(Hetian, Xinjiang—July 26, 2016) Persecution in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province spiked earlier this month as authorities raided several house churches, detained numerous Christians and confined an entire family to their residence.
In Hetian, one of the province’s southernmost cities, officials raided several churches throughout a single county on July 7 and took many Christians to the police station for interrogation about their church’s religious affairs. They were released at 8 a.m. the next day, but received a summons for further questioning hours later and were held at the police station until late that evening.
The affected church members attested that local authorities interviewed Christians with no connection to their church. On the night of July 10, the Cele County police station dispatched officers to the home of Pastor Zhong Shuguang, who evaded detention because he happened to be traveling at the time. However, they took his wife, Lü Yingli, into custody. She was released the next day.
The raid occurred after Zhong posted an online message declaring Christians have no religious freedom in Xinjiang.
In 2012 and 2013, authorities detained and fined Zhong three times for organizing religious gatherings and confiscated his property. Even though his church lacks a formal meeting place, it still experiences constant government interference.
In a prayer, Zhong expressed his desire that officials throughout Hetian come to a better understanding of Christianity, so that Christians could live without fear. He also prayed for persecuted Christians to be endowed with confidence, tenderness, eloquence and a loving heart so that they may defend their faith.
Christian persecution is occurring elsewhere throughout Xinjiang, as evidenced by the recent blacklisting of the entire family of Pastor Lou Yuanqi, who lives in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture. They were prevented from buying train tickets even after displaying their ID cards, and a police checkpoint refused to grant them entrance. Additionally, officials confined them to their home. According to Lou, “The day before yesterday, [the officials] called and asked our children to return. Our children do not live at home; only one daughter lives at home. The rest of our children are in Urumqi. The public security bureau called us and asked us to tell them to come home. I asked why, and they said to gather their information, take their pictures and conduct blood tests. I said they have all married and started their careers … this is too unreasonable to do. A while ago, they even took away my ID card and returned it later.”
Local Christians are uncertain why authorities are targeting house churches with such renewed intensity.
China Aid exposes cases of religious freedom abuse, such as those experienced by Christians in Xinjiang, in order to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians in China.