Not only local Muslims are persecuted in Xinjiang Province – authorities have set their eyes on Christians who are increasingly put under strict monitoring.
In April 2018, officials from the Urumqi Municipal Bureau of Religious Affairs stormed into a government-controlled Protestant Three-Self church in Midong district and ordered the church’s leader Lin Feng (pseudonym) to dismantle the cross. If the order were not implemented, the officials would bring in an excavator to demolish the church, said the officials. Elder Lin and the church deacons were forced to remove the cross.
Shortly afterward, officials from the Bureau instructed to build a mound in front of the church where a flagpole with China’s national flag should be erected. Every Sunday, officials and local police arrange for believers to raise the flag with obligatory attendance. The government also arranged for a preacher to speak at the church about national policies and President Xi Jinping’s speeches. An oversight group was even stationed at the church.
In 2017, the local government has installed 13 cameras inside and outside the church to conduct full-scale surveillance and also deployed four police officers at the church entrance. Believers are required to swipe their ID cards upon entering the church. Congregation members report that sometimes government personnel intimidate them by threatening to send anyone who disobeys to “study classes.”
A while ago, the church received 40,000 HKD (around 5,000 USD) from a Hong Kong-based preacher for its construction, after which the local government suspected the church elder Lin Feng of “involvement in xie jiao activities,” making him the primary subject of persecutions. Since the end of September 2017, the police ordered elder Lin to report and sign in at the local police station and village committee office every week. He is also required to be available on demand at all times.
Reported by Li Zaili
Li Zaili (uses pseudonyms for security reasons), born in Xinjiang in 1982, went to the United States to study at the age of 16. After graduating from university, Li returned to Xinjiang and worked in journalism. In 2014, Xinjiang authorities started detaining large numbers of Muslims in “transformation through education camps.” Learning of that, he left his original position and began independently collecting and organizing information related to “transformation through education camps,” and submitted articles for publication in overseas media outlets. After Bitter Winter was founded in May 2018, Li Zaili became a special correspondent of Bitter Winter covering Xinjiang, Xizang and some other regions in China.