Located in Eastern Asia between North Korea and Vietnam, China borders the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea, and South China Sea. China is officially atheist; however, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, as well as Asian faith groups are practiced by the populace.
In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Chairman Mao Zedong declared the country to be the People’s Republic of China, and sought to eliminate all things religious. During the 1950s, the CCP attempted to manage religion through government-controlled faith groups and imprisoning or killing uncooperative religious leaders. After Mao’s death in 1976, limited religious expression was allowed among government– registered organizations.
The Chinese Constitution provides for freedom of religious belief and the freedom not to believe; however, authorities attempt to restrict religious activities to government sanctioned and registered places of worship. In order to operate legally, religious groups are required to register. Once registered, clergy are called upon to fulfill political obligations, such as endorsing government policies.
Some groups, such as Falun Gong and small Christian denominations are not permitted to register because they are considered a cult. Unregistered religious groups experience intimidation, restriction and harassment, and those faith groups considered a cult and refuse to renounce their beliefs receive ‘treatment’ in prisons and re-education through labour camps. House churches are particularly targetted by the government.
In some regions of China, children under the age of 18 are forbidden from going to a place of worship and are not permitted to receive religious education.
The Communist Party has officially stated that party membership and religious beliefs are incompatible, yet those who hold high level positions in the government are required to be members of the Communist Party.
International Treaties Signed by China
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The Convention on the Rights of the Child
Canada-China Diplomatic Relations
Information about Canada’s relationship with China
Canadian Embassy in China
Canadian representatives in China
China’s representatives in Canada
For prayer requests, see the alerts, or the general page of prayer for the Persecuted Church.
General information about China
For information about human rights in China
For information about the persecuted Church in China (from the Voice of the Martyrs Canada)
Related EFC Religious Liberty Commission Alerts:
Note: Alerts are in reverse chronological order, beginning with most recent.
As Christians Worldwide Celebrate Easter, Chinese Christians are Targeted
Source: (BBC News, Irish Times, China Aid, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, AGI, Asia Pacific News, Toronto Star, Fox News, USCIFR)
VIDEO: “Beijing Authorities Arrest Dozens of Christians”
On April 10, 2011, 169 Christians were arrested as they tried to attend an open-air church meeting in Beijing’s western Haidian district. Still under house arrest are a Pastor and his wife, and one female believer. Members of the Shouwang House Church were forced to meet outdoors after government interference left them without a building to worship in. Adding to existing tensions between the government and unregistered “house churches”, authorities have been actively curtailing any perceived “mob” type activity in an effort to avoid Middle-Eastern type uprisings. They caught wind of the church’s plans for an outdoor gathering and arrived ready to arrest any church members who showed up for the service. Read more.
Fast Growing “House Churches” Crushed in China
(SOURCES: FOX NEWS.COM, CHINA AID, NEW ZEALAND HERALD, CHRISTIAN POST)
On September 13, 2009 hundreds of police and thugs smashed doors and windows of the Golden Lamp Church. They seized Bibles, and sent dozens of worshippers to hospitals with serious injuries, members and activists say. Eyewitnesses verified that even local civic officials were present and involved in the destruction of the church building. Authorities claim the actions against the church were a result of “land disputes”. Read more.
Religious Liberty Commission Publishes Report on the Persecution of Protestant Christians in China
OTTAWA – On Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 1:30 p.m., The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s (EFC) Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) will publicly release its report on Church persecution in China.
The 27 page report identifies the general extent of persecution faced by the Protestant House Church movement in China. It also documents trends that illustrate the continued repression of freedom of religion taking place in advance of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Read more.
21 House Church Leaders Sentenced to Labour Camp
(SOURCE: China Aid Association, Inc.,The Christian Post)
Twenty-one of China’s most prominent HouseChurch leaders recently received sentences of re-education through labour ranging from one year and three months to three years by the Linyi City Re-education Through Labour Commission. The pastors from the province of Shandong were accused of “evil cult” activity which is a common ambiguous charge laid against members of non-registered House Churches. Read more.
