes dramatically, in all six categories studied.
For example, the number of citizens sentenced for their beliefs rose from 12 in 2013 to 1,274 in 2014, up 10,516.67 percent.
The organization collected information on 572 cases of religious persecution, an increase of 300 percent.
“Of the 17,884 people who were persecuted for their religion, more than 1,592 were church leaders, which represents a 140.89 percent increase over the previous year. The 2,994 people who were detained constituted an increase of 103.67 percent over the previous year. The CPC sentenced 1,274 people, a 10,516.67 percent jump over 2013.”
China Aid reported, “Comparing the data in the above six categories – total number of religious persecution cases, total number of people persecuted for their religion, number of people detained, number of people sentenced, total number of severe abuse cases, and the number of individuals in severe abuse cases — the overall situation of persecution can be statistically represented as being 152.74 percent worse than in 2013, 250.85 percent worse than in 2012, 296.64 percent worse than in 2011, 465.19 percent worse than in 2010, 549.48 percent worse than in 2009, 673.31 percent worse than in 2008 and 1,331.76 percent worse than in 2007.”
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The mission organization’s report outlined factors that contributed to the intensifying of persecution, including a “demolition” campaign that inside one province targeted both house churches and government-registered Three-Self Patriotic Movement churches.
Claiming to seek to “eradicate ‘illegal structures,'” the campaign in reality “indiscriminately removed and demolished crosses on church buildings and, in many cases, demolished the entire church building, regardless of whether the building had been previously approved by the Chinese government.”
So-called “cult activities” also drew the wrath of the government.
“The heightened level of persecution” also can be blamed on President Xi’s “so-called political reforms, which appear to be a guise to persecute religious communities, non-governmental organizations, human rights lawyers, and other religious and political so-called ‘dissenters.’
“In response to the growth of Christianity in China, the Chinese government has instituted various campaigns to persecute both house churches and government-sanctioned TSPM churches throughout China by harassing, abusing, arresting, and, in many cases, sentencing pastors and church members to prison,” the report said.
China Aid’s analysis reported, “It appears clear that the [Communist Party of China] has entered into a ‘post-totalitarian era,’ no longer able to rely on ideology and authority to unite the party. Inevitably, the CPC has broken into various political factions as a result of competing interests amongst party members and escalating conflicts between local and central government officials. The downfall of government officials Bo Xilai in 2013 and Zhou Yongkang in 2014 reflect this power struggle between factions within the CPC. Furthermore, subsequent to global economic decline, China’s economic growth has also slowed considerably.”
The result is an increasing surge of “social conflict” incidents, so the government is focusing on trying to establish “stability” and eliminate dissent “both within and outside the party.”
Other crackdowns have targeted ministry efforts, free speech and the actions of human rights lawyers.
Arrests and convictions in those cases “can be viewed as tactics to intimidate Chinese citizens who may dare to criticize or challenge the Xi administration and the Communist party,” the report said.
Christians, therefore, have become a bull’s-eye.
“It is fair to say that the rapid increase in the number of Christians in China over the past decade as triggered a unique sense of crisis within the CPC. As the Christian faith continues to grow in China, so does the number of Chinese citizens who embrace rule of law, oppose totalitarian governance, and support the expansion of civil society. As ongoing growth of house churches in both rural and urban areas is perceived by the CPC as a serious threat, the CPC’s suppression of Tibetan Buddhism, Islam in Xinjiang and surrounding areas, and Falun Gong practitioners persists.
“In addition, several Catholic churches and bishops have been persecuted for their expressed discontent with the Chinese governments’ interference and harassment of the Catholic church.”
The government’s goal, the report said, is to install the bureaucracy of the government in control of churches, a fight that it might not be able to win.
“A conservative estimate suggests that the total number of Christians attending both Three-Self churches and house churches is approximately 70 million, which is growing. Dr. Yang Fenggang, a professor of religion and sociology at Purdue University, has estimated that by 2030, the number of Christians in China will exceed those in the United States, thus making China the largest Christian nation in the world.”
That growth in Christianity, the report said, “has triggered a unique sense of crisis” for Communist and government officials.
Activities during 2014, the report said, represented “the most severe suppressive measures since the Cultural Revolution.”
An estimated 100 church buildings were demolished and 1,000 crosses forcibly removed. One of the churches destroyed, in Zhejiang province, had cost $4.8 million to build.
In another situation, 600 SWAT officers were dispatched to the Salvation Church in Pingyang County to destroy the church’s cross.