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China: Crackdown affects Uyghur believers

05 June 2017

The situation for Christians in the north western Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region of China is worsening. Many Christian groups have been affected by the government's recent crackdown on the population of this region, causing believers to ask for prayer.

A local contact said, "As far as I know, five different small groups for believers from a Muslim background were shut down and three pastors' houses were searched for unofficial materials, including books printed outside of China."

A Chinese sister in a church was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for having a small group of about six people studying the Bible in her house, after warnings from the authorities. Usually, the punishment is 15 days' administrative custody. It is thought that her sentence is intended as a warning for all Christians in Xinjiang.

'Thunderous' crackdown

The strict enforcement of religious restrictions is one of the ways the Chinese authorities' have taken control in the region. After an apparent upsurge in deadly ethnic violence, the Chinese authorities vowed a 'thunderous' anti-terrorist crackdown. Zhu Hailun, the region's deputy Communist party chief, said that the authorities would wage an unflinching campaign against the Islamic terrorists and separatists they blame for the bloodshed.

As the local government treats all religions equally, a crackdown on Christian activities is also taking place and any religious activities outside of the registered church are considered illegal. Whilst, in most parts of China, the enforcement of religious restrictions is a somewhat 'grey' area, the pressure on unregistered house churches in Xinjiang is particularly high now.

The latest measures implemented, says the Open Doors contact, include a massive increase in surveillance, with cameras on every corner, including face recognition software, and QR scanning in every house. In every commercial store, surveillance equipment and alarm devices have been installed. When an incident happens, 10 alarms are triggered at the same time. In addition, the government has set up a huge fund as a reward for reporting suspicious terrorist activities.

Communist party reacts fast

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Republic of China, on a popular internet forum, a young Chinese Christian asked if being a Christian and joining the Communist Party can go together - reported China Source on 14 March, 2017. One answer came from a surprising source: The Central Committee of the Communist Youth League (CCCYL). It started with a clear 'No', not just to Christianity but to any religion, and followed up with a lengthy explanation quoting the Communist Party's constitution. It ended with a warning 'to resist religion's corrosiveness'.

Thomas Muller, persecution analyst at World Watch Research, comments: "The surprising part is not the official Communist position stated by the CCCYL, but the speed of the reaction by an official organ of the Communist Party in an online forum. The Communist Party seems to feel the need to reiterate its ideological standpoint again and again. This has become a clear trend in recent times with the Chinese authorities relying more and more on ideology. This reaction also illustrates once again that Christians in China are limited when it comes to choosing career options. As the China Source article however rightly states, this does not mean that God is limited in opening up other opportunities."

Source: World Watch Monitor; China Source

Please pray:

  • For spiritual strength and wisdom for believers from a Muslim background in Xinjiang, under huge pressure in a tough environment
  • For God to bless the residents of Xinjiang with safety, peace and mercy - and for harmony in the community
  • That the Chinese churches and Christians will have wisdom to navigate the constraints of life under the present government.

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