In China, Christian citizens sentenced for their faith increased 10,517 percent between 2007 and 2014, according to rights watch group China Aid, which also speculated that the trend towards greater persecution could continue for some time.
“All aspects of Chinese society will continue to be subjected to increased suppression, including the denial of religious freedom and related human rights,” stated China Aid’s report.
The number of Christians convicted for various offences in China rose from 12 to 1,274 between 2013 and 2014, according to the report. Persecutions of Christians represented the biggest jump in the report, but religious persecution in China increased across the board.
Overall, persecutions increased 300 percent between 2013 and 2014, from 143 cases involving 7,424 people to 572 cases involving 17,884 people.
“In 2014, Christians and practitioners of other faiths in China experienced the harshest persecution seen in over a decade, including draconian measures taken by Xi Jinping’s administration to eliminate all religious, political, and social dissent,” the report stated.
Of particular note with regard to the increased Christian persecutions in recent years, according to China Aid, is the incidence of large-scale government campaigns which purport to be acting against what the Chinese government considers to be cults.
The government acts under the Chinese criminal code to deal with “cults and sects using superstition to undermine law enforcement” to justify the destruction of Christian property, China Aid found.
The destruction of crosses and churches occurred in four provinces last year. In the province of Zhejiang, over 30 churches were demolished as part of the campaigns of Chinese President Xi Jinping. One thousand crosses were removed and over 1,300 Christians detained or arrested during the same campaign.
According to complaints received by China Aid, actual figures are expected to be much higher. The organization pointed to local reports that perhaps 50 churches were demolished and 1,000 crosses removed
The China Aid report corroborates the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) 2014 report, which found that conditions for religious practitioners in two of China’s restless provinces, Tibet and Xinxiang, “are worse now than at any time in the past decade.”
The U.S. State Department considers China to be grouped along with North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other rights violators as “countries of particular concern” with regards to religious freedom.
U.S.-based human rights organization Freedom House also found that repression has increased in China since President Xi Jinping took office in 2012. Their most recent report also indicated strong religious repression, in addition to repression of political dissidents, NGOs, human rights lawyers and protesters.
By James Haleavy