Monday, September 08, 2014

'Outspoken' pastor faces 10 years in jail

Christianity has enjoyed phenomenal growth in China. The Pew Forum on Religion and Ethics has estimated Protestants there at 58 million and Catholics at nine million: others say there are more than 100 million Christians in China. The Chinese Communist Party has only 86 million members.

In May, a national report listed religion as one of four "severe challenges" to national security in China. (The others were the import of democratic ideals, the influence of Western culture and uncensored access to the world-wide web.)

A few weeks later, the New York Post reported, a Chinese government document said religion had grown too fast, there were too many religious sites and there were too many religious activities. Once again, the Chinese authorities are tightening the screw, especially in the coastal Zhejiang province, where Christians are particularly numerous.

Communist officials have toppled the crosses of at least 229 churches, torn down some churches entirely, and issued demolition notices to over 100 more. They have even attacked state-controlled churches, where the state has the say about membership, the appointment of pastors and the content of sermons.

Church members, some of them elderly, attempting to protect Wenzhou Salvation Church, were beaten with electric batons. A number were hospitalised with a fractured skull, broken bones and internal injuries.

One of the pastors, Huang Yizi, has been openly critical of the demolition programme, calling it "severe persecution" and an "insult" to China's Christians. "I will not be silenced," he said. "I know I will be put in jail one day." 

He was detained on August 2 for "gathering a crowd to assault a state agency" and has not been released.

He is 40 years old, and has a wife and two young children. He is said to be facing a 10-year jail term.

No comments: