Chinese authorities detain Taiwanese pastor for singing 'Jesus Loves You'

(Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)Believers take part in a weekend mass at an underground Catholic church in Tianjin November 10, 2013. Picture taken November 10, 2013.

Chinese authorities have detained a Taiwanese pastor for singing the worship song "Jesus Loves You," which has been declared by officials as an illegal religious activity.

According to a report from China Aid, the officials detained Pastor Xu Rongzhang on April 15 after he led Christians in Zhengzhou, Henan in singing "Jesus Loves You."

Xu was released on the same day, but the officials held on to his identification documents and permit to travel to mainland China until April 17.

A number of Christians in China have been arrested and sentenced to prison in recent months for participating in religious activities.

In February, five Christians, including a pastor, were sentenced to between three to seven years in prison for purchasing and selling what the authorities said were "forbidden Christian devotional books."

China Aid noted that most of the convicted Christians belong to a Korean ethnic minority group that resides within China, and all of them attend registered churches.

The Communist Party has intensified its crackdown on Christian churches in recent months. In late March, officials in Zhejiang province carried out violent attacks against churches that refused to install surveillance cameras.

Local government departments have distributed a notice from the Zhejiang provincial government to install cameras in the churches in order to monitor religious activities. The authorities reportedly threatened to forcibly install the cameras if the churches refused to do it voluntarily.

Several churches in Wenzhou, a city in Zhejiang province, have confronted government officials, demanding to know the legal bases for the order. On March 23, the churches sent a joint petition to the authorities in protest of the mandate to install surveillance cameras.

Despite the church members' insistence that the mandate has no legal precedent, authorities in Wenzhou's Tengqiao region forcibly carried out their threats. Officials stormed Anshan Church in Wenzhou on March 30 and reportedly used bulldozers and an ambulance to demolish the church's fence. An elderly Christian woman was admitted to the hospital due to injuries she sustained in the incident.

Freedom House has recently released a report highlighting various religious freedom abuses that are occurring in China.

In the report, the group warned that at least 100 million people, including Protestant Christians, are facing "high" or "very high" levels of persecution in the Communist country.

"A Taoist disciple joins the order without knowing when he will be admitted to priesthood. Dozens of Christians are barred from celebrating Christmas together. Tibetan monks are forced to learn reinterpretations of Buddhist doctrine during a 'patriotic reeducation' session," the report stated.

"A Uighur Muslim farmer is sentenced to nine years in prison for praying in a field. And a 45-year-old father in northeastern China dies in custody days after being detained for practicing Falun Gong," it continued.

The report also accused President Xi Jinping of intensifying persecution and restrictions on religious believers since he became party leader in 2012. It also noted that believers have responded to the restrictions with a "surprising degree of resistance."

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