To be a Christian in China, like in most countries in the Eastern part of our world is a demanding and grueling decision. In America for the most part and western civilizations we are very comfortable and often don’t realize that not everyone shares in our lucrative rights. The protection of speech, thought, or religion does not apply to a majority of the world we know. The freedom to even read this article and surf the web for anything and for however long you want is another right we often over look. China is a populous nation in East Asia ran by Communism with a population of 1.4 Billion people; the largest in any place. China is also a place where you are heavily monitored and not as free as you are in America; because of this persecution continues to grow at a scaling pace.
In the Chinese constitution, Article 36 says that citizens “enjoy the freedom of religious belief.” It’s supposed to ban any discrimination based on religion and doesn’t allow state organs, public organizations, or individuals from compelling citizens to believe in or not believe in any particular faith. In February 2018 new Regulations were passed on religious affairs, they would allow state-registered religious organizations to possess property, publish literature, train clergy, and collect donations. These rights come hand and hand with government controls and restrictions. The Government controls religious schooling, the times and locations of religious celebrations; including monitoring of online religious activity and reporting donations that exceed 100,000 yuan. Sophie Richardson, a Human Rights Watch China Director says that even though it may seem like religious beliefs in China are protected, they “do not guarantee the right to practice or worship.” The State only recognizes five religions: Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism. Religious organizations have to register with one of the five state-sanctioned religious associations, which are also supervised by the State Administration for Religious Affairs.
Although Christianity is not Illegal in China and it is one of the five accepted religions, it can surely feel that way. Being monitored and controlled is not freedom but it’s what Churches have to go through or face repercussions. Pastor Jin Mingri has firsthand felt the pain of not falling in line with the Communist Party. Jin’s Zion Church in Beijing, a huge unofficial congregation in China, was completely demolished by authorities who then sent him a bill for 1.2m yuan. Jin had preached there every Sunday for many years. Jin commented on the past and how “as long as you didn’t meddle in politics the government left you alone,”. “But now if you don’t push the Communist party line, if you don’t display your love for the party, you are a target” Jin said.
The regulations that came in February 2018 required tighter control of places of worship, with many Churches forced to install Security cameras that fed live footage to local authorities. Shortly after, officials all around China have removed crosses from church buildings and demolished Churches viewed as “too large” in the hope of reducing the public visibility of religion; because of this Chinese Christians find themselves worshiping in secret places like caves and farms. Many don’t own Bibles and many aren’t allowed to worship the way Jesus Christ intended Christians to; which can be frustrating I assume.
In September of 2017, the Chinese government announced that anyone who organizes a religious event that’s unapproved will be fined 100,000 to 300,000 Yuan. Chinese residents who rent or provide venues for any of these events will also be fined 20,000 to 200,000 Yuan. The Chinese Communist Party has been working on a 3-phase, 14-year operation to smoke out Underground churches and “annihilate” them. The Chinese government first had to ease up on the persecution of the underground church, tricking them into surfacing and being identified. As soon as the Churches began to felt safe and came out publicly, the Chinese government invited and then pressured the underground churches to register and become Three Self churches. Once they got what they wanted, their true goal was revealed as both the remaining underground churches and even Three Self churches are being persecuted using Mao-era brute-force, as well as mass surveillance, artificial intelligence, and big data. The arrest and abuse of Christians especially those who are vocal is now something very common.
Christian persecution is not a new problem for the country and it does make sense that it would be problematic to an atheist Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as well as a challenge. The Government has completely launched an offensive attack against them and have gone as far as to try and rewrite scripture. They have banned the online sales of The Holy Bible and most Christians in China don’t own one themselves. Beyond that, officials have been burning bibles and forcing Christians to denounce their faith. The growth of Christianity clearly is making the Chinese Government uncomfortably nervous, which is leading the ‘Sinicisation’ of religion in the country.
Regardless of what Christians in China are experiencing, they remain strong and Christianity has been growing larger in popularity. The number of Christians in China has grown by an average of 10 percent annually since 1979. Clearly Christians in China are faced with some difficult challenges but even though that’s true, there are still as many as 115 million Protestants in China, and it is one of the fastest growing religions in the country. With 1.4 billion people, China’s population is overwhelming and within that large group of people, Christianity is on its way to being the largest religion. Many have speculated that do to the growth that’s been present for Christianity in China, by 2030 it is very likely that there will be more Christians in China than in the United States combined. If you don’t know the United States is home to the biggest population of Christians, Brazil and Mexico following behind.
In the United states where we have access to Bibles even in our Hotel rooms, we don’t think twice about a day someone says we can’t have it anymore. As Christians in America continue to feel comfort in going to Church when ever they want or opening the bible when ever they want others like in China wish they could do that freely every day. As we take for granted our rights to be Christian in America and barely go to Church and barely open our Bibles; as we let our bibles collect dust, in China they are smuggling them. “This is what we needed the most” says a youth pastor in China as the congregation smells, kisses, and hugs their newly smuggled bibles.
Written by Emmanuel Matos