China: New Report on Christian Persecution

February 21, 2023
Palm Sunday ceremony in a church in Yunnan, built in 1910 by French missionaries

Christians in China have continued to face various forms of persecution, including sinicization, educational reforms and widespread rights violations, as well as strict laws under the repressive regime of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), says an agency monitoring the rights of Christians.

The persecution of Christians in China was highlighted in the 2022 Annual Persecution Report, produced by the China Aid organization and released on February 14.

“In 2022, China Aid saw daily the escalation of CCP persecution against Christian churches and Christians in mainland China, which explains why churches and Christians in China became increasingly afraid of exposing their lived persecution experiences to the outside world,” the report reads.

Some, including high-ranking CCP officials, have pledged to promote Sinicization, pushing Christians to submit to President Xi Jinping's political ideology and vision, and to impose strict rules on religious societies based on the core values of socialism with the aim of building support for the CCP leaders.

In a speech on January 27, 2022, Wang Yang, a member of the CCP Political Bureau, stressed the need for religious organizations to adhere to the policies put forth by the government: “Religious groups should unite the majority of religious adherents around the CCP and government to forge a ‘positive energy’ to help realize the ‘Chinese Dream.’”

The report pointed out that Wang met with leaders of the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA) and the Conference of Catholic Bishops in China [government-dependent] on August 23 to obtain their support for the “sinicization of Catholicism in China.”

The CCP officials have reportedly engaged in the demolition of churches across the country in 2022. According to the report, in August 2022, the Catholic Diocese of Taiyuan’s Gothic-style Beihan Church complex was demolished, and the remaining 40-meter-high bell tower was blown up in a coordinated demolition. In June 2022, after Bishop Dong Baolu refused to join the CPA, his church in Shijiazhuang City, Hebei Province was demolished by CCP officials.

China Aid also accused officials of “fabricating criminal charges to detain, arrest, and sentence leaders and lay believers” in their effort to suppress Christianity.

“Provincial and local governments arbitrarily detained Chinese Christian leaders and believers from all over China. Prison authorities denied many of these prisons attorney visits or contact with family,” the report said.

The investigative work lists the unexplained disappearances of Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang Diocese, Bishop Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou Diocese, Bishop Dong Baolu from the underground Catholic church in Shijiazhuang City, and 10 priests from the Diocese of Baoding.

CCP officials have also used raids, fines, harassment, and denial of rights to torture Christians. They have disrupted church services, baptisms, pilgrimages, and even online church services to intimidate Christians.

Chinese bureaucrats have also resorted to imposing heavy fines on church leaders and those renting out space for church worship to discourage people from gathering to pray.

In January 2022, Huang Yuanda, a Christian from Xiamen Xunsiding Church in Xiamen, was fined 100,000 yuan (about $14,500) by the Xiamen Siming District Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau for providing a rented house for the church school to use.

Through the “Administrative Measures for Internet Religious Information Services” enacted in March 2022, the CCP stipulated the appointment of trained and licensed internet religious information auditors who are students of religious schools or religious clergy officially registered with the government.

The training includes “laws and regulations relating to religious affairs, the Civil Code, the National Security Law, the Cybersecurity Law, but also covers Xi Jinping's thought on the rule of law, the Constitution, and Socialist core values.”

According to the report, the CCP is engaged in controlling the financial affairs of religious organizations and screening the religious inclinations of university students. It was revealed that officials were denying passports to Christian students who had asked to study abroad at other institutions run by Christians.

“If told by applicants that they were applying for passports to go overseas to study in Christian institutions, government agents would deny their applications on the grounds of COVID prevention,” the report read.