Chinese Christians tell of persecution
7th December 2000

CSW today issued a report on the situation of the unofficial Protestant Church of China. The report is based on first hand evidence gathered in China by a CSW delegation which met with a large number of representatives from different groups and areas. The team heard evidence of widespread persecution, including frequent and exorbitant fines, torture, internment in labour education camp and even murder.

Christians described how they were beaten with fists, batons and poles, hung from the ceiling and tied in excruciating positions. Some were tied for hours on end with their arms bound diagonally across their backs, the thumbs secured with wire and, in some cases, with weights attached to increase the pain. Others were tied up in the shape of the crucifix and left hanging in agony for hours. One believer gave eyewitness evidence of the use of actual crucifixes in torture, saying that detainees (not necessarily Christians) are tied onto the crosses and leaned at an angle against the wall for periods as long as a whole day. The impact on the internal organs is horrific as the strain causes them to spiral into chaos. Other torture involved excessive exposure to the elements. One man was heard calling out the name of Jesus and was picked up by four guards and thrown to the ground repeatedly until he died.

Frequent recent arrests, accompanied by torture were reported. Hundreds of Christians suffer daily in the gruelling labour education camps in China. Others are released after arrest and torture on payment of heavy fines. Such penalties are so crippling in some areas that church leaders are giving up their positions as they are unable to support their families under the financial burden. Leaders expressed concern for the physical needs of the pastors and the families of those suffering for their faith, who are often left destitute. Church representatives consistently voiced the cry that China does not have religious freedom and urged greater awareness of their situation. They were keen to underline that the official Protestant Church, the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), is not the appropriate channel to work with the Church in China. They stressed that the TSPM represents only a small percentage of Protestant Christians, is under the control of the government and holds liberal theology which is so politically amenable that it is heretical.

Christians emphasised that the churches have come under increased pressure as a result of the crackdown on cults and several leaders raised concern that the stage has been set for a future crackdown on the churches. In many areas, being unregistered was synonymous with being a cult in the eyes of the authorities and no objective or consistent criteria appeared to be applied in making the determination. Government policy and directives, local corruption, poor education and refusal to allow independent registration perpetuate abuses.

Leaders urged for greater attention to be paid to the situation: "The Chinese Church is still in a position of danger. I hope the West will pray more frequently for the Church in China." Despite the pressure, the church remains strong and true to Christ, through the harshest of times. One believer described his response to severe torture: "My first thought was of Jesus and where it says in the Bible that what we suffer is for such a short time... My second thought was "Jesus I love you and I really feel your love". ... [W]hat I suffered was just following Jesus. I don't think that what I have done is so much. Jesus has done so much more for us. Jesus prayed 'Forgive them, they know not what they do' ... so we must do the same."


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