China clampdown on Christian orphanages

Authorities in communist China have continued a clampdown on Christian orphanages under the guise of enforcing new regulations on religious affairs, leaving thousands of poor and disadvantaged orphans and disabled children in danger without vital support.

China enforced the new regulations in February 2018 and since then has shut down a number of Catholic and Protestant-run orphanages in various provinces, according to Bitter Winter, a magazine on religious liberty and human rights.

Authorities have accused Christian groups of proselytizing and converting children by using charities under a repressive clause in the new regulations which says “public interest charitable activities must not be used to proselytize by any organization or individual.” It also prohibits evangelization of minors under 18.

Last week authorities in Zhaoxian in Hebei province shut down Liming Zhi Jia (House of the Dawn) orphanage run by Catholic nuns from the Sisters of the Child Jesus congregation. The orphanage was founded by former Bishop Raimondo Wang Chonglin of Zhaoxian in 1988.

The orphanage had dozens of disabled children and some adult orphans, who were forced to move to other facilities. The authorities denied permission to staff and volunteers to be in contact with the inmates.

Some speculated that the action was related to the clampdown on church facilities and structures operated by the unregistered Catholic Church in China.


Egyptian churches licensed

Egyptian authorities passed the halfway mark in the task of licensing churches on April 12 when 82 new registrations were approved.

The granting of the 19th batch of licences brings the number of churches and affiliated service buildings granted official recognition to 1882 out of the original 3730 that applied more than four years ago.

It leaves a total of 1848 churches still waiting to be granted licences under the Law for Building and Restoring Churches, introduced in September 2016.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli, who heads the Cabinet-level committee set up in 2017 to oversee the licensing task, urged the authorities involved to swiftly clear the backlog of unregistered buildings. Progress was slowed last year when the Covid-19 crisis forced the committee to take a five-month break.

A number of churches were already licensed before the new law was brought in. It is illegal to worship in an unlicensed church building, but until the committee began work in early 2017 it was extremely difficult to obtain a licence.

Barnabas Fund

China persecution intensifies in Guizhou

On the morning of March 16 some 20 Christians gathered in a rented room in Yuli Plaza, Guiyang City, the capital of Guizhou Province, to begin a three-day retreat. Most were members of Guiyang’s Ren’ai [Love] Reformed Church. A contingent of police, security officials, administrators and others burst into the room to break up what they claimed was ‘an illegal rally’. The Christians cooperated as the police interrogated the believers, recorded their IDs and examined their phones. Eventually most of the Christians were given permission to leave, while 10 believers were detained and transported to a police station.

Three received a three-day administrative detention and were released on March 20. Elder Zhang, on the other hand, was sentenced to a 14-day administrative detention. [Note that an ‘administrative detention’ does not require a trial.] Security officials also raided the homes of several church members, confiscating computers and other items.

A small house church of less than 100 members, Guiyang Ren’ai Reformed Church has steadfastly refused to join the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-approved Three Self Patriotic Movement. In August 2018 Elder Zhang was among the first of several hundred pastors to sign a petition seeking religious liberty in protest against the CCP’s new Religious Affairs Regulations (enacted 1 February 2018) which unleashed a whole new era of increased repression and persecution. I

n September 2018, just weeks after the petition was published, the CCP officially banned Ren’ai Reformed Church. Since then, the CCP has confiscated the church’s equipment and the believers have struggled to find a place where they can meet without being raided by police. Arrested in December 2018, Pastor Wang Yi, who started the petition, was sentenced on 30 December 2019 to nine years in prison for ‘inciting subversion of state power and illegal business operations’.

Religious Liberty Bulletin