China’s religious persecution extends to all religions without discrimination.
Not only are Jehovah’s Witnesses facing a severe crackdown in China, but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is also supporting other countries’ similar crackdowns. As Bitter Winter reported earlier this month, a Russian court sentenced Danish citizen Dennis Christensen, a Jehovah’s Witness, to six years in prison for extremism. While international organizations and democratic countries condemned Russia’s crackdown, the CCP-connected anti-xie jiao website, published an article in support of Russia.
The exact number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in China is difficult to ascertain; they’re not included in the list of the xie jiao, but their activities are regarded as illegal. Missionaries from abroad are considered “hostile forces” and often deported, as part of China’s campaigns to crack down on foreign religious infiltration.
On December 26, 2018, two police officers from a city in eastern China’s Shandong Province stormed into the home of two Spanish Jehovah’s Witnesses missionaries, asking them about work they did and why they were staying there while earning so little. The officers then ordered them to leave China within two weeks on the grounds that “foreigners are not allowed to do missionary work.”
“They [the missionaries] felt that their deportation was very sudden. They just contacted some people to talk about faith; there is no record that they violated any regulations or broke the law,” said one believer.
“They felt very reluctant when leaving China,” another believer added.
As for the foreign missionaries who have not yet been arrested or deported, they’re still facing a difficult time. Worried about being followed by the police, one South Korean missionary told Bitter Winter that she is extremely careful every time she goes out. Another South Korean missionary has suffered multiple recurrences of gastric illness as a result of being under too much pressure and is planning to return to South Korea in the near future.
To prevent being discovered by the police when they hold gatherings, Jehovah’s Witnesses have not only installed a thickened security door at the meeting venues but have also used a foam board, measuring two meters high and ten centimeters thick, to keep sounds from carrying.
Still, believers don’t dare to sing loudly.
They also specially arrange for believers to keep watch at the meeting venue’s entrance – if any danger is detected, they’ll immediately notify others to end the gathering. The believers also use hand gestures to signal each other to turn off the lights.
In May 2018, a Jehovah’s Witnesses meeting venue in Shandong’s Linyi city was raided by the police. Without presenting any credentials, eight preachers were summoned to the local police station. The visas of four Japanese missionaries were annulled, and the police ordered them to leave China within ten days, prohibiting them from returning to China to do missionary work.
Around the same time, the United Front Work Department of Xinxiang city’s Party committee in central China’s Henan Province, the municipal State Security Bureau, and other related departments formed eight working groups to investigate the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
On May 5, they carried out a concentrated operation in which seven meeting venues were raided and shut down. One Japanese missionary was detained for 15 days, fined 20,000 RMB (about $2,857), and ordered to leave the country.
In mid-October 2018, a Jehovah’s Witnesses meeting venue in Harbin city of northeastern China’s Heilongjiang Province was also raided by the police. Officers from the local police station and officials from the local Religious Affairs Bureau stormed into the meeting venue and demanded that all the believers show their ID cards. Three South Korean missionaries were taken to the local police station for questioning and were deported later that month.
In November, a government official in Harbin city’s Shuangcheng district encouraged villagers to report foreign missionaries to the authorities as soon as they discover them.
Reported by Li Mingxuan