Religious Freedom

The Los Angelese Times
Date: December 25, 2019
By:  Alice Suchina

In Beijing, a man is baptized at an independent Protestant church in 2014. Christianity in China has gone underground as ministers and congregants are watched, harassed and arrested. (Kevin Frayer / Getty Images)

CHENGDU, China —  

Li Chengju glared at her prison interrogator as he pressed her to renounce her Christian church and condemn her pastor.

Her captor warned she would not be so lucky as the pastor, who was locked in secret detention but at least might get a day in court.

“Look at you. You sweep the floors at church,” the interrogator said. “You think you’re getting a trial like your pastor? You don’t qualify.”

Li still refused to sign the document disowning her church.

“I’m a citizen who has faith,” she told the interrogator. “God knows everything you are doing and he will judge you one day.”

Then she repeated a saying she’d heard at church about the Chinese president: “Xi Jinping is sinning against God. If he doesn’t repent, he will be judged by God.”

Li, who recounted her detention in a recent interview with The Times, belonged to the Early Rain Covenant Church, which authorities here in Chengdu dissolved late last year as part of a sweeping campaign by the government to rein in the country’s fastest-growing religion: Protestant Christianity.

China’s Communist party is intensifying religious persecution as Christianity’s popularity grows. A new state translation of the Bible will establish a ‘correct understanding’ of the text

The Observer
Date: 13 Jan 2019
By: Lily Kuo in Chengdu

 Rush hour in the centre of Chengdu, home to the Early Rain Covenant Church, which has just been closed. Photograph: Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images\

In late October, the pastor of one of China’s best-known underground churches asked this of his congregation: had they successfully spread the gospel throughout their city? “If tomorrow morning the Early Rain Covenant Church suddenly disappeared from the city of Chengdu, if each of us vanished into thin air, would this city be any different? Would anyone miss us?” said Wang Yi, leaning over his pulpit and pausing to let the question weigh on his audience. “I don’t know.”

Almost three months later, Wang’s hypothetical scenario is being put to the test. The church in south-west China has been shuttered and Wang and his wife, Jiang Rong, remain in detention after police arrested more than 100 Early Rain church members in December. Many of those who haven’t been detained are in hiding. Others have been sent away from Chengdu and barred from returning. Some, including Wang’s mother and his young son, are under close surveillance. Wang and his wife are being charged for “inciting subversion”, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Now the hall Wang preached from sits empty, the pulpit and cross that once hung behind him both gone. Prayer cushions have been replaced by a ping-pong table and a film of dust. New tenants, a construction company and a business association, occupy the three floors the church once rented. Plainclothes police stand outside, turning away those looking for the church.

One of the officers told the Observer: “I have to tell you to leave and watch until you get in a car and go.”

Early Rain is the latest victim of what Chinese Christians and rights activists say is the worst crackdown on religion since the country’s Cultural Revolution, when Mao Zedong’s government vowed to eradicate religion.

Researchers say the current drive, fuelled by government unease over the growing number of Christians and their potential links to the west, is aimed not so much at destroying Christianity but bringing it to heel.

“The government has orchestrated a campaign to ‘sinicise’ Christianity, to turn Christianity into a fully domesticated religion that would do the bidding of the party,” said Lian Xi, a professor at Duke University in North Carolina, who focuses on Christianity in modern China.    [FULL  STORY]

Leader of Early Rain Covenant, which is not sanctioned by Communist party, swept up in crackdown on religion under Xi Jinping

Reuters in Shanghai
Date: 30 Dec 2019

Wang Yi, pastor of the Early Rain Covenant church, has been jailed in China after being accused of inciting subversion. Photograph: Early Rain

A Chinese court has sentenced the pastor Wang Yi to nine years in prison on charges of inciting subversion of state power and illegally operating a business.

Wang was among dozens of churchgoers and leaders of the Early Rain Covenant church detained by police in December 2018. Most were subsequently released.

The church is one of China’s best-known unregistered Protestant “house” churches. Chinese law requires that places of worship register and submit to government oversight but some decline to do so and are called house churches.

China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom but since Xi Jinping became president six years ago the government has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the Communist party.    [FULL  STORY]

In Xinjiang the authorities have separated nearly half a million children from their families, aiming to instill loyalty to China and the Communist Party.

