Christian Persecution in China Rises Over 40 Percent in 2012, ChinaAid Reports

ChinaAid, a Texas-based Christian non-profit organization that monitors religious freedom in China, said in its 2012 annual report on Monday that the Chinese government continues its uptick of persecution against Christians in the country for the seventh consecutive year.

The report examines 132 persecution cases involving 4,919 people, finding that persecution incidences rose 41.9 percent from 2011. Additionally, the number of people sentenced in cases relating to religious persecution jumped 125 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, according to the group's finding.

"If the Chinese government had its druthers, religion would not be practiced at all within its borders," the organization stated on its website in response to the results of its 2012 persecution report.

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"Beijing fears a higher authority, and it's also horrified by any group that is able to organize, particularly around an ideology or belief," it added.

In Mainland China, Protestant churches must register with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and China Christian Council (CCC) in order to operate legally. The TSPM/CCC, however, is a government body, therefore many house churches, or "underground churches," refuse to be part of the TSPM/CCC because they argue that Christ is the head of the church, not the government.

According to the ChinaAid the report , methods for suppressing Christianity in China include "forcibly banning and sealing up churches, pressuring churches to join the official 'Three-Self' church system, detaining church leaders and sending them to labor camps on the pretext of 'suspicion of organizing and using a cult to undermine law enforcement,' and strictly restricting the spread of the Christian faith among students."

In December 2012, International Christian Concern, a Christian human rights watchdog group, blamed the continued increase in persecution on the Communist Party of China, which, in the past, has reportedly pressed Christians belonging to house churches with "cult" charges so that the government could avoid being criticized as religiously intolerant.

"The Communist Party's hostile attitude towards religious adherents was made clear in the run-up to the Congress last month as local authorities were encouraged to crack down on 'dissident' Christian groups and 'clean up' their areas by halting Christian activity," Ryan Morgan, International Christian Concern's Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said in a December statement.

Although the ChinaAid report found persecution in China to continue its steady rise, the group is optimistic of the country's future, as Christianity continues to spread throughout the country. "The church [...] is still standing firm, flourishing like the cedars of Lebanon and fruit trees planted by the streams, bearing much fruit at the appointed time," the report stated in conclusion.

Still, many, such as blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, continue to condemn the Chinese government for its poor human rights record. "The human rights situation in China is, in fact, getting worse," Chen, who escaped the country in May 2012, claimed in a December 2012 video produced by ChinaAid, adding that "in China, no one is safe."

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