China: Christians forbidden from holding prayer meeting deemed 'illegal' by authorities

Chinese Christians were forced to cancel a prayer meeting in Handan city yesterday after it was deemed "illegal" by the Religious Affair Bureau.

The Communist Party is believed to be becoming progressively more suspicious of the influence of Christianity, which is experiencing significant growth in China.Reuters

Last month three churches in Handan were vandalised, each having their tabernacle burgled and eucharist desecrated.

In response to the crimes, the bishop of the diocese organised a day of prayer and fasting in one of the churches in Di Xiao Di Ba village.

However, police and the Religious Affairs Bureau in Handan banned local Catholics from holding the meeting on June 6, claiming they did not have permission to gather Christians from different districts.

Christians were prevented from entering the village and some priests were placed on surveillance and forced to stay at home.

Bishop Stephen Yang Xiangtai was forced to cancel the meeting and instead asked Christians to pray at home.

"That the police and Public Safety are afraid of a gathering for prayer and penance is really laughable," a local Catholic told Asia News.

"It is true that we're in the period around 4 June, but the police neuroses always result in an attack against religious freedom."

June 4 marked the 27th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, during which hundreds of pro-democracy protesters were killed.

A report published by China Aid last month found that persecution against Christians in China has increased sevenfold since 2008.