Christian Human Right Lawyer Arrested and Detained
(Sources: Voice of the Martyrs Canada, China Aid Association)
Gao Zhisheng, a Christian and well known human rights lawyer in China, was arrested by the Chinese secret police without any legal proceeding on August 15, 2006. His wife and two children have been under house arrest ever since. To date, no members of the public have been permitted to see him, including his family and his defence attorney, Mo Shaoping. Read more.
Paul Martin meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao
This week, Canada has a special opportunity to impact religious liberty in China. Chinese President Hu Jintao arrives in Canada today for an official visit, and will be in formal meetings with Prime Minister Paul Martin tomorrow.
The EFC Religious Liberty Commission has sent a letter to Prime Minister Martin highlighting the ongoing persecution of religious groups in China. In the letter, we request that Martin specifically address the state of religious freedom in China during his dialogue with the Chinese President this week. We know that the Prime Minister plans to raise related human rights issues, so we ask you to pray with us that he and his delegation will be bold and effective during these meetings and that China will be responsive.
Below is the content of our letter. We also forwarded a copy of the letter to Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of Foreign Affairs. For tips on how to write effective letters to government officials, see the EFC’s Faith in Action page.
The Right Honourable Paul Martin
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Re: Religious Freedom in China
Dear Prime Minister:
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) was pleased to learn of your plans to discuss the plight of Falun Gong practitioners in China during the upcoming visit of President Hu Jintao. It is within this context that I write to express my deep concern regarding the abysmal condition of religious freedom in China.
While it is important to discuss the plight of distinct groups in China, such as the Falun Gong; it is also very helpful to discuss their situation within the broader context of the state of freedom of religion or belief in China. As you are certainly aware, religious groups including Buddhists, Muslims, as well as Catholic and Protestant Christians continue to face severe and systematic persecution at the hands of the Chinese government. Entire congregations have been detained and religious leaders subjected to prolonged detention, forced “re-education” in Chinese labour camps and even execution. Amazingly, even amidst the Chinese government’s efforts to retain tight control over registered religious activity, and its brutal campaigns against unregistered religious communities, the spread of religious belief among the Chinese people continues its rapid increase. It is time that the Chinese people’s fundamental right to freedom of religion and belief is fully respected.
As you are well aware, China has not yet ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As such, China has not agreed to respect and protect its citizens’ rights to “freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching” (Article 18.1.). Respecting religious freedom is a norm of international human rights protection, a cornerstone of Canada’s international policy. We therefore encourage you to highlight the importance of religious freedom and benefit of upholding human rights in your meetings later this week.
We appreciate your government’s willingness to engage with the Chinese government on the issue of freedom of religion or belief during President Jintao’s visit. During your dialogue, we encourage you to address the broader climate of religious freedom in China, including the persecution faced by other religious groups. We further encourage you to take the opportunity now, and through ongoing bilateral human rights dialogue, to urge the Chinese government to respect the universal right to freedom of religion or belief, and to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. We look forward to your response.
• That Prime Minister Martin and Canadian officials will be bold and effective in raising issues of human rights and religious freedom with the Chinese government.
• That President Jintao and Chinese officials will be open and responsive on these issues.
Death Sentences of Chinese Church Leaders Lifted
(Source: Voice of the Martyrs)
The South China Church leaders sentenced to death in China have had their sentences lifted. Four of the leaders were released and three more, including the church's leader Gong Shengliang, were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Unfortunately, four women from the South China Church who were released at the same time were almost immediately re-arrested by police, who sent them to prison camp. The four women had announced that they planned to sue the police for beatings and sexual assaults they received while in prison awaiting trial.
Praise Report-Kidnapped Church Leaders Released
(Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Voice of the Martyrs Canada, Ottawa Citizen)
The 34 Chinese church leaders who were kidnapped by a notorious cult group in April have all been released! The entire church leadership of one of China's largest evangelical churches, the China Gospel Fellowship, was lured into captivity with promises of Bible teaching. The cult group Lightning from the East, whose reclusive leader claims to be the second coming of Jesus, kidnapped the church leadership team in an attempt to forcibly convert them. As of last week, all 34 evangelical leaders had been released and not one had wavered in their faith.