The New York Times
Date: Dec. 28, 2019
By: Amy Qin

Children leaving school in Hotan, China, this month. Beijing has used schools in the city and across the region of Xinjiang to indoctrinate Uighur children.Credit…Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

HOTAN, China — The first grader was a good student and beloved by her classmates, but she was inconsolable, and it was no mystery to her teacher why.

“The most heartbreaking thing is that the girl is often slumped over on the table alone and crying,” he wrote on his blog. “When I asked around, I learned that it was because she missed her mother.”

The mother, he noted, had been sent to a detention camp for Muslim ethnic minorities. The girl’s father had passed away, he added. But instead of letting other relatives raise her, the authorities put her in a state-run boarding school — one of hundreds of such facilities that have opened in China’s far western Xinjiang region.

As many as a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others have been sent to internment camps and prisons in Xinjiang over the past three years, an indiscriminate clampdown aimed at weakening the population’s devotion to Islam. Even as these mass detentions have provoked global outrage, though, the Chinese government is pressing ahead with a parallel effort targeting the region’s children.

Nearly a half million children have been separated from their families and placed in boarding schools so far, according to a planning document published on a government website, and the ruling Communist Party has set a goal of operating one to two such schools in each of Xinjiang’s 800-plus townships by the end of next year.

The party has presented the schools as a way to fight poverty, arguing that they make it easier for children to attend classes if their parents live or work in remote areas or are unable to care for them. And it is true that many rural families are eager to send their children to these schools, especially when they are older.

But the schools are also designed to assimilate and indoctrinate children at an early age, away from the influence of their families, according to the planning document, published in 2017. Students are often forced to enroll because the authorities have detained their parents and other relatives, ordered them to take jobs far from home or judged them unfit guardians.The schools are off limits to outsiders and tightly guarded, and it is difficult to interview residents in Xinjiang without putting them at risk of arrest. But a troubling picture of these institutions emerges from interviews with Uighur parents living in exile and a review of documents published online, including procurement records, government notices, state media reports and the blogs of teachers in the schools.

A boarding middle school in Hotan. A government document says such schools immerse children in a Chinese-speaking environment away from the influence of religion.Credit…Giulia Marchi for The New York Times\

State media and official documents describe education as a key component of President Xi Jinping’s campaign to wipe out extremist violence in Xinjiang, a ruthless and far-reaching effort that also includes the mass internment camps and sweeping surveillance measures. The idea is to use the boarding schools as incubators of a new generation of Uighurs who are secular and more loyal to both the party and the nation.

“The long-term strategy is to conquer, to captivate, to win over the young generation from the beginning,” said Adrian Zenz, a researcher at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington who has studied Chinese policies that break up Uighur families.

To carry out the assimilation campaign, the authorities in Xinjiang have recruited tens of thousands of teachers from across China, often Han Chinese, the nation’s dominant ethnic group. At the same time, prominent Uighur educators have been imprisoned and teachers have been warned they will be sent to the camps if they resist.

Thrust into a regimented environment and immersed in an unfamiliar culture, children in the boarding schools are only allowed visits with family once every week or two — a restriction intended to “break the impact of the religious atmosphere on children at home,” in the words of the 2017 policy document.

The campaign echoes past policies in Canada, the United States and Australia that took indigenous children from their families and placed them in residential schools to forcibly assimilate them.

“The big difference in China is the scale and how systematic it is,” said Darren Byler, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado who studies Uighur culture and society.

Public discussion in China of the trauma inflicted on Uighur children by separating them from their families is rare. References on social media are usually quickly censored. Instead, the state-controlled news media focuses on the party’s goals in the region, where predominantly Muslim minorities make up more than half the population of 25 million.

Visiting a kindergarten near the frontier city of Kashgar this month, Chen Quanguo, the party’s top official in Xinjiang, urged teachers to ensure children learn to “love the party, love the motherland and love the people.”

Abdurahman Tohti, a Uighur living in Istanbul, saw his son in a video shared by a stranger on a Chinese social media platform.Credit…The New York Times

Indoctrinating Children

Abdurahman Tohti left Xinjiang and immigrated to Turkey in 2013, leaving behind cotton farming to sell used cars in Istanbul. But when his wife and two young children returned to China for a visit a few years ago, they disappeared.

He heard that his wife was sent to prison, like many Uighurs who have traveled abroad and returned to China. His parents were detained too. The fate of his children, though, was a mystery.

Then in January, he spotted his 4-year-old son in a video on Chinese social media that had apparently been recorded by a teacher. The boy seemed to be at a state-run boarding school and was speaking Chinese, a language his family did not use.

Mr. Tohti, 30, said he was excited to see the child, and relieved he was safe — but also gripped by desperation.

“What I fear the most,” he said, “is that the Chinese government is teaching him to hate his parents and Uighur culture.”

Beijing has sought for decades to suppress Uighur resistance to Chinese rule in Xinjiang, in part by using schools in the region to indoctrinate Uighur children. Until recently, though, the government had allowed most classes to be taught in the Uighur language, partly because of a shortage of Chinese-speaking teachers.

Then, after a surge of antigovernment and anti-Chinese violence, including ethnic riots in 2009 in Urumqi, the regional capital, and deadly attacks by Uighur militants in 2014, Mr. Xi ordered the party to take a harder line in Xinjiang, according to internal documents leaked to The New York Times earlier this year.

In December 2016, the party announced that the work of the region’s education bureau was entering a new phase. Schools were to become an extension of the security drive in Xinjiang, with a new emphasis on the Chinese language, patriotism and loyalty to the party.

In the 2017 policy document, posted on the education ministry’s website, officials from Xinjiang outlined their new priorities and ranked expansion of the boarding schools at the top.

Without specifying Islam by name, the document characterized religion as a pernicious influence on children, and said having students live at school would “reduce the shock of going back and forth between learning science in the classroom and listening to scripture at home.”

By early 2017, the document said, nearly 40 percent of all middle-school and elementary-school age children in Xinjiang — or about 497,800 students — were boarding in schools. At the time, the government was ramping up efforts to open boarding schools and add dorms to schools, and more recent reports suggest the push is continuing.

Mahmutjan Niyaz, a Uighur businessman living in Istanbul, learned last year that his 5-year-old daughter was sent to a boarding school in Xinjiang after his relatives were detained.Credit…The New York Times

Chinese is also replacing Uighur as the main language of instruction in Xinjiang. Most elementary and middle school students are now taught in Chinese, up from just 38 percent three years ago. And thousands of new rural preschools have been built to expose minority children to Chinese at an earlier age, state media reported.

The government argues that teaching Chinese is critical to improving the economic prospects of minority children, and many Uighurs agree. But Uighur activists say the overall campaign amounts to an effort to erase what remains of their culture.

Several Uighurs living abroad said the government had put their children in boarding schools without their consent.

Mahmutjan Niyaz, 33, a Uighur businessman who moved to Istanbul in 2016, said his 5-year-old daughter was sent to one after his brother and sister-in-law, the girl’s guardians, were confined in an internment camp.

Other relatives could have cared for her but the authorities refused to let them. Now, Mr. Niyaz said, the school has changed the girl.

“Before, my daughter was playful and outgoing,” he said. “But after she went to the school, she looked very sad in the photos.”

The Kasipi Village Elementary School near Hotan was converted into a full-time boarding school last year, according to an online diary of a Chinese language teacher there. Credit…Giulia Marchi for The New York Times\

‘Kindness Students’

In a dusty village near the ancient Silk Road city of Hotan in southern Xinjiang, nestled among fields of barren walnut trees and simple concrete homes, the elementary school stood out.

It was surrounded by a tall brick wall with two layers of barbed wire on top. Cameras were mounted on every corner. And at the entrance, a guard wearing a black helmet and a protective vest stood beside a metal detector.

It wasn’t always like this. Last year, officials converted the school in Kasipi village into a full-time boarding school.

Kang Jide, a Chinese language teacher at the school, described the frenzied process on his public blog on the Chinese social media platform WeChat: In just a few days, all the day students were transferred. Classrooms were rearranged. Bunk beds were set up. Then, 270 new children arrived, leaving the school with 430 boarders, each in the sixth grade or below.

Officials called them “kindness students,” referring to the party’s generosity in making special arrangements for their education.

The government says children in Xinjiang’s boarding schools are taught better hygiene and etiquette as well as Chinese and science skills that will help them succeed in modern China.

