A Chinese Christian man who was recently released from prison for his faith is now struggling to find work as communist authorities pressure employers to fire him, citing his “cult” affiliation.
According to persecution watchdog China Aid, Ruan Haonan, who attends a group related to Fengle Church Heshan city, Guangdong province, was detained for a month for “Organizing and Using a Cult to Undermine Implementation of the Law” in June 2017.
Although the former chef has since been released, he has faced consistent persecution. communist authorities have repeatedly pressured his employers to fire him, leaving him constantly out of work.
He said: “I have been having a hard time finding a job since our church was harassed by the public security department in 2017. Every year, the local police station calls us to question us, berates us, and asks me not to preach the Gospel. Hotels and restaurants generally reject me if I look for positions there, saying that I have a criminal record. I have to work for eateries, and the salary is 30% lower than big restaurants, so it is hard to raise a family.”
Because police have labeled him as having joined a cult, Haonan said potential employers who perform background checks do not want to hire him.
Once COVID-19 hit China and the government closed down eateries, the Christians’ situation worsened. Now, he is helping friends sell used cars, but it isn’t making him nearly enough money to support himself, his wife, two children, and grandmother.
“Now due to the virus, many restaurants are closed, it has become harder for me to find a job,” he said. “If I were to return to my hometown, the local police would ask me where I went and whether or not I am proselytizing. With little options left, I can only find a job that doesn’t require registration of ID, which pays little.”
Haonan is not the only member of Fengle Church to experience persecution at the hands of communist authorities.
Religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter reports that the Rev. Li Wanhua, a pastor at Fengle Church, was detained in February for reposting photos and messages about Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor who was silenced by the authorities for trying to warn people about the coronavirus. Li later died from the virus.
The pastor had also been previously suppressed by the government: On June 14, 2018, he was detained by the Public Security Bureau in Jiangmen’s county-level city of Heshan for “organizing and using reactionary secret societies, cult organizations, and using superstition to undermine law enforcement.” The pastor was later released on bail.
“In the face of the epidemic, the government spares no effort in controlling and suppressing believers instead of fighting the disaster. For the Communist Party, stability maintenance always comes first!” a Christian from Guangdong Province told Bitter Winter.
Previous reports have revealed how the Communist government continues to persecute Christians during the country's coronavirus outbreak.
On March 13, a church in Guoyang County, Anhui province saw its cross removed by authorities. A video shared by the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness documented the moment when the crane removed the red cross from the church's rooftop.
A Christian with the surname Chen told persecution watchdog group China Aid that this church usually has 40 churchgoers attending its services. Authorities used the lockdown as an opportunity to remove the church's cross.
Bob Fu from China Aid also shared a video showing the demolished Xiangbaishu Church in Yixing city, Jiangsu province on March 11.
“Religious persecution continues even in the midst of #WuhanVirus,” Fu captioned the video. “Xiangbaishu Church in Yixing city, Jiangsu province was destroyed by #CCP govt. Cross is our Glory.”
China is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to persecution of Christians on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.
In addition to Christians, the communist government continues to persecute and monitor members of various religious minorities, including the detention of over 1 million Uighur and other Muslims in western China over the last three years.