Under the regime’s harsh crackdown on overseas religious groups active in China, countless churchgoers forced to give up faith or even end up losing freedom.
by Li Mingxuan
Ever since the United Front Work Department and the Ministry of Public Security jointly issued the Work Plan of the Special Operation to Investigate and Deal with Overseas Christian Infiltration According to Law, provincial authorities throughout China have been intensifying crackdowns on foreign-related Christian groups. South Korean-affiliated churches are particularly targeted. Members of these congregations bear the brunt of the persecution: they are harassed regularly, arrested for attending religious gatherings or sharing the gospel.
No contact with foreign churches
In early July, the police raided a Christian house church established by a South Korean in Binzhou city in the eastern province of Shandong, arresting at least seven of its members.
An eyewitness described what happened that night: “The police rummaged through the entire room of the meeting venue, leaving it in an utter mess. Two televisions, three mobile phones, and other items that are used during our gatherings were all confiscated.”
According to one of the arrested congregation members, during the interrogation, the police claimed that the government doesn’t allow any contacts with foreign churches. The believer also learned that the police had been tracking and monitoring church members for over a month before arresting them.
Until the government started monitoring their mobile phones, the congregation used firewall-circumvention software to watch South Korean sermons online.
Believers deemed secret agents who are “defecting to the enemy”
Last year, Bitter Winter exposed multiple confidential government documents related to the CCP’s crackdown on South Korean Christian groups that are widely-spread throughout China. The documents call for government departments at all levels to suppress South Korean Christian organizations and their activities in the country.
The CCP has repeatedly blacklisted South Korean Shincheonji Church (literally “New Heaven and New Earth Church”). In May, more than a dozen church members were congregating at their meeting venue in a city of the northeastern province of Liaoning when police officers and officials from the local Religious Affairs Bureau raided the church. One of the believers suffered a heart attack because of the fright. Still, he was taken not to the hospital but the city’s Public Security Bureau for interrogation, along with four church co-workers.
During the interrogation, police officers explained to one of the believers that taking part in South Korean Christian groups is a “foreign-related matter between nations,” not a domestic issue, like murder or arson. “But since your religious faith constitutes ‘betraying the Party and defecting to the enemy,’ in essence, you are secret agents,” the believer recounted police officers telling him during interrogation.
The police also threatened to punish the believers as “political prisoners” if they continued holding gatherings, and said that their family members’ employment would also be affected. They were released only after they signed “statements of guarantee,” that included sentences like these: “Shincheonji Church is illegal in China. I promise to separate myself from the church and stop attending gatherings.”
Germany-based church members arrested for sharing the gospel
From April to June, Chinese members of a Christian group from Germany in the provinces of Guangdong and Jiangsu, Shanghai Municipality, and other regions were detained for sharing the gospel. Some were restricted from leaving China.
One of the group’s believers explained to Bitter Winter that as Christians, they are merely spreading the gospel, but the Chinese state treats them as if they have “anti-government tendencies.”
Many religious people find themselves in difficult situations because of their faith under the current regime. A believer who asked to remain anonymous told Bitter Winter that the police threatened her landlord to stop renting the apartment to her. “They even pressured her to evict me,” the woman said helplessly, adding that it will soon be impossible to find a place to live for a religious person in China.