“My heart suddenly melted after seeing the splendid heartfelt smiles on the faces of these left-behind children,” said a retired official visiting a boarding elementary school in Lop County near Hotan, according to a state media report. He added that the party had given them “an environment to be carefree, study happily, and grow healthy and strong.”

But Mr. Kang wrote that being separated from their families took a toll on the children. Some never received visits from relatives, or remained on campus during the holidays, even after most teachers left. And his pupils often begged to use his phone to call their parents.

“Sometimes, when they hear the voice on the other end of the call, the children will start crying and they hide in the corner because they don’t want me to see,” he wrote.

“It’s not just the children,” he added. “The parents on the other end also miss their children of course, so much so that it breaks their hearts and they’re trembling.”

The internment camps, which the government describes as job training centers, have cast a shadow even on students who are not boarders. Before the conversion of the school, Mr. Kang posted a photo of a letter that an 8-year-old girl had written to her father, who had been sent to a camp.

“Daddy, where are you?” the girl wrote in an uneven scrawl. “Daddy, why don’t you come back?”

“I’m sorry, Daddy,” she continued. “You must study hard too.”

Students in Hotan playing soccer in a schoolyard with a dormitory in the background. Credit…Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

Nevertheless, Mr. Kang was generally supportive of the schools. On his blog, he described teaching Uighur students as an opportunity to “water the flowers of the motherland.”

“Kindness students” receive more attention and resources than day students. Boarding schools are required to offer psychological counseling, for example, and in Kasipi, the children were given a set of supplies that included textbooks, clothes and a red Young Pioneer scarf.

Learning Chinese was the priority, Mr. Kang wrote, though students were also immersed in traditional Chinese culture, including classical poetry, and taught songs praising the party.

On a recent visit to the school, children in red and blue uniforms could be seen playing in a yard beside buildings marked “cafeteria” and “student dormitory.” At the entrance, school officials refused to answer questions.

Tighter security has become the norm at schools in Xinjiang. In Hotan alone, more than a million dollars has been allocated in the past three years to buy surveillance and security equipment for schools, including helmets, shields and spiked batons, according to procurement records. At the entrance to one elementary school, a facial recognition system had been installed.

Mr. Kang recently wrote on his blog that he had moved on to a new job teaching in northern Xinjiang. Reached by telephone there, he declined to be interviewed. But before hanging up, he said his students in Kasipi had made rapid progress in learning Chinese.

“Every day I feel very fulfilled,” he said.

A Uighur child doing his Chinese homework at a bus stop. The government says minority children will have better prospects if they are fluent in Chinese, but Uighur activists worry about losing their culture.Credit…Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

‘Engineers of the Human Soul’

To carry out its campaign, the party needed not only new schools but also an army of teachers, an overhaul of the curriculum — and political discipline. Teachers suspected of dissent were punished, and textbooks were rewritten to weed out material deemed subversive.

“Teachers are the engineers of the human soul,” the education bureau of Urumqi recently wrote in an open letter, deploying a phrase first used by Stalin to describe writers and other cultural workers.

The party launched an intensive effort to recruit teachers for Xinjiang from across China. Last year, nearly 90,000 were brought in, chosen partly for their political reliability, officials said at a news conference this year. The influx amounted to about a fifth of Xinjiang’s teachers last year, according to government data.

The new recruits, often ethnic Han, and the teachers they joined, mostly Uighurs, were both warned to toe the line. Those who opposed the Chinese-language policy or resisted the new curriculum were labeled “two-faced” and punished.

The deputy secretary-general of the oasis town of Turpan, writing earlier this year, described such teachers as “scum of the Chinese people” and accused them of being “bewitched by extremist religious ideology.”

Teachers were urged to express their loyalty, and the public was urged to keep an eye on them. A sign outside a kindergarten in Hotan invited parents to report teachers who made “irresponsible remarks” or participated in unauthorized religious worship.

Officials in Xinjiang also spent two years inspecting and revising hundreds of textbooks and other teaching material, according to the 2017 policy document.

Some who helped the party write and edit the old textbooks ended up in prison, including Yalqun Rozi, a prominent scholar and literary critic who helped compile a set of textbooks on Uighur literature that were used for more than a decade.

