|PIC1|A new report released on Sunday, exactly two months ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games, details the current Chinese Government's crackdown on unregistered Christians, including the funding of a campaign to eradicate house churches throughout China.
The report, entitled "China: Persecution of Protestant Christians in the Approach to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games", by Christian Solidarity Worldwide and China Aid Association, provides information on different tactics used by the government to restrict the religious freedom of Christians.
CAA said that in May, two independent sources reported that the Chinese Central Government was providing funding to the Ministry of Public Security to escalate its campaign to eradicate house churches in China.
China Aid also said it received reports of "planned intensified persecution", with greater control and prevention of large Christian gatherings ahead of the Games.
"While Chinese house churches have long suffered persecution, this is believed to be the first time that the authorities have systematically cracked down on the 'third wave churches'," the report noted. "These are churches amongst the more educated and wealthy sections of society with greater awareness of their rights, which generally meet in urban areas and have been tolerated, even though operating under certain restrictions."
Tactics used to crack down on unregistered Christians include the targeting of well-established unregistered churches, sending landlords directives ordering them to not rent space to those engaging in religious activities, and charging Christians in the Xinjiang region of separatism. They have also expelled foreign Christians, attempted to repress the Chinese House Church Alliance, and carried out the largest mass sentencing of house church leaders in 25 years.
The report also highlights the "disturbing news" that some house church Christians were arrested and fined for trying to help victims of the massive earthquake in Sichuan Province.
"As we mark the two month countdown to the Beijing Olympics today it is truly disturbing to report the deteriorating picture for China's unregistered Christians," said Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of CSW, on Sunday. "As China takes her place in the spotlight for the Olympic Games it is important to highlight that she must play by international rules, including her binding international obligations on human rights."
In China, there are five government-sanctioned religions - Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism. A government-affiliated association monitors and supervises the activities of each of these faiths.
Protestant churches are required to register and operate under the government's umbrella organisation, the China Christian Council. But many protestant Christians refuse to work with the CCC, arguing that God is the head of the church and not the government.
China has an underground Christian population estimated at 70 million, although experts are quick to point out the difficulty in establishing precise figures.
Open Doors and other human rights groups have reported increased incidents of Christian persecution in China last year as it prepares for the Olympics. The watchdog's 2008 World Watch List ranks China as the tenth worst persecutor of Christians in the world.
Meanwhile, China Aid Association, in its annual update, reported that persecution had worsened in 2007 compared to 2006.
Open Doors has organised a prayer campaign for Christians in the West to pray at least one minute each day at 8 pm Beijing time. The "One Minute/One Year/One Country" campaign began on August 8, 2007, and will run until August 8, 2008 - the day the Beijing Games begin.
On Wednesday, CAA president Bob Fu will be in London to speak about persecution of Chinese Christians. Also, activist Chun Ki Won, who was imprisoned by China for helping North Korean refugees, will also speak about China's human rights violation.
The full report is available at www.csw.org.uk