(Midland, Texas–April 21, 2015) Today, China Aid released its 2014 Annual Report of Religious and Human Rights Persecution in China, The Year of “Persecution and Endurance,” which indicates that religious persecution and human rights abuse by the Chinese government against its citizens has risen 152.74 percent since 2013 based on six specific categories of persecution.
All six categories, which include the total number of persecution cases, the number of religious practitioners persecuted, the number of citizens detained, the number of citizens sentenced, the number of severe abuse cases and the number of individuals in severe abuses cases, increased between 103.67 and 10,516.67 percent. The category with the largest increase was the number of citizens sentenced, which increased from 12 in 2013 to 1,274 in 2014.
In 2014, China Aid documented 572 cases of persecution in which 17,884 religious practitioners were persecuted, representing a 300 percent increase since 2013.
A number of factors led to the increase, including intense persecution in Zhejiang province as a result of the Chinese government-sanctioned “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign, which targeted both house churches and government-registered Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) churches and claimed to eradicate “illegal structures.” In reality, the campaign 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.
In addition to persecution in Zhejiang province, a wide-spread crackdown on so-called “cult activities” contributed to the increase in the number of religious practitioners persecuted, with the number in individual cases reaching close to or more than 1,000 religious adherents.
The heightened level of persecution can also be attributed to President Xi Administration’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.
Although, there is an escalation of persecution in China, religious communities are increasingly utilizing the rule of law to defend their rights in administrative proceedings and exposing ongoing abuse and the denial of religious freedom and related human rights via social media.
To view the full report, including statistics and data analysis, click here.
*Noting China Aid predominately receives reports of abuse from Christian communities in China, the report and related data predominately reflects persecution against Christians.
i. The political reality of the Xi Jinping Administration
ii. The CPC’s resistance to religion and campaign of religious persecution
II. Summary and Analysis of Religious and Human Rights Persecution in China
i. A brief summary of predominately Christian persecution of religious practitioners
ii. Escalation of the CPC’s persecution of government-sanctioned Three-Self churches
iii. The CPC increased persecution of house churches throughout China
iv. The CPC persecutes so-called “heretics” and churches under guise to eradicate “cults”
v. The CPC advances its campaign on the “sinicization” of Christianity
vi. Religious practitioners use the rule of law and social media to defend religious freedom
III. Conclusion: Religious Practitioners and Human Rights Advocates Endure
IV. Statistics: Instances of Religious and Human Rights Persecution in China
In 2014, Christians and practitioners of other faiths in China experienced the harshest persecution seen in over a decade, including draconian measures taken by Xi Jinping’s Administration to eliminate all religious, political, and social dissent. Noting China Aid predominately receives reports of abuse from Christian communities in China, the following information and data predominately reflects persecution against Christians. The increase in government-sanctioned persecution against religious practitioners and human rights lawyers and advocates reflects the overall political transformation that is occurring within the Communist Party in China (CPC), namely an orchestrated effort to consolidate power and suppress dissent and any perceived threats to the Chinese government, including the growth of religion in China.
The political reality of the Xi Jinping Administration
The Xi Administration created the Comprehensively Deepening Reform Leading Small Group (CDRLSG) to lead reforms in China during the Third Plenary Session of 18th CPC Central Committee at the end of 2013. At the Fourth Plenary Session of 18th CPC Central Committee from October 20-23, 2014, the CPC approved deepening reforms, advancing governance according to a Socialist rule of law and intensifying efforts to eradicate corruption. According to CPC-released statistics, 180,000 “tigers and flies” (high-ranking CPC leaders and low ranking bureaucrats) have been targeted, and 58 officials from the province-level and higher have been investigated and subsequently punished. The CPC has also established the Central National Security Commission chaired by President Xi, which is indicative of the power restructuring of the Communist Party, the government, and the military, all of which are concentrated in President Xi’s control. The military also possesses considerable power and has become a decisive factor in shaping the political situation in China, in many cases operating above the law. That being said, the corruption of the military is staggering, evidenced by the downfall of a large number of high-ranking officers, such as Gu Junshan and Xu Caihou. The so-called political reform initiated by the CPC may be nothing more than a mechanism to eliminate internal dissent.
