Christian camp leaders detained, accused of ‘indoctrinating minors’

China Aid
Reported in Chinese by Qiao Nong. Translated by Carolyn Song. Edited in English by Ava Collins.

(Xinyuan County, Xinjiang—Sept. 12, 2016) Two organizers of a Christian summer camp were detained in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, for 10 and 15 days, respectively, on Aug. 4 on the charge of indoctrinating minors with superstitious beliefs.

Zhou Yanhua and Gao Ming, both members of Yining County Church, were preparing to drive a group of children to a summer camp when, half an hour before they were set to depart, police arrived to detain the two women and take all of the children present to the police station to register their IDs.

An elder from Yining County Church, Xie Xianhua, said officials also called the families and school teachers of the children involved, threatening to deduct the teachers’ wages or keep the students from being admitted to higher grade levels.

Authorities detained Gao, a 27-year-old seminary student at Yanjing Theological Seminary, for 15 days. Zhou, the head of the church sponsoring the summer camp, received a 10-day detention after she told police that she was the organizer of the event in an attempt to free Gao.

Both women were accused of indoctrinating minors with superstitious beliefs. Chinese law forbids religious teaching to anyone under the age of 18, believing matters of faith to be dangerous brainwashing from which children must be protected. Christian parents and church leaders can face disciplinary action from officials for involving their children in any Christian activities.

Gao’s status as a student at an official, government-sanctioned seminary reveals that not only house churches are at risk for government suppression. Members of China’s official Protestant church, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, are also targeted.

A conversation on the Chinese messaging application WeChat between fellow Yanjing Theological Seminary students discussing Gao’s detention has been translated below.

China Aid condemns the actions of authorities against Zhou, Gao, and the children involved in this case, and reports on such events to expose abuses by the Chinese government and promote religious freedom.

WeChat group of Xinjiang Yanjing Seminary students (31)

Zou: Here is the situation: Ordinary lawyers wouldn’t dare handle such a case.

Chen: Gao Ming sent me a message saying she would be detained for 15 days. Let’s pray for our dear coworkers quietly and ask the Lord to help us act with wisdom and make use of every possibility to do the work the Lord has given us to do.

Luo: Pray for this!

Zou: May the Lord strengthen the faith of the co-workers, strengthen the church and also protect the children could continuously follow the Lord. [Praying hands]

Jiang: Gao Ming was detained the day before yesterday. She will be kept in detention for 15 days. Her phone was taken away. Please do not contact her, but pray for her. We have been trying to get her out before that. Please pray for this.

Zou: Also, pray for the parents and the kids. It is [becoming] common to be detained because of things like this.

Han: [Praying hands]

Cui: Let’s pray!

Zou: The kids were taken home that very night by their parents, principals, and teachers. They were terrified. May the Lord bless these kids.

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