UPDATE: 11:39 AM, June 4th, 2014
"Police rearrested Pastor Wang Yi of Chengdu Early Rain Reformed Church Wednesday morning as his church planned to hold a meeting to pray over China. Congregants said the police then shut off the power to the office building where the church meets and posted signs that it was under maintenance. Church leaders emailed congregants to pray in their small groups instead, as police likely are watching the church building.
OUR EARLIER REPORT: CHENGDU, China
"At the 9 a.m. service Sunday, Pastor Wang Yi of Chengdu Early Rain Reformed Church stood behind the pulpit in a spacious office building preaching to about 200 congregants about persecution. Stephen faced it, Wang said, Western missionaries to China faced it, and we may have to as well. Old women with canes, young couples wrangling toddlers, and college students together nodded. Afterward, discussions focused on what it would look like to fully live for Christ.
"It wouldn’t take long to find out. Congregants leaving church at noon were greeted on the street by a police truck and two police cars near the building’s entrance, although a glance through the window found officers dozing off or playing on their iPhones. By that night, Wang would be arrested and another church member bludgeoned by police for passing out pro-life brochures.
"Twenty-five years after China’s infamous crackdown on student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, authorities still are ready to deal violently with anyone seen as threatening the Communist regime.
"Chengdu is more than 1,000 miles from Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, but the Early Rain Reformed Church is a well-known house church with about 500 congregants at its two locations. While unregistered, it doesn’t try to keep its work secret, with a website that includes Wang’s sermons, a seminary, and even a newly formed classical Christian school. While the church is usually left alone, police officers show up at special events like Christmas services and keep a wary eye on Wang, a former law professor who met with President George W. Bush in 2006 to discuss religious liberty in China..."
China Continues to Restrict Religious Freedom as Church Demolitions Continue
International Christian Concern
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On June 4th, 1989, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sent 20,000 soldiers and tanks to crush student-led pro-democracy protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. The government perceived the demonstrations as a threat to their authority. Tragically, 25 years later, the Chinese government is still trying to crush the rights, especially the religious rights, of its citizens. In fact, in just the past two months, a massive church and cross demolition campaign has been carried out in Zhejiang Province. Over 60 churches have been damaged under the guise of following codes to, "rectify and remove illegal construction for the purpose of urban development."
While the government of Zhejiang Province says it is removing illegal buildings, the truth is that the focus has been purely on religious buildings at the exclusion of all others. The New York Times on May 29th revealed a nine-page provincial policy statement saying "the (Chinese) government aims to regulate 'excessive religious sites' and 'overly popular' religious activities" and "the priority is to remove crosses at religious activity sites on both sides of expressways, national highways and provincial highways."
International Christian Concern (ICC) has received confirmation from local contacts that the Zhejiang government was targeting Christian sites and selectively enforcing the law. As of the end of May, at least 64 churches have been completely or partially removed, including the 4,000-seat Sanjiang Christian Church. Also, 85 house churches were warned to stop gathering, demonstrating that churches, not "illegal construction" is the problem.
Like in 1989, the Chinese government continues to target Christian human rights defenders, many of whom were inspired to pursue their work after the massacre at Tiananmen Square. Gao Zhisheng, a human rights lawyer defending Christians and others in court in attempts to keep them from torture and imprisonment, was himself tortured by police with cigarette butts and electric batons for more than seven weeks. In 2009, he was "forcibly disappeared," only to be discovered in a far-flung prison in Northwest China in 2012. However, Gao has not been seen again since January 2013. Gao is only one of the many Christian human rights lawyers who face harassment and arbitrary arrest for defending the rights of persecuted believers across China.
ICC's advocacy director, Isaac Six said, "It is unconscionable that a quarter of a century after the massacre at Tiananmen Square, China continues to aggressively assault the basic human rights, including religious freedom, of its own citizens. We call upon the Chinese government to fully respect the rights of its citizens, including the right to religious freedom. The government's campaign against churches prevents tens of thousands of Christians from exercising their basic rights. We also call on the Chinese government to allow lawyers and activists to defend the rights of others without fear of persecution or reprisal."
For interviews, contact Sooyoung Kim: RM-SEAsia@persecution.org
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Media Contact: Sooyoung Kim, Regional Manager for Southeast Asia RM-SEAsia@persecution.org