China Cracks Whips on Evangelical Covenant Church, Arrests Pastor
People’s Republic of China under Xi Jinping is growing increasingly wary of minorities that refrain from toeing in the Communist Party’s line of thought. The most evident testimony is the recent spike in police actions against churches that operate underground or independently of strict government supervision.
The Early Rain Evangelical Covenant Church in Sichuan is one such example. It’s pastor and his wife were detained and charged with state subversion, on Saturday.
Communist China widely promotes Atheism as a strong pillar of state policy; however, it claims that all minorities are protected.
China has launched a large scale crackdown on minorities, including Christians and Muslims on a scale last seen during Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”. According to Human Rights Watch, “[Actions against religious groups] makes a mockery of the government’s claim that it respects religious beliefs”.
The government unofficially mandates Christians to join one of the three “Self Patriotic churches”, which are sanctioned by the state and advance the Communist Party line. Despite this, out of a 100 million Christians in China, a significant number worships in underground churches, not approved by the state.
Wang Yi is the leader of the Early Rain Evangelical Covenant Church in Chengdu, Sichuan province, one of the many churches attempting to function beyond the grip of the CPC. In an operation launched on December 9, police forces marched into the church and arrested Pastor Wang and his wife. They also arrested at least 100 other church members, including Wang’s assistant. It is also alleged by members that some of those detained and were mistreated in custody before being released.
Forty-eight hours after the arrest, in an act of absolute defiance, Early Rain Evangelical Covenant Church released a letter from Pastor Wang, which he had pre-written for release in case of any government crackdown.
In the letter, he wrote that he respected the Chinese authorities and was “not interested in changing any political or legal institutions in China”. He further added: “[I am] filled with anger and disgust at the persecution of the church by this Communist regime. As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely. The calling that I have received requires me to use non-violent methods to disobey those human laws that disobey the Bible and God,”.
The charges levelled against him carry a harsh penalty of up to 15 years in prison, on account of going against the state dictate.
In Guangzhou, the Rongguili Church, another un-sanctioned evangelical covenant church was shut down after a children’s Bible class was interrupted by the arrival of dozens of police officers on Saturday. Witnesses said they declared the church an illegal gathering, confiscated Bibles and the members’ cell phones.
In September, the Zion church, one of the largest unofficial churches in Beijing, was shut down after refusing to install security cameras to monitor its activities, as mandated by the government.
The recent purge on religious institutions highlight the growing intolerance amongst Communist Party members against followers of Christianity, Islam, Falun Gong and other minorities. It also signifies President Xi’s attempts at consolidating his grip over all sections of the Chinese society.
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