It appears clear that the CPC 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. According to state-run media, there has been an increase in social conflict, with an average of 200,000 incidents of conflict or crisis occurring every year. As a result, stability maintenance has become the focus of the Xi Administration. In creating a model of totalitarian government, the Xi Administration has sanctioned severe measures to regulate and eliminate dissidents both within and outside the Party. To suppress dissent outside of the party, specific measures have been taken to eliminate all criticism of the CPC or challenges to the status quo of the political order, including crackdowns on social movements such as the New Citizen’s Movement, suppression of NGOs, restrictions on free speech at universities, and the harassment and imprisonment of well-known human rights lawyers. Thus, the Xi Administration’s harassment, arrest, and criminal conviction of individuals such as Xu Zhiyong, Guo Yushan, Ding Jiaxi, Pu Zhiqiang, Tie Liu, and Gao Yu can be viewed as tactics to intimidate Chinese citizens who may dare to criticize or challenge the Xi Administration and the Communist Party.
The CPC’s resistance to religion and campaign of religious persecution
As the CPC officially endorses atheism, it is inherently hostile and resistant to all religion and, perhaps, especially Christianity. It is fair to say that the rapid increase in the number of Christians in China over the past decade has 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. To address the growth of Christianity, the CPC government has continued its attempts at reforming Protestantism and Catholicism, including efforts within the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) Church to reflect a “Party-governed” church. Yet as a result of the vigorous growth of house churches in urban and rural areas, attendees of house churches currently outnumber those of Three-Self Churches. 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. In response to research provided by Dr. Yang and other scholars, the CPC is growing increasingly concerned about the rapid growth of Christianity in China.
In 2014, the CPC adopted perhaps the most severe suppressive measures since the Cultural Revolution by targeting TSPM churches in addition to house churches. In addition, government-sponsored campaign to suppress and eradicate the house church movement has been reported throughout China, including numerous house churches being forcibly closed, approximately 100 church buildings being demolished, and thousands of religious practitioners being subjected to criminal or administrative penalties by the public security bureau. In Zhejiang province, both Three-Self churches and house churches had their crosses forcibly demolished, and 70-80 Three-Self church pastors and house church leaders were detained. Moreover, the CPC persecuted house churches throughout China under the guise of eradicating “cults.” The CPC also promoted the “construction of Christianity with Chinese characteristics,” mobilizing leaders from the Three-Self churches and religious and academic leaders to advocate for constructing a Chinese Christianity with socialist characteristics, thus attempting to reform and subsequently utilize Christianity as a political and social mechanism for the CPC to govern and control its citizens.
II. Summary and Analysis of Religious and Human Rights Persecution in China
In 2014, practitioners from all religions in China experienced a comprehensive escalation of government persecution. As China Aid predominately receives information on Christian communities, the following information and data mainly reflects persecution against Christians. In comparing the total number of religious persecution cases, the number of religious practitioners persecuted, the number of citizens detained, the number of citizens sentenced, the number of severe abuse cases, and the number of individuals in severe abuse cases with China Aid statistics from 2013, the total of all six categories increased 152.74 percent. In comparison with China Aid statistics from previous annual reports, there is a trend of increased persecution over the past eight years, which averages an annual increase of 166.47 percent.
A brief summary of predominately Christian persecution of religious practitioners
In 2014, the scope, depth, and intensity of persecution against religious practitioners far surpassed that of 2013. The Chinese government’s persecution against the government-sanctioned Three-Self church reached a historic high not seen since the Cultural Revolution. The widespread forced demolition or removal of churches and crosses throughout Zhejiang province also occurred in Anhui, Shandong, and Henan provinces. The persecution of the house church movement also intensified as both urban and rural house churches were thoroughly scrutinized, and in some cases forced to join the Three-Self church. In 2014, the Chinese government launched a campaign to persecute so-called “cults,” similar to the crackdown on Falun Gong in 1998. Certain Christian sects throughout China were banned, such as “the Church of Almighty God,” leading to the arrest and conviction of more than 1,000 religious adherents. The Chinese government also made significant efforts to promote “the construction of Christianity with Chinese characteristics,” or “sinicization,” thus attempting to transform Christian theology into a doctrine that aligns with the core values of socialism and so-called Chinese characteristics.