For more information on the kidnapping, see our previous Religious Liberty Commission Alert, Urgent Prayer: China (4/26/02). For more information about the release of the church leaders and the cult group Lightning from the East, see the website China Gospel Fellowship.
Concerning the kidnap of 34 China Gospel Fellowship coworkers by the Eastern Lightning Cult on April 16, we want to express our thankfulness to God here, that with His sustaining, with many overseas brothers and sisters' fervent prayers and intercessions in tears before God, and also with the interference of the police, all of the kidnapped coworkers have been gradually released. However, a few of them are not doing well physically because of the drugs given to them. Please pray for them. All returned coworkers know deeply that they have been through a spiritual battle. Although they were tempted, enticed and threatened in every way, they have been able to hold fast to their faith in the Lord, to overcome the temptations and enticements by faith, and to refuse the heresies of the female Christ. Consequently, the EL conspiracy to undermine and destroy the church has ended in utter failure.
In spite of such an attack on us, the church as a whole has not suffered any loss, with God's sustaining and the work of all coworkers. Our various ministries have maintained their proper courses. Please keep on praying for us. For more detailed reports concerning the April 16 event, please continue to watch this web site. We hereby extend our deeply cherished appreciation to all fellow believers who are concerned for us in and out of China on behalf of all of our coworkers and the families of the kidnapped. We ascribe all glory to our triune and true God. Amen!
• Praise God for releasing the captives! Praise him for taking care of them in spite of beatings, druggings, seductions and other tactics commonly used by Eastern Lightning.
• Praise God for using this opportunity to expose the evil of the Eastern Lightning cult and dismantle at least some of its infrastructure.
• Pray for the complete mental, emotional, spiritual and physical recovery for all of the kidnapped leaders and their families. Pray that the Lord's victory would be complete and that he would completely restore every person affected by this crime.
• Pray for the leaders and members of the Eastern Lightning cult. Pray that they would repent of their evil crimes and their heresy and turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness.
Chinese Leadership Team Disappears
Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Time Magazine)
The entire leadership team from the China Gospel Fellowship (CGF), one of China's largest Christian groups, disappeared on April 19. Although initial reports suggested that the leaders had been arrested, it now appears that they have been kidnapped by an apocalyptic cult group called Lightning from the East. One observer stated that it would have been better if they had fallen into the hands of the security police. Christians in China are extremely concerned for the physical and psychological well-being of the CGF leaders.
Lightning from the East poses a serious threat to Christianity in China, employing bullying tactics, violence, bribes and extortion to force people away from orthodox Christianity. The cult's leader is a 30 year-old woman who lives in hiding and claims to be the second coming of Jesus. Lightning from the East capitalizes on the lack of trained Bible teachers in the rural areas where the ratio of pastors to laypeople can be as high as 50,000 to one. Cult members often infiltrate existing house church networks and target Bible teachers for physical and psychological coercion in an effort to convert them.
• Pray for the safety of the CGF leaders, that they will be released quickly and that other believers will be protected from these attacks. Pray for their endurance in the face of this new, unprecedented trial. Pray also for their physical and psychological well-being. Shen Xianfeng, one of the major leaders that has been kidnapped, walks with crutches.
• Pray for the China Gospel Fellowship churches. Pray for wisdom on the part of the remaining leadership as they try to respond to this situation. Pray that members of the CGF house churches and other orthodox groups would quickly learn the truth about Lightning from the East and not allow cult members to infiltrate their groups.
• Pray against the activities of Lightning from the East. Pray that the Lord would cause the group's tactics and nature to become widely known among all Christians in China. Pray that God would protect his people and lead them in righteousness and truth.