Mr. Rozi was charged with attempted subversion and sentenced to 15 years in prison last year, according to his son, Kamaltürk Yalqun. Several other members of the committee that compiled the textbooks were arrested too, he said.

“Instead of welcoming the cultural diversity of Uighurs, China labeled it a malignant tumor,” said Mr. Yalqun, who lives in Philadelphia.

There is evidence that some Uighur children have been sent to boarding schools far from their homes.

Kalbinur Tursun, 36, entrusted five of her children to relatives when she left Xinjiang to give birth in Istanbul but has been unable to contact them for several years.

Last year, she saw her daughter Ayshe, then 6, in a video circulating on Chinese social media. It had been posted by a user who appeared to be a teacher at a school in Hotan — more than 300 miles away from their home in Kashgar.

“My children are so young, they just need their mother and father,” Ms. Tursun said, expressing concern about how the authorities were raising them. “I fear they will think that I’m the enemy — that they won’t accept me and will hate me.”    [SOURCE]

It’s time for pension funds and others to stop supporting companies that abet Beijing’s crackdowns on China’s Uighurs and Hong Kong’s protesters.

The New York Times
Date: Dec. 5, 2019
By: Danielle Pletka and Derek Scissors

New recruits to the Chinese People’s Armed Police training in political education theory in Kashgar, Xinjiang, in January.Credit…China Stringer Network/Reuters

Last month, the United States government issued sanctions against eight Chinese companies for complicity in the crackdown on Chinese Muslims in Xinjiang. As many as a million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities have been “interned” — wrenched away from families and dumped into harsh detention camps that the government insists are merely re-education centers. In light of those sanctions, why haven’t the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and other American funds announced that they would stop investing in companies under sanctions? And why is the federal employee retirement fund poised to move retirement assets to an index fund that includes Chinese companies in 2020?

By any standard, China is led by an amoral dictatorship. In addition to the continuing horrors in Xinjiang, young people in Hong Kong fighting for freedom fear being brutalized by Chinese security forces. In the South China Sea, the People’s Liberation Navy has all but annexed a vast swath of other nations’ territory and international waters. Chinese companies, answerable to the Communist Party, probably have built surveillance into drones that Americans buy and telephones that are bought the world over. Beijing trolls your children’s apps and Chinese hackers have allegedly already breached the private financial and personal information of millions of Americans, not to mention the possibility of forays into America’s most advanced defense plans.

American financial heavyweights and pension funds have in recent years shunned fossil fuels, guns and other investments on ethical grounds. Yet when it comes to providing capital to Chinese companies — including those directly engaged in surveillance or supporting the People’s Liberation Army — many haven’t resisted investment.

Both state-owned and nominally private Chinese companies enjoy almost unfettered access to American capital markets, including listing on American exchanges and heavy investment from some of the nation’s largest pension funds. In mid-2019, China was among the top 10 countries in which the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) invested. According to the most recent data, from June 2019, CalSTRS owned 4.1 million shares of Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co., which has faced sanctions from the Trump administration for manufacturing surveillance equipment that the administration alleges is being used in the Xinjiang camps (Hikvision is appealing the sanctions). The New York State Teachers’ Retirement System and the Florida state pension fund have owned shares of the same company (the New York State Common Fund liquidated its shares in Hikvision in May). These and other pension funds including New York State’s, and the enormous California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) have indirectly owned shares in iFlytek Co Ltd., another of the Chinese firms blacklisted by the U.S. government.

We reached out to the funds, seeking the current status of their investments in Chinese companies, but got little information. “We have been tracking the situation,” CalSTRS told us, and a representative for the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System said: “Our holdings in public international equities are primarily held according to their weights in passive portfolios benchmarked to the MSCI ACWI ex-U. S. index, our policy benchmark.” A company representative at CalPERS just pointed us to its Governance & Sustainability Principles. A representative for the Florida state pension fund confirmed that it still owns shares in Hikvision.

There are sound political and financial reasons to question the wisdom of exposure to Chinese public and “private” companies. It’s almost impossible to know at what moment the United States may levy sanctions against a company for complicity in the Chinese government’s malign agenda. Hikvision, Huawei, ZTE (telecommunications conglomerates that also allegedly spy for their Beijing bosses, charges that both have denied), and some others, are good examples.