As previously mentioned, the Chinese government has intensified its persecution against practitioners representing all religions in China. In the case of Christianity, both the government-sanctioned Three-Self church and the house church movement experienced unprecedented persecution. The Chinese government’s persecution campaign included forced demolition of churches and crosses, the detention and imprisonment of pastors and church members on criminal charges, forcing churches into bankruptcy by confiscating church property and imposing fines, and manipulating state-run media to label house churches as “cult” organizations.
Escalation of the CPC’s suppression of government-sanctioned Three-Self churches
In 2014, China Aid received reports from China on the persecution of pastors and church members of the government-sanctioned Three-Self church from the municipalities of Shanghai and Beijing and the regions of southwest, northeast, northwest, east, central, and south China.
During a campaign entitled “Three Rectifications and One Demolition,” operated under the guise of correcting “illegal structures,” the CPC Committee and government of Zhejiang demolished crosses and entire churches for violations such as having incomplete government paperwork. Thus, the persecution of Three-Self churches in many cases was a consequence of conflicts with local governments related to church property disputes. According to statistics received by China Aid from Christian leaders in Zhejiang, by the end of 2014, more than 30 churches were forcibly demolished, 422 crosses were removed, over 300 church members were taken into police custody, 150 individuals were physically injured, at least 60 church members were criminally or administratively detained, and more than 10 pastors and church leaders were arrested. However, it appears that the scope of persecution may be wider than reported due to fear of reprisal from government authorities. According to unverified local reporting in Chinese media outlets, as many as 1,000 crosses were forcibly removed across Zhejiang province, approximately 50 churches, particularly those in rural areas, were forcibly demolished, and at least 1,300 Christians were detained, arrested, or held in custody for protesting or attempting to prevent the destruction of churches or crosses. To no surprise, the government-sponsored persecution campaign garnered significant attention and outcry from the international community.
Among the most widely covered cases reported by China Aid included persecution against the Sanjiang Church, the Salvation Church, and the Nanle County Christian Church.
The government-sanctioned Sanjiang Church, a Three-Self church, in Yongjia County, in the city of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, was forcibly demolished during the night of April 28. The church was built over 12 years and cost 30 million Yuan (U.S. $ 4.8 million) to build, which was donated by members of the church. In an effort to protect the church from forced demolition, several thousand church members stood guard at the church for over a month. The Chinese government detained dozens of church staff members, including elders Zhao Rendi and Guo Yunhua, eight of which were charged with “illegally appropriating farmland” and “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.” The forced demolition of the Sanjiang Church raised concern from the international community, with scholars comparing the severity of the destruction to the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha Statues and as significant evidence of the CPC campaign to persecute Christian churches and religious practitioners in Zhejiang province.
Persecution continued when the local government of Pingyang County, also in the city of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, dispatched 600 SWAT officers, policemen, and Chinese government agents to the Salvation Church, a Protestant house church, to demolish the church’s cross. Prior to this attempt, more than 1,000 members of the church had successfully stopped the government’s attempted demolition of the cross on two other occasions. Unfortunately, on July 21, approximately 14 church members were physically attacked by SWAT officers, five of whom, including Zhang Zhimin, were severely injured. The incident involving the Salvation Church is yet another example of persecution perpetrated by the Chinese government against the house church movement in China as a coordinated effort to suppress and control religion.