Chinese Minister Given Several Months to Appeal Death Sentence
(Source: Compass Direct, Voice of the Martyrs)
Praise God for hearing the prayers of his people! Gong Shengliang, head of the 50,000-member South China Church, has been granted a stay of execution by the Chinese government. Officially, Gong has been given several months to prepare an appeal of his death sentence. Pastor Gong was sentenced to death in December for his religious activities and for allegedly raping several women in his church. Christians around the world joined in praying for Pastor Gong this weekend as the court prepared to hear his final appeal. High-level international pressure and embarrassing evidence that the rape charges were fabricated by security forces were said to have contributed to the court's decision not to execute Gong this week.
At least sixty-four members of the South China church are currently in jail for their religious activities. Four leaders besides Gong were also sentenced to death, but their sentences have been suspended for two years. The crackdown on the church came after an August 2001 mandate from the Chinese government, part of a move to crush all religious groups the government views as 'evil cults.'
• Praise God for moving powerfully and swiftly to save his child! Praise him for bringing this story to international attention so quickly, and praise him for moving his people to pray and act.
• Praise God for the responsive hearts of US government leaders who acted quickly to intervene with Chinese authorities.
• Pray that Gong's death sentence would be commuted to imprisonment. Pray that he and all the other members of the church currently in prison would be released.
• Pray that God would comfort his people in the South China Church at this time, and raise up courageous leaders to replace those in prison.
National Leader of Underground Evangelical Movement Sentenced to Death
(Source: Freedom House, Voice of the Martyrs, Compass Direct)
The national leader of an underground evangelical movement (South China Church) has been sentenced to death for his religious activity. His final appeal will be heard tomorrow (January 5). Pastor Gong Shengliang and 16 leaders of his group were imprisoned on charges of leading an "Evil Cult," and were sentenced in December. Five church leaders were given death sentences, but all except Pastor Gong had their death sentences temporarily suspended (which usually means the sentence will be commuted to life in prison). Pastor Gong still faces the death penalty for his activity in the church and for charges of rape (according to Freedom House, a U.S.-based institute that monitors religious liberty worldwide, it is not unusual for Chinese authorities to charge religious leaders with rape in an attempt to discredit them and reduce their stature among their followers). Pastor Gong's 37 year-old niece was among those given a suspended death sentence. Family members report that she has been severely tortured in prison. Pastor Gong's appeal will be heard on January 5. This is the last opportunity to commute his death sentence. Death sentences, once confirmed, are usually carried out within a week.
• Write to Chinese government officials, asking them to grant the appeal of Gong Shengliang and commute his death sentence to life imprisonment.
• Write to Canadian government officials, asking them to protest China's egregious violation of international human rights norms in this situation.
• For advice on how to write letters, please see the following site:
Amnesty International's Guidelines for Letter Writing
Chinese Embassy in Ottawa
His Excellency Ping Mei, Ambassador
Phone: (613) 789-3434
Fax: (613) 789-1911
Salutation: Your Excellency
Chinese United Nations Office
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien
Prime Minister of Canada
Phone: (613) 992-4211
Fax: (613) 941-6900
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
The Honourable John Manley
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Phone: (613) 992-3269
Fax: (613) 995-1534
Salutation: Dear Minister
The Honourable Rey Pagtakhan
Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific)
Phone: (613) 992-7148
Fax: (613) 996-9125
Salutation: Dear Minister
Canadian Consulate in Bejing
Canadian Mission to the United Nations
Phone: (212) 848-1100
Fax: (212) 848-1195
• Pray for Pastor Gong and his family at this difficult time. Pray that God's presence would be with them powerfully.
• Pray that Pastor Gong's death sentence will be commuted to life imprisonment.
• Pray for the 16 other leaders who are facing prison sentences ranging from 2 years to life. Pray for their endurance under the torture and mistreatment they have undergone and will continue to undergo during their imprisonment.
• Pray for the 50,000 members of the South China Church who are now facing immense pressure from the government.
• Pray that the Chinese government will repent and turn from its persecution of Christians.