Instead of the Communist party’s intolerance, democratic Taiwan offers a positive example.

The Diplomat
Date: August 29, 2019
By: Farahnaz Ispahani

response to protests in Hong Kong this summer are part of a wider policy shift under President Xi Jinping that includes

Image Credit: Illustration by Catherine Putz
increasing persecution of religious and ethnic minorities. The Chinese Communist Party and Xi appear to have decided to consolidate power by reverting to a harder line on human rights than was witnessed in the years since China opened to the rest of the world after the era of Mao Zedong.

Beijing’s repression of more than 13 million Muslims in Xinjiang and its increased surveillance of Christians and Tibetan Buddhists is getting worse. China has not respected freedom of religion and belief since the 1949 communist takeover. But just as the suppression of dissent in Hong Kong represents a turning away from the promise and practice of relative freedom over the last few years, mass arbitrary detention, torture, and prohibitions on Islam in Xinjiang are appalling even by China’s standards.

The current set of China’s policies are described as “Xi Jinping Thought” or “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” It is becoming increasingly clear that in this set of beliefs, there is no place for religious tolerance or the freedom of conscience and belief.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

In addition to the so-called “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, where a million Muslims are believed to be detained, reports have surfaced of suppression of Christians in Henan province and increasing scrutiny of Hui Muslims in Ningxia. Unlike the Turkic Uyghurs and Tibetan Buddhists, who are accused of nurturing separatist ideas, China’s Christians and the Hui Muslims are being punished for no reason other than their religious beliefs.

The Chinese government has also cracked down on Falun Gong practitioners, sending many in that community to labor camps. Survivors have recalled suffering torture and sleep deprivation at these camps.

Under the Trump administration, the United States has been vocal in condemning China’s abuses against faith communities. Earlier this year, Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador for International Religious Freedom, said during a speech in Hong Kong that the Chinese government is “at war with faith.”    [FULL  STORY]

But migrants embracing God in highly Christian Nairobi are often unaware of the atheist Communist Party’s war on religion

Date: April 28, 2019
By: Jenni Marsh, CNN

Jonathon Chow, 43, a senior pastor at the Bread of Life Church, delivers a sermon to the Nairobi congregation during a visit from Taiwan, where he is based and the church is headquartered.

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN)Every Sunday morning in an affluent suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, the soaring song of Chinese hymns fills the empty corridors of a Monday-to-Friday office block.
Inside a small makeshift chapel, a kaleidoscopic congregation of Chinese migrants gather to pray. Among them are underwear importers, health workers and operators of the controversial new $3.8 billion Chinese-built railway that slices through Kenya, the country’s biggest infrastructure project since independence — and a sign of China’s growing investment and footprint on the continent.

Some have married Kenyans, others have Chinese children who speak Swahili as well as they do Mandarin.

But they all share two things. Each person here has re-rooted their life from Communist China to Kenya, a leading African economy where 80% of the nearly 50 million people are Christian. And they have all decided to openly embrace God.

Jonathon Chow, 43, a senior pastor at the Bread of Life Church, delivers a sermon to the Nairobi congregation during a visit from Taiwan, where he is based and the church is headquartered.
Their religious awakening comes at a perilous moment for Christians in China, as the Communist Party government bans online sales of bibles, dynamites churches and arrests Christians for “inciting subversion of state power.” The Communist Party sees any large group outside its dominion as a threat.

“Publicly, it’s dangerous to be a Christian in China right now,” says Jonathon Chow, 43, a senior pastor at the Bread of Life Church, which is headquartered in Taiwan but has 500 ministries, including many in West Africa.

Previously, the organization’s churches in Africa tended to be run and attended by Africans, he says. But increasingly Bread of Life is seeing Chinese-led congregations forming across the continent, as more Chinese move to Africa and interact with local values.    [FULL  STORY]

Religious freedom is a growing theme of President Donald Trump’s confrontation with Beijing, and it’s resonating with Christian leaders.

Date:  12/30/2018

President Donald Trump rarely addresses religious freedom or human rights, and when it comes to China he focuses mainly on Beijing’s trade practices. | Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence infuriated Beijing when he gave a speech in October warning that China had become a dangerous rival to the United States. While he focused on familiar issues such as China’s trade policies and cyber espionage, Pence also denounced the country’s “avowedly atheist Communist Party.”

