Religious persecution and issues – Bimonthly digest May 15-31



25.05.2023 – China: Theological seminaries inspected to check how “sinicized” they are

On May 10, 2023, Pastor Wu Wei, president of the China Christian Council, an umbrella organization for all Protestant churches in China affiliated with the government-controlled Three-Self Church, led a team of 17 experts of the China Christian Theological Education Committee to start an inspection of Zhejiang Theological Seminary. Members of the CCP Zhejiang Provincial Ethnic and Religious Committee accompanied them.

These inspections are being carried out throughout China to verify how advanced is the process of “Sinicization” of seminaries and whether they comply with the 2021 “Administrative Measures for Religious Schools.”

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20.05.2023 – The U.S. Department of State 2023 religious freedom report: Excellent on enemies, soft on allies

As a magazine that started its publications in 2018 covering, originally, only Chinese issues, “Bitter Winter” reads every year with admiration and gratitude the section on China of the U.S. Department of State report about religious freedom. Always a comprehensive document, it does not have an academic approach but it is fair to say that it rivals the best academic treatments of religion in China for its richness of information and depth of analysis. The 2023 report, covering the year 2022, notes that the situation of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in China is further deteriorating with respect to all religions, from Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang to Catholic “conscientious objectors” and house church Protestants.

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Uyghur and Hui muslims

01.06.2023 – Hui Muslims clash with police over mosque’s “sinicization”

Islam should be “Sinicized” in China, Xi Jinping said, and this has a visual as well as an ideological part. Visually, mosques that look “Arabic” should be “rectified.” The process has been almost completed in the last few years, with minarets and domes disappearing throughout the country. Only a handful of “Arabic-style” mosques remain. The most prominent are the Najiaying Mosque and the Grand Mosque of Shadian, both in Yunnan, in an area inhabited by peaceful and well-off Hui .

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31.05.2023 – There are Christian Uyghurs, too: new organization launched in London

Refusing to be cowed by historical persecution and the prevailing narrative that Uyghurs must be Muslim, a group of twenty-first-century Uyghur believers in Jesus Christ have launched the World Uyghur Christian Union (WUCU), with a commitment to “spread the good news of their faith to their people.”

At a conference to mark its official debut entitled, “The Uyghur Quest for the Gospel,” exiled Uyghurs set out to give Uyghur Christianity a historical context and prove that in fact, far from being a new movement, many Uyghurs in Xinjiang were Christian long before Islam set foot on the shores of their desert land.

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25.05.2023 – Tibetan monk released from prison in poor health after serving two-year sentence

A Tibetan Buddhist monk serving a jail sentence for “sending money for prayer offerings” to the Dalai Lama and to the abbot of his monastery has been released from jail and has returned to the monastery, people in Tibet who are familiar with the situation said.

Authorities arrested Sonam Gyatso on April 3, 2021, while he was vacationing in Chengdu. On Tuesday, he was freed from Menyang Prison near the city of Chengdu in southwest China’s Sichuan province, after completing his two-year sentence, the sources said.

On Thursday, he returned to Kirti Monastery in Sichuan’s Ngaba county in poor health because of torture and maltreatment in prison, they said.

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31.05.2023 – Local police blatantly smash and loot Zhongxing Christian church

On the morning of May 21, 2023, joint law enforcement stormed Zhongxing Christian Church. The Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau, Civil Affairs Bureau, and the Urban Management Brigade went into the building and destroyed personal property.

A ban notice was sent to the church, and a seal was placed on the front door. Church members left personal belongings at the scene, which were stolen. This is the second time since 2019 that the authorities have raided the church.

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27.05.2023 – Pastor and employees of christian education center detained

Police raided the Shengjia Christian Education and Help Center in Shunde City, Guangdong province on May 24th. Authorities searched the building and confiscated all teaching supplies. Four co-workers and Pastor Deng were arrested.

On May 25th, all their families received criminal detention notices. Each Christian was given a 30-day criminal detention for “illegal business operations.” Pastor Deng and the four co-workers are detained at Shunde Nanhai District Detention Center.