Christian Arrested for Hosting Meeting in His Home
(Source: Voice of the Martyrs, Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
Police in China are holding Chinese Christian Ah Kong at Huadu Detention Centre in Guangdong, Southeast China, following his arrest for hosting an unregistered Christian meeting in his home. At last report Ah Kong was still in custody. The meeting was in his home, which the PSB sees as a serious offence. Ah Kong has refused to pay the fine, knowing that if he pays it once he will have to pay it many times. Therefore he remains in prison, forced to assemble Christmas lights for sale to the West.
Ah Kong was arrested alongside Pastor Li Dexian and six others last Thursday, 26th July. The police arrived at 1.30 pm, carried out arrests and returned to Ah Kong's home at 3.00 pm when they closed the meeting and dispersed attendees. Li was released after three days, but not before police had severely reprimanded him and warned him sternly to refrain from his religious activities. Both Ah Kong, who is in his early 40s and Li, who is 49, have been subject to repeated arrests and harassment in the last year and a half. Li was arrested 15 times between October 1999 and May 2000. During one period of detention in April, Li was bound with his wrists chained to his ankles for five days, leaving him in excruciating pain, unable to straighten his back.
The incident in Huadu is part of a broader current campaign against the unregistered church. The strike hard policy against the Falun Gong has had serious consequences for the church in China. According to a source in China the treatment of Christians has taken a downward turn in the last two weeks across China. Allen Yuan, the Beijing pastor who spent over twenty years in prison for his faith, had his house church raided during a meeting two weeks ago. Samuel Lamb, who runs a church near Li Dexian's home and who also spent twenty years incarcerated for his faith, has also faced fresh pressure in recent days with the government closure of the printing service he uses for his publications.
The house church movement has experienced incredible growth in China over the last few years.
• Please pray for the Christian believers in China, that they will have courage in the face of persecution.
• Pray that the pastors who are jailed for their faith, particularly Ah Kong and Li Dexian.
• Pray that the Chinese government will respond to international pressure to stop religious persecution.
• Praise God that the church is growing and pray that it will continue to do so.
Plan to destroy unregistered church buildings uncovered
(Source: Keston News Service)
Keston News Service obtained important documents giving evidence of a carefully planned campaign to destroy unregistered religious buildings in Wenzhou in the province of Zhejiang in south-eastern China. These churches were destroyed in November and December last year. The campaign extended to other religious buildings in a campaign against “feudal superstition”. Hundreds of Buddhist and Daoist temples and shries were destroyed as well as churches. All legally-registered “patriotic” religious organizations in Wenzhou dutifully expressed their approval of the campaign.
According to house-church leaders in Wenzhou, the catalyst for the campaign was a visit by President Jiang Zemin in early 2000. He was reportedly horrified by the sight of hundreds of churches and Buddhist shrines, many of them unregistered. Shortly after the visit by the President, officials decreed that Christians, Buddhists and Daoists must personally demolish their “illegal” structures. When religious adherents did not obey, municipal authorities took massive action.
Wenzhou is known by Christians in China as the “Jerusalem of China” because of the huge increase in the number of Protestant Christians since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976.
Wenzhou authorities were reportedly shocked by the international outcry against the demolitions. Orders were given to tidy up the ruins of churches and shrines. Municipal authorities gave Christians the option to rebuild their churches but only if they registered with the government and joined the state-controlled Protestant body, the “Three Self Patriotic Movement.” But since most of the churches have split into smaller cell groups, there is no real advantage to rebuilding if they are forced to be state-controlled.
The number of churches destroyed is estimated to be between 1,200 and 1,500. While most of the churches destroyed were small buildings, these numbers give an idea of the size of the campaign. During the course of church and shrine destruction, it was widely reported. Even the Wenzhou Daily contained details of the destruction. The Washington Post carried several articles on the destruction of churches.
• Please pray that the Christians of Wenzhou will continue to share their faith and bring others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
• Pray for the leaders of house churches and that God will continue to raise up more leaders as the church grows.
• Please pray for the municipal authorities of Wenzhou and for the government officials who planned or authorized the destruction of churches, that they will realize that their efforts are in vain. Please pray that some will be impressed with the attitude of the Christians and that they, too, will turn to Christ.