Citing a crackdown on organized religion in the country, Pence noted that Chinese authorities “are tearing down crosses, burning Bibles and imprisoning believers.”

“For China’s Christians,” Pence said, “these are desperate times.”

Pence’s remarks, which also addressed the repression of Chinese Buddhists and Muslims, illustrated how religious freedom is a growing theme of President Donald Trump’s confrontation with Beijing, which some foreign policy insiders warn could develop into a new Cold War.

It is a subject that resonates in the U.S. heartland, some Christian leaders say — parts of which, including rural areas, are disproportionately at risk of fallout from Trump’s trade fight with the Asian giant.    [FULL  STORY]

The New York Times
Date: Dec. 10, 2018
By: Ian Johnson 

Wang Yi, second from right, met President George W. Bush in 2006 at the White House with other prominent Christian activists.CreditEric Draper/The White House, via Reuters

The Chinese police have detained one of the country’s most prominent Protestant pastors along with more than 100 members of his independent congregation, the latest sign of a growing crackdown against what the government perceives as illegal or foreign-influenced religious activity.

Wang Yi, who heads the Early Rain Covenant Church in the southwestern metropolis of Chengdu, was detained Sunday evening as congregants gathered for services, said members of the church.

“Lord, help us to have the Christian’s conscience and courage to resist this ‘Orwellian nonsense’ with more positive Gospel action and higher praise,” the church said in a statement shortly before the members were detained. “Without love, there is no courage.”

More than 100 church members were detained on Sunday, according to statements issued by church members. As of Monday morning, police vans were parked outside the high-rise office where the church purchased space. Officers were seen carrying office materials out of the church’s property, which also includes a kindergarten and seminary.

By Monday afternoon, some of the members of the congregation had been released, although some were immediately placed under house arrest, including the assistant deacon Zhang Guoqing.

One of the church’s longtime members and member of its advisory council, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she feared government retaliation, confirmed that church members had been detained. She said it was unclear how long those members were expected to remain in custody, but said the situation was serious.

The police in Chengdu referred questions to the city’s propaganda department, which did not immediately respond to faxed requests for comment on Monday.

In September, the authorities informed the church that it was in violation of the government’s religious policy, according to a copy of the notice posted by church activists on social media.

Date: Nov 3, 2018
By: Ewelina U. Ochab, Contributor

This picture taken on June 26, 2017, shows a Muslim man arriving at the Id Kah Mosque for the morning prayer on Eid al-Fitr in the old town of Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Uighur

In October 2018, several news outlets reported that Muslims in China were being detained for re-education purposes. The reports suggested that China was participating in the practice of forced conversion whereby Muslims, among other things, are forced to “eat pork and drink alcohol.” Activities that, in fact, have nothing to do with education. The topic has recently gained much attention, yet several politicians first raised this issue months ago, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) for example.

Autonomous Region. The increasingly strict curbs imposed on the mostly Muslim Uyghur population have stifled life in the tense Xinjiang region, where beards are partially banned and no one is allowed to pray in public. Beijing says the restrictions and heavy police presence seek to control the spread of Islamic extremism and separatist movements, but analysts warn that Xinjiang is becoming an open-air prison. (Photo credit: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
In a letter dated April 3, 2018, and sent by Marco Rubio and Chris Smith to US Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, the facts are made clear. The letter cites credible reports that between 500,000 and a million people are or have been detained in said re-education camps in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It alleges that this practice of re-education is the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today:

Thousands are being held for months at a time and subjected to political indoctrination sessions.  Many have reportedly been detained for praying, wearing “Islamic” clothing, or having foreign connections, such as previous travel abroad or relatives living in another country.  Reports have emerged of the deaths of detainees in these centers, including the death of a well-known Muslim religious scholar who may have been held in such a facility, and there are reports that torture and other human rights abuses are occurring in overcrowded centers secured by guard towers, barbed wire, and high walls.”

Even though, initially, the Chinese government denied the existence of such re-education camps, the subsequent steps taken by the Chinese government suggests otherwise. In October 2018, the Chinese government introduced a new law aimed at addressing extremism that may be seen as legalizing the reported re-education camps.    [FULL  STORY]