Chinese police detain Christians passing out Gospel tracts, threaten to remove social welfare

Chinese Catholic worshippers kneel and pray during Palm Sunday Mass during the Easter Holy Week at an 'underground' or 'unofficial' church on April 9, 2017 near Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, China.
Chinese Catholic worshippers kneel and pray during Palm Sunday Mass during the Easter Holy Week at an "underground" or "unofficial" church on April 9, 2017 near Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, China. | Getty Images/Kevin Frayer

Christians in China were detained by officials with China's Communist Party while passing out Gospel tracts and ordered to cease all religious activity or risk losing social welfare benefits. 

A Christian in Jiangxi province recently told persecution watchdog China Aid that previously, believers were permitted to openly share their faith. Now, doing so invites severe repercussions from local authorities.

On July 3, the two Christians in Zhejiang province’s Quzhou who were sharing the Gospel on the streets were taken by the police and detained for 10 days. Also in July, more than 10 Christians were placed under administrative detention in Jiangsu for passing out Gospel tracts on the streets, a local pastor said. 

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Fearing further repercussions, those who were released did not share the details of their detention, the pastor told China Aid.

“In the past they would share what happened to them,” the pastor said. “Now they dare not to share. Before they were released they were threatened by the police that they would be detained again, or that their social welfare would be stopped. […] While the churches used to speak up about the detention, now more than 90% of churches choose to stay silent.”

Previous reports have revealed how Communist authorities use low-income Christians' reliance on government assistance to coerce believers to renounce their faith.

It was earlier reported that Communist officials ordered Christians who received social welfare payments from the government to replace crosses, religious symbols, and images in their homes with portraits of China's communist leaders.

If Christians resisted the order, officials annulled their subsidies.

A member of a Three-Self church in one of the villages told religious magazine Bitter Winter that local officials tore down all religious couplets and a calendar with an image of Jesus in his home and posted a portrait of Mao Zedong instead. 

The believer quoted the official as saying, "Impoverished religious households can't receive money from the state for nothing — they must obey the Communist Party for the money they receive."

Similarly, in Jiangxi’s Poyang county, a Christian woman in her 80s was removed from the government’s aid list because she said “Thank God” after receiving her monthly 200 RMB (about $28) subsidy in mid-January. 

Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology and the director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, told TIME that there are about 116 million Protestant Christians in mainland China in 2020 compared with an estimated 90 million members in the Communist Party.

“It is almost certain that by 2030 there will be more Christians in China than any other country in the world,” Yang said.

Willy Lam, adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Center for China Studies, told the outlet that as underground churches spread “like wildfire” in rural areas of China, officials fear that more people, including less educated people, will “turn to the church for their spiritual needs and not to official nationalism and patriotism.”

On Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, China is ranked No. 23 on its list of countries known for persecuting Christians. 

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, rights groups, and the U.S. State Department have condemned China’s continued persecution of religious minorities.

In June, President Donald Trump signed legislation condemning the Chinese government for the detainment of members of ethnic groups, including Uighur Muslims.

Estimates suggest that over 1 million to as many as 3 million Uighur Muslims and other minority groups in Western China have been subject to internment camps in Xinjiang.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the legislation was evidence that the U.S. “will not sit idly by as the Chinese government and communist party commit egregious human rights abuses and crimes against humanity.”

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