Pastor Zhang Shaojie of the Nanle County Christian Church was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined 100,000 Yuan (U.S. $16,141) on charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” and “fraud.” A few months later, Zhang Cuijuan, Pastor Zhang’s sister and church member, and Zhao Junling, a Nanle Church missionary, were both found guilty of “gathering a crowd to disrupt the public order” and sentenced to 1-1/2 years and one year in prison with a reprieve, respectively. The Nanle County case began in 2013 when 25 members of the church were criminally detained; most of the detained were gradually released or have been released on probation awaiting trial. The underlying conflict of the case arose when the government seized the property on which the Nanle Church had planned to erect a new church building, causing Pastor Zhang Shaojie to lead church members to defend the church’s legal right to the property and to petition the central government in Beijing. In response to the church’s efforts to defend their rights, the local CPC committee and Nanle County government abused its power and mobilized the public security bureau, religious affairs bureau, education bureau, united front work department, and a number of other government agencies of Nanle County to engage in a campaign to persecute the church and its members, including preventing members from traveling to Beijing to petition, threatening and subjecting church members to house arrest and detention in extrajudicial “black jails,” and physically assaulting foreign news reporters and lawyers. The Nanle church, which previously hosted more than 1,000 members, was forced to close.
The CPC increased persecution of house churches throughout China
In 2014, the CPC’s persecution campaign to investigate and suppress the house church movement escalated on all fronts, as a continuation of the 2011 mandate to “eradicate house churches within 10 years.” The overall number of house church leaders and members who were administratively detained, arrested and sentenced, or summoned to court, the number of forcibly demolished churches and prohibited church gatherings, and the total number of church members who experienced physical or verbal abuse or threats all demonstrated a dramatic increase in comparison to China Aid statistics from 2013. In the case of urban churches, namely the Shouwang Church in Beijing and Wanbang Church in Shanghai, they continued to remain prohibited by the Chinese government, though still persevere against ongoing persecution. As large house churches in medium to large-sized cities, such as Chengdu’s Xiuyuzhifu Church, Guangzhou’s Liangren Church, and Guiyang’s Huoshi Church, continue to be subjected to strict control and harassment by local public security and religious affairs bureaus, house churches in rural areas experienced increased levels of violence and persecution against their faith communities. In reviewing statistics, it appears that the Chinese government’s persecution of the house church was most severe in north, northwest, south, and southwest regions of China.
Although the majority of the characteristics that have defined persecution against the church in previous years remains, the level and modes of persecution during 2014 has evolved. In reviewing reports China Aid has received from China in 2014, a specific model of persecution appeared throughout the entire the country, namely forcibly demolishing or prohibiting church gatherings in rural areas; unjustly declaring churches as “illegal structures” or engaging in the “illegal use” of building structures; arresting, detaining, and harassing house church leaders; increases in citing specific criminal charges against the church; the abuse of administrative penalties and regulations regarding the length of administrative or criminal detention of church members and leaders; persecuting churches and church members under the guise of “eradicating cults;” confiscating house church possessions, religious materials, and books; banning and harassing Sunday schools and their use of religious publications; forcibly collecting and documenting information about house churches and church members; forcing house church members to join the government sanctioned Three-Self church; detaining and sending house church leaders to labor camps on the pretext of “suspicion of organizing and using a cult to undermine law enforcement;” and restricting religious teaching and proselytizing to minors.
In reports of persecution against the house church received by China Aid (see Section III of this report), the Shouwang Church in Beijing continues to be persecuted, house churches in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region were persecuted for the religious teaching of minors, and a house church in Cao County was persecuted under the guise of “engaging in cult activities.”
The Shouwang Church marked its fourth year of holding outdoor worship services. In May, the government’s persecution escalated, subjecting church members who attended outdoor worship services to administrative detention, typically for five to seven days for those attending services for the first time and 10 days for regular attendees. In 2014, nearly 100 members of the Shouwang Church received administrative detention notices, some detained multiple times. In addition, police physically injured more than 10 church members, including Jin Shaohua. Senior Pastor Jin Tianming and other pastors and elders from the church have been under house arrest for the past four years with limited personal freedom, bringing church operations nearly to a halt.