Crackdown on Christians in China
(Source: Greek Evangelical Fellowship, Christian Solidarity Worldwide; World Evangelical Fellowship; Washington Post; Keston Institute; Newsroom)
There have been disturbing news reports of a particularly intense pre-Christmas crackdown on Christians in several parts of China. The Washington Post reported that over 400 churches have been destroyed since late November. The churches are all "unregistered" churches and many government officials consider that they are subversive to the government. In reality, becoming registered is a lengthy process and many churches are in the process of becoming registered. The church is growing very quickly in China and churches have sprung up where there are believers.
• Please pray for the many Christians in China that have seen their churches demolished over the past month. Many of these have said that they will gather in houses to celebrate Christmas but they will miss the church buildings they worked so hard to build.
• Please also pray that the Chinese government does not take any further action against Christians. In the past, these actions have included arrest and torture.
Top Christian Leaders Arrested
(Source: Asian Outreach Canada)
Four house church leaders were travelling together to a Pastors' conference in the southern part of Henan province. They were stopped by police who searched their vehicle. The police discovered training materials for Christian workers. The leaders were arrested. These four men are top leaders in three house church movements in Henan province.
• Pray for these 4 leaders, particularly that their true identities will not be revealed.
• Pray that they will be released unharmed.
• Pray for their families, that they will be sustained spiritually and physically.
• Pray for the remaining leadership in the churches, that they will be able to make the right decisions about appropriate action to take in this difficult situation.
• Pray for the growing church in China.
Christians Arrested for Refusing to be Controlled by the State
(Source: Globe & Mail, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Human Rights Without Frontiers)
Chinese police arrested 130 Christians from the Fangcheng Church in Henan Province on August 23. There were 3 Americans included in this group that were subsequently released. The Fangcheng Church is an evangelical Christian movement that has an estimated 500,000 members. The founding leader of the group, Zhang Rongliang, was arrested on August 23 last year. He, along with several other church members, was sentenced to 3 years in labour camp under an anti-cult ordinance. He has since been released on temporary medical leave.
The Fangcheng Church members are being persecuted because they refuse to be controlled by the state. Churches that are officially recognized operate with significant restraints. Zhang Rongliang was one of four signatories of the Confession of Faith of the House Churches in China in 1998. This document sets out the theology of house churches, including separation of church and state, establishing Christ rather than the political authorities as the head of the Church.
At the same time the Chinese government is cracking down on the Fangchenge Church and members of the falun gong movement, Bishop Fu of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association told religious leaders in Los Angeles that China is entering a "golden age" of religious freedom. It is true that officially recognized churches avoid being arrested but they must be loyal to the Communist Party and abide by its edicts. For example, the Globe & Mail reports that the Catholic Church does not have any ties to the Vatican because the Vatican recognizes Taiwan. Religious movements that are not officially recognized are considered cults and members face fines, detention, torture and labour education camp.
• Write letters to the Ambassador for the People's Republic of China expressing concern for the imprisoned members of the Fangcheng Church and ask that they be released without harm.
• Ask that the government stop treating the house church movement as a cult. It may be helpful to tell the
• Ambassador that the teachings of this church are similar to your beliefs and that this is normal Christian teaching.
Copy your letter to the Canadian Embassy in Beijing.
Embassy of the People's Republic of China
His Excellency Ping Mei, Ambassador
515 St. Patrick St.
Ottawa, ON K1N 5H3
Phone: (613) 789-3434
Fax: (613) 789-1911
The Canadian Embassy
His Excellency Howard Balloch
19 Dong Zhi Men Wai Street
Chao Yang District
People's Republic of China
Fax: (011 86 10) 6532-5033
• Pray that the Chinese government will release the members of the Fangcheng Church without torturing them.
• Pray that the Lord will sustain and encourage these imprisoned believers.
• Pray that the imprisoned members of the house church would be a strong testimony to others in jail that many more will come to know Jesus as their personal saviour.