(CNSNews.com) – Protestant Christians are facing increasing harassment, threats, violence, and arrests in Communist China, according to the 2018 report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which details the state of religious freedom around the world in 2017.
The Chinese regime, which is run by the officially atheist Communist Party, has increased its efforts to prevent Protestant churches from operating outside the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), a government-run entity.
As a result, churches were pressured to register with the TSPM where they were then “labeled as ‘evil cults,’ and faced ongoing destruction of purportedly ‘illegal’ church properties,” according to the report.
Protestant communities have experienced increased restrictions, surveillance, and violence in the past year at the hands of the Chinese government, said the report.
“Local authorities also used physical violence against parishioners trying to save their churches, such as in June 2017 at Shuangmiao Christian Church in Henan Province, where authorities beat and detained parishioners,” the report said.
The document provided other examples of persecution, such as when “authorities in Xinjiang raided house churches, confiscated religious paraphernalia, and arrested several dozen Christians.”
In February 2017, a Chinese court charged former deacon Zhang Xiuhong to five years in prison for “illegal business operations.” Xiuhong belonged to the unregistered Protestant Living Stone Church in Guizhou Province. She was released in August 2017, but “will face restrictions as she serves the balance of her five-year suspended sentence,” the report said.
Pastor Yang Hua, with the same church as Xiuhong, was also sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for “divulging state secrets.”
Authorities in China also mistreat TSPM-registered churches.
“In 2017, reports surfaced that authorities have tortured Pastor Zhang Shaojie of the state-sanctioned Nanle County Christian Church; Pastor Zhang is serving 12 years in prison for “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order,” the report said.
The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the “official,” government-run Catholic Church in China, faces obstacles when it comes to disputes between Beijing and the Vatican, particularly when it comes to appointed bishops.
According to the report, China said “the Vatican must cut relations with Taiwan and agree not to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”
Thousands of Chinese Catholics have not joined the Patriotic Association and attend Mass in private homes and underground chapels.