In June, the Cao County Public Security Bureau in the city of Heze, Shandong province, dispatched government authorities to apprehend Zhao Weiliang, Cheng Hongpeng, and 20 additional house church members under the accusation of “engaging in cult activities.” In the aftermath, 18 of the 22 church members were charged and nine received criminal charges. The only alleged offense the church members committed was gathering to practice worship songs. As a result of the public attention given to their case and the intervention of human rights lawyers, a majority of the detained church members were released on probation and are awaiting trial.
During the summer of 2014, several house churches in the cities of Urumqi and Kuerle and in the Yili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture located in China’s western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region were harassed and persecuted for organizing vacation bible schools and summer camps. In the end, local public security and religious affairs bureaus forcibly closed the schools and camps, and several church leaders were either arrested or placed under administrative detention.
Sample reports of religious persecution and human rights abuse cases, including statistics and data analysis can be viewed in Section IV and the Appendix of this report (pp. 10-18).
The CPC persecutes so-called “heretics” and churches under guise to eradicate “cults”
In 2000 and 2005, China’s Ministry of Public Security issued the “Notice of the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China on Various Issues Regarding Identifying and Banning Cult Organizations.” In the section entitled “Currently Identified Cult Organizations,” the notice lists 14 cults, seven of which were specified in the papers of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council, while the other seven were identified and specified by the Ministry of Public Security. Among the listed cults were so-called Christian “heretical” faith communities such as the Shouters, the Church of the Almighty God, the Church of Total Scope, the Church of Disciples, and the Three Teams of Servants Church.
According to China Aid statistics, more than 20,000 religious practitioners have been accused of being “heretics” and were taken into police custody during the CPCs “anti-cult” campaign in 2014, of which approximately 1,100 have been convicted on criminal charges and sentenced.
The CPC has historically regarded religion as hostile and representative of government dissenters, who have subsequently been persecuted under the guise of “attacking cults.” Noting an inherent hostility towards religion and the fact that the CPC endorses atheism as the official doctrine of the Chinese state, its attempt to define any particular religion as a cult is biased, at the very least.
Hence, the campaign to eradicate so-called “cults” appears to be used selectively on religious communities whose doctrines inherently object to the official atheist ideology of the CPC or are perceived as threats to the “stability” of Chinese society as defined by the Chinese government.
The CPC government has consistently cited “attacking cults” as a pretext to launch large-scale persecution campaigns against Christians and house churches. Details of religious freedom cases in Shandong, Sichuan, and Hunan provinces have been disclosed to the public and reveal that the CPC regularly cited Clause 300 of the Criminal Law, defined as “organizing cults and sects and using superstition to undermine law enforcement,” in an attempt to harass and persecute house church pastors, elders, and church members. The CPC’s handling of the majority of cases has disregarded the rule of law and standard legal procedures. A large number of “anti-cult” trials were conducted in secret, and many of those accused were not permitted to hire legal counsel and were forced to accept government-appointed lawyers. The Chinese government has also intimidated and pressured family members of those accused of so-called “cult activities” to not raise their legal cases and incidents of persecution publicly, thus many remain unknown.
The CPC advances its campaign on the “sinicization” of Christianity
The National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of Protestant Churches in China marked its 60th anniversary in 2014. Subsequently, China’s government-sponsored China Christian Council (CCC) and the TSPM orchestrated a conference in Shanghai on August 4-6 to commemorate the anniversary of the TSPM, which included a seminar on the so-called “sinicization” of Christianity. Fu Xianwei, chairman of the TSPM, was quoted as saying that “churches in China will continue to explore the sinicization of Christianity [and] ensure Christianity takes root in the soil of Chinese culture, ethnicity, and society… To advance the sinicization of Christianity, churches will need guidance and support from government agencies in charge of religious affairs.” Gao Feng, chairman of the CCC, stated that the TSPM would “take on a new mission in this age, adhere to the path of sinicization, and deepen and advance the process of sinicizing Christianity.” Wang Zuo’an, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), also reinforced the need for the sinicization of Christianity.
