Chinese authorities arrested a pastor to stop him from traveling to Hong Kong to attend a Christian training conference, the legal aid organization China Aid reports.
The organization, which was founded by Chinese-American Pastor Bob Fu and reports on human rights abuses committed by the Chinese communist government, reports that pastor Wang Yi was prevented from traveling to the Three-Fold Vision Training Conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday morning.
Yi, who pastors the Autumn Rain Blessing Church, and his wife, Jiang Rong, left from the city of Chengdu in the Sichuan province around 6 a.m. on Tuesday to attend the conference. However, they were reportedly followed by police officers and Wang was intercepted by numerous government personnel when he went through customs.
According to China Aid, government officials detained Wang and took him to the Dongpo Police Station in the Qingyang district. Wang was detained for about an hour before he was allowed to return home, while his wife was allowed to travel to Hong Kong.
"During his time in custody, he asked the officials to provide a document explaining their decision to disallow him from attending the conference," the China Aid report reads. "They replied that they didn't have anything in writing, since this command came from top-level officials. They also could not tell him how long his ban on traveling to Hong Kong would persist."
According to China Aid, the government officials blocking of Wang from traveling into Hong Kong, which is its own special administrative region separate from the Chinese government, is similar to the regieme's pattern of preventing religious leaders from traveling overseas to take part in religious meetings.
"Prohibitions on Chinese Christians attending religious conferences abroad are becoming more frequent, triggered by the Communist Party's fear that other nations are using non-Chinese belief systems to infiltrate the country," China Aid explains. "Revisions to China's Regulations on Religious Affairs, expected to take effect in February, emphasize the country's intent to continue preventing its citizens from traveling abroad to receive theological training."
Although Wang was prevented from attending the meeting, he reportedly submitted a letter that was read at the conference.
China Aid notes that in 2015, the same conference that Wang tried to attend this week was attended by over 1,800 people despite the fact that government officials prevented 100 from attending.
According to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List, China ranks as one of the top-50 worst countries in the world when it comes to Christian persecution.
In August, a Chinese official pushed back against the United States State Department's criticism of China's atrocious human rights and religious freedom record in its 2017 religious freedom report. The Chinese official implied that the U.S. should worry about its own social issues.
"The so-called U.S. report ignores the facts, confuses right and wrong and makes wanton criticism of China's religious freedom situation," Hua Chunying, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said during a news conference. "China is resolutely opposed to this and has lodged solemn representations with the U.S. side."
"Everyone has seen that the facts prove the United States is not totally perfect," she added. "We urge the United States to respect the facts and properly manage its own affairs, and stop using the wrong means of the so-called religious freedom issue to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries."
Even though China's Foreign Ministry argues that the U.S. is confusing the facts about the religious freedom situation in China, the facts show that the Chinese government has been anything but friendly to many Chinese Christians, house churches and democracy activists, whether that be through the demolition of churches, the systemic arrest of dozens of worshipping Christians or the prevention of Christian leaders from attending religious conferences.
"As Christians are the largest social force in China not controlled by the Communist Party, there are increasing efforts to bring them under state control," an Open Doors fact sheet explains. "Historical Christian communities (including government-controlled churches) and non-traditional Protestant Christian communities are monitored and limited in their freedom of religion, the communities of converts to Christianity very small groups of Christian converts from Muslim or Tibetan background — are particularly targeted."