12/31/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – With the escalated crackdown on churches, church leaders, Christian businesses, and Christian schools, it is no secret that Beijing is a foe to Chinese Christians, especially those who belong to the house churches.
In the last two years, while the pandemic has indeed prevented the authorities from persecuting Christians for a few months, the peace did not last long. First, the Chinese government uses the excuse of “pandemic prevention” to ban Christians from gathering, while other public places, tourist attractions, and restaurants are allowed to open. Earlier this year, authorities in Hebei province even went so far as to call Christians and missionaries “spreaders,” in the hope to incite hostilities against Christians and churches.
Second, once the pandemic started to ease in China (or so they claim), the authorities resumed their surveillance of house churches. From Sichuan to Guangdong, Beijing to Guizhou, whether these Christians meet at a hotel room, a rented office space, someone’s home, or at the beach, raids have become their new normal. They are always told that they are “gathering illegally” and should attend a state-sanctioned church instead.
Last but not least, Beijing continues to take down the leaders of house churches, Christian schools, and businesses. In order to justify the arrests of these Christians, the Chinese government comes up with creative fabricated crimes to put them behind bars.
On December 28, An Yankui, minister of Zion (Xuncheng) Reformed Church in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, was arrested for “illegal border crossing.” Five other Christians from his church arrested five months ago for the same charge had their case open on the same day, though no verdict was announced.
Exactly what crime did they commit? Attending a Christian conference in Malaysia last year where influential speakers such as Pastor Tim Keller and Pastor D.A. Carson spoke. Even though they legally departed and returned to China through customs with their passports, the Chinese government insists that they did so illegally.
This is sadly not a novel charge. Pastor John Cao was also arrested arbitrarily and sentenced for seven years in March 2017 for “organizing illegal border crossings.” His ministry and humanitarian work in Myanmar’s Wa state were deemed unlawful by the Chinese authorities and must be cracked down. He has been incarcerated for more than four years despite repeated calls to demand his release.
Interestingly, as if one trumped-up charge does not suffice, the Chinese government diversifies on the accusation against Christians. Other frequent trumped-up charges include “fraud,” “illegal publication,” “disturbing public order,” and “subversion of state power.”
If a church takes the offering, then the leaders might be targeted for “fraud” or “embezzlement;” if Christian prints or sells Christian materials or texts, “illegal publication” is dropped; if a group of Christians gathers for small group activities, chances are their action is deemed as “disturbing public order.” Once someone becomes the government’s target, China will never run out of reasons to imprison the accused.
To our dismay, rule of law is not what is being followed in China. The concept of the “rule by law,” where the legal system is applied to secure the Chinese Communist Party’s dominance, is. Any individual – Christian, Muslim, Falun Gong practitioner, or dissident, could easily fall victim to such principle.