Subsequent to this meeting, provincial- and city-level CCC and TSPM committees throughout the country held meetings for church leaders to study the statements made by SARA, CCC, and the TSPM and to adhere to the inherent instructions on the “sinicization” of Christianity. News reports from within China specify instructions for implementation, which include producing local television programming; writing and performing Christian songs with traditional Chinese melodies; and sending church leaders to “Patriotic Education Sites” to study and practice patriotism. For example, the CCC in Chengdu arranged for church leaders to tour the CPC’s “holy lands of revolution” to emphasize loyalty to the Party. Additional instructions for implementation include facilitating seminars on the “sinicization” of Christianity; persuading churches to adopt traditional Chinese practices for funeral and burial ceremonies; and changing the architectural style of church buildings to bear noticeable characteristics of Chinese culture.
At a symposium on the sinicization of Christianity held by Liushi Church in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, Zhuo Xinping, director of the Institute of World Religions of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, pointed out that Christianity was at a crossroads. Zhuo stated that the sinicization of Christianity was not limited to absorbing elements of traditional Chinese culture, but also included a political element that defines the existence and prosperity of the Church. The symposium attendees also heard from Buddhist scholars, who described how Buddhism had conformed to the political dynamics of faith, thus urging the Christian community to emulate Buddhism’s compliance with the CPC directives on cultural and political assimilation.
The essence of Christian sinicization is to prioritize loyalty to the CPC over religious identity and transform Christianity into a socialist force that complies with the authority of the Chinese government. The process of the sinicization of Christianity has included Chinese churches abandoning relationships with the global church, dissolving the core of the Christian faith, and preventing Christianity from exercising its social and cultural influence to positively influence Chinese society. Therefore, the sinicization of Christianity amounts to de-Christianizing the church in China and eradicating the universal nature of Christianity under the appearance of constructing a “Christianity with Chinese characteristics,” and, in the name of prioritizing the interests of the Communist Party, usurping Christian doctrine that “Christ is the head of Church.”
Religious practitioners use the rule of law and social media to defend religious freedom
In 2014, a large number of religious practitioners utilized the rule of law to defend their right to religious freedom in response to ongoing government-sponsored persecution. Human rights lawyers, both Christian and non-Christian alike, organized to provide legal assistance to pastors, churches and their members. For example, a legal team comprised of Christian human rights lawyers, led by attorney Chen Jiangang, offered legal assistance to detained church members from Cao County, in the city of Heze, Shandong province, and Liupanshui, Guizhou province. Attorney Zhang Kai led a team of human rights lawyers to obtain the release of arrested Christians from Dongkou County and Longhui County, in the city of Shaoyang, Hunan province. In Nanle County, in the city of Puyang, Henan province, several dozen human rights lawyers, including Li Fangping, Liu Weiguo and Zhao Yonglin, resisted government intimidation throughout a trial for detained house church members, including roadblocks and physical attacks. In a case in the city of Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region more than 10 human rights lawyers, including Wen Yu, Sui Muqing and Li Guisheng, traveled numerous times to Liuzhou, using their own financial resources to defend the rights of four persecuted citizens. As a result of the dedication of these human rights lawyers, local government officials have made concessions to churches and more than 100 arrested Christians have been subsequently found innocent and released or in some cases released on probation and are currently awaiting trial.
In 2014, human rights lawyers and other legal professionals provided house church members throughout China with rule of law training to defend their rights according to Chinese and international law. This past year, according to reports sent to China Aid from a network of human rights lawyers in China, more than 100 trainings were conducted and over 100,000 religious practitioners trained. As a result, church members began to defend their right to religious freedom and other related human rights. Throughout China, Chinese citizens filed administrative lawsuits against the government in response to acts of religious persecution and related illegal administrative practices, many of which had successful outcomes for the plaintiffs.
In 2014, religious practitioners throughout China bravely disclosed information regarding persecution in order to expose illegal practices of local government officials, attracting the attention of the international community. Specifically, religious practitioners released detailed information on government persecution, including photos, texts, and videos through social media outlets such as WeChat, Sina Weibo, Facebook, and QQ. The timely disclosure of incidents of persecution greatly assisted the international community to understand the unfortunate reality for religious practitioners in China and the restrictions on religious freedom. Through citizen reporting on persecution via social media, it is apparent that the CPC does not value rule of law or religious freedom and has consistently attempted to restrain and reform all religion in China, often deeming religious practitioners who assert their rights as merely government dissenters.
III. Conclusion: Religious Practitioners and Human Rights Advocates Endure
In reviewing the level of persecution in 2014, China Aid believes that the CPC’s persecution of religious communities and human rights advocates will persist under the guise of “stability maintenance.” In addition to organized opposition by China’s civil society, house churches are perhaps the most organized social force in Chinese society today. For instance, the advocacy initiatives orchestrated by Beijing’s Shouwang Church over the past five years has demonstrated that faith communities cannot simply be eliminated. This reality has also been exemplified by the failure of the CPC’s comprehensive crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners over the past decade.
In 2014, President Xi’s Administration restructured its power by launching an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign, and instituted harsh measures against civil society and non-governmental organizations, apprehending over 1,000 human rights activists, legal professionals, and political and religious dissidents for peacefully expressing their views. President Xi’s Administration also intensified its regulations governing the media and applied advanced technology to filter information on the Internet and on social media, reinforced government propaganda, and intensified its control and suppression of free expression on college and university campuses. Thus, as President Xi’s campaign to monopolize power and restrict society persists, China Aid expects that all aspects of Chinese society will continue to be subjected to increased suppression, including the denial of religious freedom and related human rights.
As statistics indicate, Christian religious practitioners in China have experienced unprecedented persecution in 2014. That being said, tens of millions of religious practitioners throughout China including Protestant, Catholic, Tibetan Buddhist, Uyghur Muslim, Falun Gong, and other religious minority groups are persecuted for their faith by the Chinese government. However, government sponsored persecution will ultimately fail to eliminate religious communities, who often grow under threat and are strengthened in the midst of persecution. In the Christian tradition, we are taught, “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6). To be sure, religious practitioners throughout China are fighting to defend their right to religious freedom and working to create a Chinese society that adheres to the rule of law and respects the basic human rights of its citizens.
IV. Statistics: Instances of Religious and Human Rights Persecution in China
As sections I, II and III of this report has focused on the characteristics of persecution in China, predominately affecting house church communities, section IV of the report will detail persecution in 2014 through statistics and data analysis. The Appendix in section V will provide sample reports of religious freedom and human rights abuse cases and the mode of persecution.
In 2014, the government persecution of religious practitioners and human rights advocates in China exhibited a dramatic 152.74 percent increase compared to reporting from 2013. It should be noted that the reported statistics and information on instances of persecution in China reflects data received by China Aid in 2014. Though not comprehensive, these cases cover a wide-range of Chinese provinces and municipalities, are diverse in nature, and represent a variety of individual backgrounds, including urban and rural house churches and Three-Self churches and their members, individual religious practitioners, college students, human rights lawyers and advocates, political dissidents, and sellers of religious materials. Thus, this report reflects the status of religious freedom, though predominately for the Christian house church movement, rule of law, and human rights in China and the severity of persecution faced by Chinese citizens.
In 2014, China Aid collected information on 572 cases of religious persecution across the country, which increased 300 percent from 2013. 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. There were 71 severe abuse cases, including verbal, mental, and physical abuse and torture, an increase of 343.75 percent over the previous year. In those severe abuse cases, 242 people were abused, which demonstrates a 384 percent increase compared to 2013.
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.
Note: As China Aid receives the majority of its reporting on religious persecution and human rights abuse from the house church movement in China, the charts and related statistics below that reference the terms “Christian,” “church,” “meeting,” or “training” all refer to those in the house church context. Where “Three-Self” churches are involved, they are so indicated.
(To view the full report, including statistics and data analysis, click here.)