Thursday, 27 August 2015

Christians Opposing Removal Of Crosses Nabbed In China

Chinese security forces have begun a mass arrest of church activists who are opposed to a communist party campaign to remove church crosses across the country.

According to The Guardian UK, a church leader in the eastern province of Zhejiang said on Thursday, August 27, afternoon that at least nine known persons have been taken away by the police and that the figure is still rising.

The leader said that they think it is a campaign targeting church leaders across the province and added that it can only be a coordinated action initiated by the provincial government.

Among those understood to have been detained is Zhang Kai, a prominent Beijing human rights lawyer who had been offering legal support to a number of churches in the region.

Meanwhile, there had been clash between the communist party and the church in Zhejiang since late 2013 when authorities initiated a demolition campaign that they said targeted illegal buildings.

Activists have said that over 1,200 crosses have been removed so far. It was reported that several churches have been completely demolished including the Sanjiang mega-church in Wenzhou, a city known as China’s Jerusalem because of its large Christian congregation.

Following the series of protests against the intensifying campaign, some Catholic leaders have also denounced the cross removals describing it as an evil act.

Authorities appear to have been angered by the growing pushback. This month China’s government-controlled media warned Zhejiang’s Christians not to resist the removals or to speak out to foreign journalists.

Mass detentions began on Tuesday which indicates that they are to deter any further opposition from members of the church.

The church leader said plainclothes officers arrived at the homes of their targets with a list containing the names and photographs of local Christians.

The church leader said: “They said people who were taken away would be put under residential surveillance.

“We are all very angry. They didn’t inform people what charges they were being held on and they didn’t produce any documents. There are people outside my house. I know if I go out they might arrest me too,” he said.

Activists told a US-funded news organisation that Zhang Kai, who was known for his work defending underground Christians, was seized in the early hours of Tuesday.

“They did it on the quiet, in the middle of the night,” a church member said. “They didn’t tell anybody in our church that this would happen. By the time we got there, he had already been taken away.”

William Nee, Amnesty International’s China researcher, said his group was monitoring the very worrying situation in Zhejiang.

“Zhang Kai’s case is incredibly important because it represents the intersection of China’s unprecedented campaign against human rights lawyers and the ongoing campaign against Christianity and other unauthorised forms of religious expression,” Nee said.

The church leader said Zhejiang’s Christians would not be cowed by the police operation.

“We are not intimidated by their tactics. We have not done anything wrong or against the law. Our actions are all restrained and reasonable while theirs are shady,” he said.

Since July, some of China’s most respected civil rights lawyers have been detained as part of a sweeping crackdown. There are reports that Li Heping and Wang Yu are still missing.