Watchdog group publishes report highlighting rise in persecution of Christians in China

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

A new report published by a Christian charity has revealed that the Chinese government's approach to religious policy has led to a significant increase in the persecution of Christians in the country.

The 2016 Annual Persecution Report, released by China Aid, noted that under former President Jiang Zemin, the Chinese Communist Party focused on efforts to encourage religions and socialism to mutually adapt.

However, in April 2016, President Xi Jinping highlighted the importance of religions "persistently following the path of Sinicization," prompting subordinate government departments to adopt the policy as a catalyst for many persecution attempts.

In an attempt to implement the Sinicization, local government units across China targeted house churches and coerced them to join the government-monitored Three-Self Patriotic Movement by threatening them with closure.

The charity asserted that Christians are being persecuted "at a frequency unseen since the Cultural Revolution."

The report found that the persecution against Christians rose by 20 percent compared with the statistics gathered in 2015. The number of people detained in 2016 increased by about 147 percent while the number of people arrested went up by 11 percent. The number of abuse cases increased by 42 percent, and the number of people abused rose up by almost 70 percent.

The cases of persecution include imprisonment or forced organ harvesting of Christians as well as the lawyers supporting them. It also highlights the forced demolition of churches and removal of church crosses.

China has been ranked as the 39th most difficult country to live in as a Christian in the Open Doors World Watch List for 2017.

The charity predicted that the conditions will get worse this year as the Revised Regulations on Religious Affairs go into effect nationwide.

"The key findings of what happened last year and the reports from these first two months of 2017 have shown the situation of religious freedom is rapidly deteriorating," said China Aid Founder and President Bob Fu.

"We call upon both the persecuted faithful in China and the international community to be increasingly vigilant and persevere in facing this harsher year. China Aid will continue to walk closer with the persecuted and oppressed faithful in China by exposing the abuses, encouraging the abused, and equipping the leaders," he went on to say.