Authorities target believers as number of Christians increases significantly
Throughout the past year the Communist Party has been shutting down churches across several provinces in China, targeting what it claimed were unregistered churches, or church buildings that allegedly violated building codes. In particular, police have been tearing down crosses on church roofs and arresting or imprisoning Christians who stood up to the authorities. This action prompted
Catholics and Protestants in July to march in protest in Zhejiang carrying crosses.
A church leader from the eastern province of Zhejiang (whose name cannot be disclosed for security reasons) stated that the government was behind the campaign against Christianity: “We think it is a campaign targeting church leaders across the province. It can only be a co-ordinated action initiated by the provincial government”.
Although there are no reliable estimates of the total size of China’s Christian population, the number of Christians has grown substantially and could already be larger than the 88-million-strong Communist Party.This is thought to be one of the main reasons churches have been targetedby the authorities in recent years. “It is clear that the top leaders feel unease with Christianity” said Yang Fenggang, director of Purdue University’s centre on religion and Chinese society, adding that the Chinese authorities wanted to ensure church leaders remained subservient.
Religious leaders and experts believe that the current intimidation of China’s Christian community is not basically a matter of religion but rather stems from the fear of the authorities in Beijing’s that the rapidly-growing number of Christians could become a political threat. Many Chinese have been turning to Christianity out of a sense of disillusionment and dissatisfaction with life in China.
Phil Entwistle, a researcher in Christianity and nationalism at Berlin’s Mercator Institute for China Studies, said “There is a real sense of moral vacuum, that China has lost its way. It’s made people ask deep questions. Some are looking for a source of community that they can’t find elsewhere — and it’s especially prevalent among educated Chinese”.