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China pastors, laymembers still jailed since Dec.

CHENGDU, China (BP) — The pastor and 10 members of a prominent church in China remain jailed three months after the government invaded their worship and arrested 100 of them because of their Christianity, the church said March 20 on Facebook.

Pastor Wang Yi, his wife Jiang Rong and nine other members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu — also translated as Autumn Rain Covenant Church — were still jailed after their arrest in December 2018, the church said, listing names of those arrested. Two members were missing, and those released from jail are being pressured by their landlords to find new housing, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in a press release today (March 21).

China is reportedly harassing Christians, Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and others amid increased international pressure to uphold religious freedom in the Communist country where worship of President Xi Jinping is mandated.

A new multi-faith action group, the Coalition to Advance Religious Freedom in China (CARFC), launched March 4 to urge the U.S. to impose sanctions and otherwise pressure China to eliminate human rights abuses.

“We are united,” said Bob Fu, a key CARFC organizer and president of ChinaAid. “We will not let the Communist Party win.” Other key CARFC organizers, ChinaAid said, are International Religious Freedom Roundtable chairman Greg Mitchell, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), and retired Congressman Frank Wolf.

Conversely, a Chinese government leader accused the West of using Christianity to weaken China’s political power. Registered churches in China are required to fly China’s flag, forgo or remove religious symbols including the cross, and sing songs praising the government.

“Anti-China forces in the West are trying to continue to influence China’s social stability and even subvert our country’s political power through Christianity, and it is doomed to fail,” World News quoted Xu Xiaohong, head of the Movement of Protestant Churches in China, March 19. “Only by continuously carrying forward and practicing the core values of socialism can our Christianity truly be suited to socialist society,” Xiaohong said during a speech at the People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Increased pressure from the U.S. could influence China to decrease the intensity of its abuses, Brynne Lawrence, ChinaAid’s English editor, told World News.

“China likes to look good to the outside world,” World quoted Lawrence. “One of the most effective means we have seen is other countries putting pressure on China to stop the abuses there.”

Regarding Early Rain Covenant Church, China is holding Yi and his wife in secret detention and have accused them of “inciting to subvert state power,” the church said on Facebook. Other members, jailed at the Chengdu City Detention Center, are variously charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and conducting illegal business operations.

Their detention is a “grave violation of the right to freedom of religion or belief,” CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in the statement released today. “The charge of inciting subversion is completely unfounded: this is a response to Pastor Wang’s peaceful criticism of the authorities’ treatment of independent churches.

“We call on the government of China to immediately release all members of Early Rain Church still in detention and all those arbitrarily detained across China, including the one million individuals currently held in Xinjiang,” Thomas said. China is holding many people, predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and Kazakhs, at the Uyghur Autonomous Region in Xinjiang.

“We further call on the government to end the harassment of all religious groups in China, ensuring that all Chinese citizens are free to practice their religion or belief,” Thomas said. “The international community must take every opportunity to raise this with China at the Human Rights Council and elsewhere.”