25th May, 2016

There has been a seven-fold increase in the persecution of Christians in China in the past nine years, according to the latest annual report from US-based persecuted church advocacy group China Aid Association.

The organisation said that the government's persecution of numerous religious minorities - including Christians - continued to escalate last year, both in scale and in intensity and published figures showing the organisation documented 634 cases of persecution involving some 19,426 religious practitioners, an 8.62 per cent increase on the previous year.

It said the persecution of its "own government-sanctioned Three-Self Church continued to rival abuse not seen since the Cultural Revolution, most prominently in the widespread forced demolition of churches and crosses throughout Zhejiang province and a number of other provinces".

Noting that while some estimates put the figures higher, China Aid said that, according to information from Christian leaders in Zhejiang that it was able to independently verify, as many as 20 churches had been forcibly demolished, 1,300 crosses removed, more than 500 Christians taken into police custody and at least 28 pastors and Christians were arrested or charged with a crime during 2015.

The report also said persecution of people involved in the house-church movement also continued to intensify and that the Chinese Government also continued to carry out a policy of "Sinicising" Christianity as it attempted to "make the core tenets of Christianity compatible with the core values of 'socialism with Chinese characteristics'."

China Aid said that despite the "worsening situation of religious freedom" in China over the past decade, they see "great hope in the fast growth of the house church movement across China and firmly believes that God's love and justice will eventually cover the vast expanse of this nation".

~ www.chinaaid.org

- DAVID ADAMS