China ratchets up Christian persecution

China Aid Association

‘Leading up to the Olympic Games, we actually see things getting worse’
Posted: April 10, 2008
11:55 pm Eastern
By Bob Unruh
© 2008 WorldNetDaily

A Chinese man has been taken into custody and faces a possible sentence of death for charges alleging “subversion of the national government and endangering national security.” But several Christian organizations that monitor human rights activities in China say Alimujiang Yimiti could face the penalty simply because he is a Christian.
While much headline space has been devoted during recent days to China’s crackdown on residents of Tibet, such attacks are more-or-less everyday experiences for Christians in the communist nation, according to officials with three of the largest organizations monitoring China: International Christian Concern, China Aid Association, and the Voice of the Martyrs.
“In the months now leading up to the Olympic Games, we actually see things getting worse,” said Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs. “There are more raids, foreign Christians are not having their visas renewed and are being forced to leave the country. There are numerous circumstances where the churches are under attack by the government.”
China had assured the international community when it was awarded the 2008 Summer Games that it would address concerns that have been raised about its human rights record. However, the three organizations see no evidence yet.
“Christians who refuse to come under the communist control are subject to arrest, imprisonment, harassment by the police at any time,” Nettleton said. “There are places where Christians are facing very serious persecution.”
He cited the case of Alimujiang. “He possibly could be executed for what the government says is subversion of the national government. What he’s facing a penalty for, in reality, is he’s a Christian.”
He said the Chinese government believes, perhaps naively, that in 2008 it can clean up its international image by simply repressing those who disagree.
“I think there is an element of sort of keeping things under the rug until the Olympics are over, making sure there’s no disturbances or embarrassment during the Games,” he said.
Since visitors supposedly will be allowed to travel as they wish in China during the Olympics, the one place to keep dissidents is in prison, since those still will be off-limits to visitors, he said.
“China has thousands of Internet policemen,” he continued. “Their job is to monitor information and keep in the information they want to keep in, and keep out the information they want to keep out. I think they do have a little bit of a naïve sense they can control the message and information.”
Ashley Dingler, regional manager for East Asian for International Christian Concern, said her organization sees evidence routinely that human rights violations in China are getting worse as the Olympics approach.
“I think it has a large part to do that they could lose face on such a world stage,” she said, “when everyone is looking at China.
“Christians and others might stage protests, reveal information,” she said. “I think the manner of going about it is counterintuitive, but they are trying to save face by imprisoning more and more.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in the numbers of house churches that are being raided, especially the leaders of the house churches are being taken into custody,” she said. “In early March, there were 70 [leaders] taken at one time.”
A few are released occasionally, but the arrests are so many it’s hard to keep track, she said. Some of those taken into custody simply have vanished, she said.
Bob Fu, founder of China Aid Association, said the deterioration in human rights started getting worse as soon as China was awarded this year’s competition.
“From all measures we can find in terms of religious freedom, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, it all shows it’s becoming much worse,” he told WND.
“In the past two years, we found more than 3,000 underground pastors were arrested, detained, some sentenced,” he said. Those sentences were up to and including the death sentence.
All three of the organizations obtain reports regularly from within China, and it was Fu’s organization that documented the case of Alimujiang.
“We should call upon the democratic country leaders including President Bush to withdraw from the opening ceremonies,” he said, “and not become part of the showcase.
“We’re not calling for a boycott of the athletic events, but for these political leaders to go there and be part of the Chinese government’s propaganda machine, it’s simply wrong,” he said.
Alimujiang, a Uyghur Christian, Muslim convert and father of two, is expected to be sentenced before the end of April, China Aid’s report said. He had been accused last year of “illegal religious activities,” but then was arrested in January on claims of “subversion.”
“Alimujiang is neither a separatist nor a terrorist, local sources say. He has told officials many times during interrogation that as a Christian he loves and supports the Chinese government, something many young Uyghurs struggle with as Han Chinese culture becomes increasingly dominant in Xinjiang. As a loyal Chinese citizen and business entrepreneur, Alimujiang has held to high standards, paying his taxes faithfully and avoiding a common local custom of paying bribes for business favors. He has also done his best to assimilate into Chinese culture, making the unusual decision to send his children to a Chinese language school in a predominantly Uyghur area,” the report said.
“Friends say Alimujiang simply wants the freedom to quietly express his faith, a right guaranteed to him in the Chinese constitution. Currently however, it is illegal for Alimujiang to own a Uyghur Bible,” the report continued.
Even his lawyer is not being allowed to meet with officials with the Bureau of State Security, because of a so-called “national secret” reason, China Aid said.
According to officials with the persecution monitors, anti-Christian efforts broke out in China in 1922, three years after communism emerged. When the Communist Party took control in 1949 it started expelling missionaries immediately, and the arrests and torture of Christian leaders was begun.
A brief respite arrived in the 1970s when Deng Xiaoping released some Christians from prison to demonstrate to the West its “religious freedom,” but with a few years the arrests had returned by the thousands. In the 1990s, a number of church organizations were labeled “evil cults.”
Among recent cases was one in which four people were arrested in Taizhou for distributing Gospel flyers at a bus station.They each were sentenced to several days in jail.
The work of the government, however, has failed to stop the interest in Christianity, with one organization estimating 3,000 people are joining Christian churches in China on a daily basis.
According to International Christian Concern, China ranks fourth in the world, behind only North Korea, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, in its persecution of Christians.
“Chinese Christians, wary of state-controlled religious organs, have increasingly turned to the model of ‘house churches,’ which have helped spark a once unthinkable revival across the Middle Kingdom, as estimates now number Chinese believers at more than 100 million,” the group’s annual report said.
That, in turn, has triggered more and more government repression, the report said.
“Their fingers bleed, but they press on, for if they don’t make the day’s quota — 5,000 bulbs — they are beaten. The Christmas lights that decorate the trees of Christian believers around the world are often made by inmates like these. Their crime? Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. House church pastors are sent to work camps after their arrest, and in some respects, these are the lucky ones, for they survived the standard interrogations that greet most Christian leaders after they are detained; several are killed or ‘disappear,’ never to be seen or heard from again. €¦,” the report said.
President Bush, meanwhile, believes it will be better to be “calling on” China to reach out and work with dissident factions rather than give in to growing pressure to formally protest that nation’s human rights abuses by boycotting the opening ceremonies of this year’s Beijing Olympic Games.
Following up on an announcement by Bill Donohoe, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, that Sen. Hillary Clinton is right to suggest such a boycott because of China’s record, Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House, recently asked about the possibility of such plans.
“Since we presume the president is as devoted to human rights as any world leader, why has he failed to join the president of France, the chancellor of Germany, and now the prime minister of Canada in their announced refusal to appear at China’s Olympic Games?” he asked at today’s news briefing.
“The president’s position on this has been very clear. But the key part of what the president can do as the president of the United States is before, during and after the Olympics, push very hard for increased human rights, press freedoms, and political freedom in China,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

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