China: Street preacher arrested for 'illegal evangelism' witnesses to police

Chen Wensheng, who is part of the Xiaoqun Church in Hengyang in China’s Hunan province, was sentenced on August 3, 2020. | China Aid

A Chinese Christian man was sentenced to 10 days in jail this week for the act of “illegal evangelism” as the Communist Party escalates its crackdown on street evangelism.

Chen Wensheng, who is part of the Xiaoqun Church in Hengyang, located in China’s Hunan province, was sentenced on Aug. 3 after authorities detained him because of his evangelistic activity, persecution watchdog China Aid reports.

A street evangelist, Chen often carries a wooden cross inscribed with the words “Glory to our Savior” and “Repent and Be Saved by Faith” as he shares the Gospel with passersby. 

Because of his evangelistic efforts, Chen is frequently arrested and detained at the police station, where he's repeatedly urged officers to believe in Jesus. During his latest detention, his cross was confiscated by officers. 

Video footage shared by China Aid shows Chen’s street evangelism booth, while another shows him sharing his faith with officers as he leaves the station following a separate arrest.

When officers asked him whether believing in Jesus can bring money, he responded that believing in Jesus is not for money, but to gain eternal life.

In China, evangelism is banned outside of registered religious sites. International Christian Concern reports that with the crackdown against house churches in China, street evangelism has become increasingly difficult. Those who evangelize face harassment or detention, while others see their churches further restricted by authorities.

In 2018, more than 20 members of a street evangelism team from the heavily-persecuted Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, one of the area's most well-known unregistered churches, were detained for proselytizing on a public street and holding a worship service in a public park.

ICC's new report on religious suppression in China documents how the CCP routinely targets Christians through its legal framework, Sinicization, closure or demolition of churches or places of worship, arresting of Christians, and social pressure. 

Such persecution is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to stamp out religion and enforce greater control over people's lives. 

Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager for Southeast Asia and the author of the report, said China’s vaguely worded Constitution allows the government to define what falls within the realm of “normal religious activities,” giving the government the authority to “crack down on certain religious practices or even disband them.” 

There are an estimated 100 million Christians in China. Scholars have said that, given the growth of Christianity in China, there could be more Christians in China than anywhere else in the world by 2030.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom ranks China as a Country of Particular Concern in its 2020 report on global religious freedom. And Open Doors USA ranks China at No. 23 on its 2020 World Watch List of the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians.

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