On May 24 at 8:30 AM, a few dozen police officers, national security officers, and religious affairs personnel suddenly broke into the Christian Education and Help Center. They flooded into the office and searched the center, prying open doors and searching through personal belongings. The search ended in the afternoon as police took computers, desks, chairs, and coloring books. Once they sealed the door, officers dispersed everyone else who was present.

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25.05.2023 – House Church pastor Wan Changchun arrested twice for supposed financial crimes

Public security officers arrested Wan Changchun, the pastor of Cornerstone Reformed Church on May 19. Previously, the pastor was criminally detained for “illegal business operations” in another province. In the most recent arrest, authorities also charged three church co-workers with fraud.

On April 11, 2023, police arrested Pastor Wan Changchun of Cornerstone Reformed in Bengbu City, Anhui Province for “illegal business operations.” He served another church in Lijiang, Yunnan province at the time. Currently, Pastor Wan is detained at Bengbu Municipal Detention Center.

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17.05.2023 – Bishop detained over two years for challenging CCP ordinations

Bishop Simone Zhang Jianlin has been detained for more than two years for challenging illegitimate ordinations. His family hopes Chinese authorities will release him on humanitarian grounds to care for his 90-year-old elderly mother.

According to AsiaNews, Simone Zhang Jianlin, vicar of the diocese of Xuanhua in Hebei province, has been detained since 2021. This is not the first time the bishop has been taken. The Chinese government detained him in 2009. Police also placed him under house arrest for two weeks in January 2019. Two months later, Bishop Zhang was arrested along with Bishop Augustine Cui Tai.

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16.05.2023 – Hohhot Bible trial: Defendants charged with “Collusion with foreign forces”

In the last month of March, Bitter Winter reported about the case of Wang Honglan and other twelve Inner Mongolia Christian believers, who were arrested for selling “illegally,” meaning as part of the activities of a house church not controlled by the CCP, Bibles that had been regularly printed by a government-authorized publisher.

On May 9, 2023, Wang and other defendants should have appeared at the Huimin District Court of Hohhot City, Inner Mongolia.The court tried to rely on a pre-trial conference of March 20, which the defense lawyers regarded as held without them and irregular. Finally, the court agreed to reschedule a second pre-trial conference for May 8. However, when Wang’s attorney arrived in court on May 8, he found that nobody was there and there was no conference.

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Falun Gong

25.05.2023 – Cancer-stricken woman handcuffed and shackled throughout trial for practicing her faith

When Ms. Chen Cuizhu appeared in court on May 4, 2023 after eight months of detention for her faith in Falun Gong, her loved ones were shocked to see that the once healthy and energetic woman has become extremely emaciated and weak.

Despite her poor health, the bailiff still cuffed her hands and feet and chained the cuffs together. As a result, she couldn’t straighten her back and had to bend over throughout the hearing.

Ms. Chen, of Zhanjiang City, Guangdong Province, was arrested on September 8, 2022, while studying Falun Gong’s teachings with 14 other practitioners. She urged the police not to persecute Falun Gong. She also told them how her advanced bowel cancer disappeared after taking up the practice. The police confirmed it after examining her medical records. However, they still detained her at the Zhanjiang City Detention Center and submitted her case to the Chikan District Procuratorate.

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22.05.2023 – Xu Na’s 8-year sentence confirmed on appeal

On May 18, 2023, Falun Gong poet and artist Xu Na had her sentence to eight years in jail confirmed by Beijing Second Intermediate Court. Bitter Winter had reported about the first-degree decision of January 16, 2022. Xu Na got eight years for posting on social media pictures of the COVID epidemic showing that the authorities were not in control of the situation as they claimed. She got a heavier sentence for being known as a Falun Gong practitioner.

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07.05.2023 – Liaoning man dies ten months following latest arrest for practicing Falun Gong

A Benxi City, Liaoning Province resident was forcibly injected with the so-called COVID-19 vaccine and started suffering severe side effects two days later. After having a persistent fever and cough for ten months, Mr. Tian Xiaofei passed away on May 5, 2023. He was 65.

Mr. Tian was arrested at home on July 13, 2022, for practicing Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999. The police raided his home and confiscated his computer and cell phone.

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