Christian Woman In China Sentenced To Three Years In Prison For Holding Bible Study

A Bible is placed on a bicycle saddle at an underground Catholic church in Tianjin, China. A woman has been sentenced to three years in prison for holding a Bible study, according to China Aid.Reuters

A Christian woman in China has been sentenced to three years in prison for holding a Bible study after being accused of "gathering a crowd to disturb public order".

China Aid reported that Ma Huichao was sentenced on Friday at a court in the western Xinjiang region of the country.

She had been taken into police custody along with four other Christians when officials claimed that their Bible study met without government approval, and stood trial in mid-November.

China Aid added that Ma's lawyer, Li Dunyong was disallowed to plead innocent on her behalf, and Ma received a three-year prison sentence beginning on 30 December.

Ma does not plan to appeal, said the group, which promotes religious freedom and supports persecuted Christians in the world's most populous nation.

In recent years China's Communist regime has been cracking down on non-government sanctioned underground churches and Christian gatherings, and has arrested hundreds of pastors and Christian worshipers on similar charges of disturbing public order.

According to the Christian Post, the Revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Affairs, which went into effect in October 2016, further established prohibitions on "organising citizens to attend religious training, conferences and activities abroad"; "preaching, organizing religious activities, and establishing religious institutions or religious sites at schools," and "providing religious services through the internet."

The regime has also been demolishing crosses on church roofs, claiming they are in violation of building codes.

"The government wants to control everything, even the smallest aspects," one pastor, identified as Zhou, told China Aid in September. "One characteristic of this draft is the empowerment of local government bodies all the way down to the communities."

A church in ChinaPixabay

"This revision will further reduce the possibility of loosening religious control in China. It is becoming impossible."

China Aid has also reported that several Christians were arrested throughout October and November and accused of belonging to "evil cults," in charges which have been denied.

The advocacy group said that the exact number of people arrested is not yet known. "Tu Yan, a woman who began attending churches in Yunnan after she moved there for work, was returning home from a Christian gathering on October 22, when she was apprehended on suspicion of 'using a cult organization to undermine the implementation of the law,'" China Aid said.

"A month later, she was arrested for the same charge. Authorities also accused her of being the backbone of two so-called 'evil cults' and organizing three meetings on behalf of these institutions. In an interview, her father denied her involvement in any cult activities."

In August 2016, two teachers were arrested and accused of "brainwashing" children with Christian teachings, also in the Xinjiang region.

"Both women were accused of indoctrinating minors with superstitious beliefs. Chinese law forbids religious teaching to anyone under the age of 18, believing matters of faith to be dangerous brainwashing from which children must be protected," China Aid said at the time.