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China sends over 100 Christians to 're-education' camps

(Reuters/Carlos Barria)Students sing songs from Mao Zedong's "Little Red Book" during a ceremony at the Democracy Elementary and Middle School in Sitong town, Henan province, December 4, 2013.

China has reportedly sent more than 100 Christians to 're-education camps' in China's northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where they are taught how to be loyal to the communist ideology.

According to World Watch Monitor, many of those who were detained over the past few months belong to the Uyghur ethnic minority group and have a Muslim background.

In recent years, the Uyghurs have been targeted by the government's "anti-terror" campaign that was aimed at cracking down on separatist groups and militant Islamists, but those who have converted to Christianity were also swept up in the campaign.

An unnamed source has told World Watch Monitor that members of his church were sent to such a camp without knowing when they will be back, with some staying there for a month, and others for half a year or even longer.

One woman, who is married to a leader of a community with many Christians from a Muslim background, said that she has no information about the whereabouts of her husband.

"I don't know where my husband is right now, but I believe that God still uses him in prisons or camps. Sometimes I am worried that he doesn't have enough clothes to keep warm in the prison," the woman said.

"I am afraid it will affect my children too," said another woman whose husband was also taken, and now supports other women in similar situations.

"The teacher in the school is paying special attention to my children after the authorities told the school about my husband," she added.

In February last year, local authorities have enacted a ban on all Christian activities not linked to state-approved churches as part of the "anti-terror" campaign.

China has started implementing its new Regulations for Religious Affairs on Feb. 1 this year, sparking fears among some religious leaders in the country.

The new regulations provide detailed criteria that religious organizations must meet in order to be registered or to establish a place for religious activities.

Under the new rules, religious affairs departments of local governments will have the authority to decide whether to approve or reject the registration application. These departments can also accept or reject the authorization of venues as places of worship.

Online religious activities must also be reported to religious affairs departments in accordance with Article 47 of the regulation, which states that any online engagement in religious information services must be examined and approved by the authorities.

Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Church in Chengdu, Sichuan Province denounced the new regulations, saying he considers it to be a violation of religious freedom.

He calls on Christians to resist the new rules, arguing that the "government has no authority to direct or examine religious groups and religious activities in their doctrinal teaching and governing" or "to limit citizens' religious activity to the time and location it decides."

Due to the country's stringent rules on religion, persecution watchdog group Open Doors has ranked China as the 42nd nation in the world where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

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