By BosNewsLife Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– Chinese authorities have stepped up their “longstanding opposition to Christianity” in China last year, an influential human rights group said in comments monitored by BosNewsLife Thursday, February 2.
In its annual report, U.S.-based China Aid Association (CAA) cited figures that it said “showed a dramatic worsening of government persecution of Christians and churches.”
Those statistics included “a 131.8 percent increase” in the number of Christians detained for their religious beliefs. “This trend of worsening persecution has persisted for the past six years,” the group said, adding that Christians were not the only target.
“In the year just ended, China’s Communist regime has succeeded in creating an atmosphere of terror among the Chinese people — throughout the country but particularly in Beijing — by skirting the nation’s judicial system to punish its own citizens, in violation of the nation’s laws, through abduction, forced
disappearance, torture, mentally and physically destructive abuse, treating family members as guilty-by-association, etc. In 2011, more than 100 influential lawyers and human rights activists — both Christians and non-Christians — had “disappeared,” or been “tortured, put under surveillance or sentenced,”
the report said.
A “new government practice” in 2011 was targeting churches and individuals who, CAA said, “were significantly impacting society”. Among those targeted was the 1,000-member Shouwang Church in Beijing, which has been holding outdoors services after government interference made it impossible for them to buy or lease a meeting space.
Additionally, leading legal activists, including constitutional law expert Fan Yafeng, has been under house arrest since December 2010 while award-winning human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who “disappeared” into official custody for 20 months, was sent to a remote prison in far western China to serve a three-year sentence.
The report highlighted CAA called “the worrying increase in the use of torture against detainees,” citing a 33.3 percent increase over 2010 in the number of cases of abuse of all kinds, including torture.
It was not immediately clear how these figures were obtained, but CAA is known to have close contacts with China’s growing house church movement.
Many of the nation’s 130 million Christians prefer to worship outside the government-backed official denominations, including in underground ‘house churches’ organized in homes of individual believers and other buildings.
The Midland, Texas-based CAA was founded a decade ago to draw international attention to what it calls “China’s gross human rights violations against house church Christians”. The group monitors and reports on religious freedom violations in China.
China’s government has denied human rights abuses against Christians and says believers are free to worship in the official Catholic and Protestant denominations. Officials are known to have expressed concerns over the spread of Christianity in a country ruled by a Communist Party with an atheistic ideology.