International Christian Concern claims that a dramatic increase on the persecution of Christians is missing from the Chinese Government’s 2014 Report on Human Rights.
On June 8, China’s government released a glowing report on human rights in an attempt to push back criticism of its recent crackdown on human rights activists as well as the outcry against its campaign of church destruction and cross removals. The white paper, entitled “Progress in China’s Human Rights in 2014,” was issued by the Information Office of China’s State Council in Beijing.
In stark contrast to China’s claims of ‘progress’ on the human rights front in 2014, International Christian Concern (ICC) received almost daily reports detailing the government’s destruction of churches and the forced removal of crosses from hundreds of others, despite the strong public response of local Christians.
The report makes no mention of the Chinese government targeting meetings of Chinese believers, including even services of China’s government-controlled and recognized “Three Self Patriotic Church.” Contrary to the report, persecution and harassment of Christians have increased over the last year. Many Christians have been put in jail often on trumped-up charges. The widespread breadth of the persecution indicates that it has tacit approval from the highest levels of the Chinese government. The current administration has taken a hard line when it comes to human rights.
As reported by ICC, the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign in Zhejiang Province was created to fight alleged “illegal structures,” but it has been used to justify the demolition of Christian churches and to remove Christian crosses from Chinese city skylines. According to local reports by China Aid, as many as 1000 crosses have been removed and approximately 50 churches destroyed in the Zhejiang campaign.
William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, says the report is a work of government fiction. “In certain areas, especially related to freedom of expression, civil society, and the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities—the white paper seems to have been written in an alternate reality,” he said in an email to AFP.
Chris Warner, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, laments, “If China would spend as much time on actually improving its human rights record as it does on defending itself against legitimate criticism, it could greatly improve the lives of Chinese citizens who only seek rights guaranteed to them in the Chinese constitution. In recent months, Chinese Christians have been detained and sentenced to multi-year jail sentences for daring to question the legality of the harassment conducted by local authorities. This is the reality that China does not want to accept.”