China puts more Christians on trial as pressure on religion mounts

One of the church cross demolitions in Zhejiang.China Aid

Protestant Christians in the Chinese province of Guizhou are facing prosecution in signs of an increasingly harsh clampdown on religion. 

Zhang Xiuhong, a deacon at the Guiyang Huoshi Church responsible for its financial affairs, was detained by local police on July 28 last year alongside her husband Chen Zukai, who was later released, according to Radio Free Asia.

She now faces charges of "running an illegal business", says one of her defence team, Li Guisheng.

"The case is going to court," Li told RFA. "The indictment is likely to be released by the end of the month; the prosecutor's office hasn't released it yet." 

The authorities are still holding Huoshi pastor Li Zhiguo, also known as Yang Hua, his wife Wang Hongwu told RFA. He faces charges of "deliberately leaking state secrets".

Li's lawyer has been denied permission to meet with his client, his wife said.

The Chinese government has been taking an increasing hard line regarding religion. Many churches have been demolished and their identifying crosses removed in Zhejiang province. Pastor and lawyers who opposed the campaign have been imprisoned on charges widely regarded as concocted by the authorities.

In a further sign of the government's determination to exercise control over religion, it has announced it will require Catholic and Taoist priests to carry identification cards. Those without the cards will be barred from taking part in religious activities. According to UCA News, Protestants and Muslims will also be targeted.

A Catholic priest, Fr Joseph Li Rongping, told UCA most priests in the official Church did not have ID cards. "It is used only when one travels to another diocese to show the authorities when needed," Father Li said.

Another priest said: "If the authorities are serious on certifying all the priests this time, it could result in forcing those priests who refused to get an ID card to go underground."