Speak up for persecuted Christians in China, warns Lord Alton

Lord Alton’s blog is headed A New Maoist Cultural Revolution Is About To Begin

He highlights that the Golden Lampstand Church in Shanxi Province was destroyed this week by paramilitary police officers, according to local news reports and foreign activists, quoting reports from the New York Times, the Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph and Newsweek.

He continues

What we are seeing in China is a determined crackdown of all unregistered churches before February 1st, when new regulations come into force. These regulations stem from the last Communist Party Congress, which mandated the registration of all religious bodies, which must be ‘Sinoised’ and freed from ‘foreign’ influences and rebuilt on ‘socialist’ principles.

Effectively, churches and their leaders must capitulate and join the Three Self Patriotic associations or be jailed and their buildings blown-up. This is a wholesale crackdown on civil society and a mechanism to control Christians. Once you join, the Communists can then do to you what they want, including listing members, deciding leaders, controlling what is taught. ‎From February 1st onwards, the process accelerates.

It will be a real test of the British Government’s avowed commitment to freedom of religion and belief to see what steps they and Washington take to monitor this repression. Is this not another Maoist ‘Cultural Revolution’? President Xi has warned the world what he intends to do and is going about it with great force. ‎From February 1st, the world needs to step up and tell China it is watching and it immediately needs to make it clear that it will not be indifferent.

And our media should not turn a blind eye to these events – including dramatic video of a 50,000 capacity church being dynamited. The world needs to understand how much suffering continues to be experienced by so many on this planet merely for professing the Christian faith.

China itself – a great country with much to offer the world – need to think more deeply about the self-inflicted damage it will do to itself by trying to eliminate religious freedom and to suppress Christianity. A country built only on materialism will become a country without a soul – and that, in turn, would be an unhappy society lacking in harmony or respect – values every society needs.

Lord Alton then urges people to speak up for persecuted Protestants, highlighting a report from Radio Free Asia headlined

China Jails Six Protestants in Yunnan Amid Massive Crackdown on ‘Evil Cult’

Here’s that report in full:

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan have jailed a group of Protestant Christians for for up to 13 years for involvement in an “evil cult,” their lawyer said on Thursday.

The Yun County People’s Court near Yunnan’s Lincang city handed down a 13-year jail term to Ju Dianhong, 12 years to Liang Qin, and four years to Yang Shunxiang, defense attorney Xiao Yunyang told RFA.

Shorter jail terms were also handed down to Zhang Hongyan, Zi Huimei and Zhang Shaocai, the lawyer said.

The six Protestant church followers had been found guilty of “using an evil cult to organize to undermine law enforcement,” he said.

“The judges in Yunnan were really evil,” Xiao said. “They didn’t pay any attention to the arguments that no illegal acts had been committed, and that there was no harm of any kind to society.”

He said the defendants, who have denied being part of a controversial house church group called the Three Grades of Servants, have said they will appeal the sentences.

The sentences come amid a crackdown in Yunnan on the Three Grades of Servants group, which has been designated an a dangerous cult by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Some 200 Christians have been detained in the province and falsely accused of being members, according to the U.S.-based Christian rights group ChinaAid.

‘Do good deeds’

Ju told the the court during her trial that she has nothing to do with the Three Grades of Servants church.

“I am a Protestant Christian believer, and I believe in Jesus,” Ju said. “None of my evangelism has contravened any of the principles in the Bible, and my beliefs do not constitute an evil cult.”

“I never preached about the Day of Judgement, and all of my books are available in the Three Self Patriotic Association [of government-backed churches bookstore.],” Ju said. “All I ever wanted to do was resolve conflict and do good deeds.”

Defendant Liang Qin meanwhile denied taking part in the Three Grades of Servants cult, saying she has never committed a crime, nor caused any harm to society.

She also denied following the teachings of sect founder Xu Shuangfu’s group, which has been targeted by Beijing as an evil cult second only to the Buddhism and qigong-based Falungong.

Xu has been arrested more than 20 times and has spent more than 20 years in prison. His group claims millions of followers.

Lawyers threatened

Yunnan authorities also notified the detainees’ defense lawyers that they are suspected of “illegally” defending their clients and that their licenses to practice will be subject to review, they said.

Defense attorney Li Guisheng told RFA in a recent interview that lawyers representing a similar group of Christians in Yunnan’s Fengqing county had had their status as defense lawyers revoked by the court ahead of their clients’ trial.

“Yun county and Fengqing county are acting together on this,” Li said. “The families went and hired another six lawyers, but the court revoked their status too, just before the trial.”

“There are two rights at stake here, the right of the clients to a legal defense, and the right of the lawyers to carry out their profession,” he said.

One of the revoked attorneys, Fan Shiwen, confirm the report.

“According to my knowledge, there aren’t any lawyers involved in the case now,” Fan said. “The authorities are doing this because they know that the lawyers will be able to prove in court that their clients have done nothing illegal.”

Meanwhile, the Yunnan High People’s Court rejected appeals from Li Shudong, Li Meihua, and Peng Zhenghua, who were sentenced last June in Yunnan’s Shaotong on charges related to participation in an “evil cult.”

“We have had a decision in the appeals in the Shaotong case. They were rejected,” Xiao said.

Religious persecution

ChinaAid president Bob Fu meanwhile said the crackdown in Yunnan is a form of religious discrimination and persecution.

“This is a historical, massive case of pure religious persecution against peaceful, independent house church Christians,” Fu said in a statement on his group’s website.

“The large number of arbitrary arrests and extremely harsh, long sentences imposed on these young church leaders under the guise of being ‘anti-evil cult’ shows that [Chinese President] Xi’s regime has no interest in respecting its citizens’ freedom of religion or belief.”

“We call upon the Chinese leaders to immediately release these leaders and make proper amends to those who have been arbitrarily detained and tortured,” Fu said.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.