The CCP continues harassing people of faith amid the outbreak of the deadly virus, accusing those who pray for the ill and dead of “endangering social stability.”
by Tang Zhe
It appears that religious persecution remains a top priority for the Chinese government as it struggles to deal with the spread of the deadly illness, COVID-19. According to numerous reports from across the country, people of faith continued to be harassed during the first two months of the year. Since the beginning of February, the police in the provinces of Fujian and Shandong arrested at least 30 members of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) – the single most persecuted religious group in China.
A CAG member told Bitter Winter that as per CCP’s internal secret documents, the government had planned to launch a large-scale operation targeting The Church of Almighty God in 2020. “There could have been more arrests if not for the outbreak,” the believer thinks.
Some believers were arrested just because they prayed for coronavirus victims or shared epidemic-related photos and messages. According to a Radio Free Asia report, Sun Feng, a Christian from Shandong’s Zibo city, posted a message online on January 31, calling on people to pray and fast for nine days for the ending of the epidemic. On February 7, he was arrested by the police and detained for 24 hours. In 2014, Mr. Sun was sentenced to five years in prison for “inciting to subvert the state power” because he openly supported Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, as the protests against changes to the electoral system in the special administrative region became to be known.
The report also tells the story of Reverand Li Wanhua, a pastor at Fengle Church in Guangdong Province’s Jiangmen city. The police summoned him on February 14 for reposting photos and messages about Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor who was silenced by the authorities for trying to warn people about the deadly virus and later died from it. The pastor has also been previously suppressed by the CCP: On June 14, 2018, he was detained by the Public Security Bureau in Jiangmen’s county-level city of Heshan for “organizing and using reactionary secret societies, cult organizations, and using superstition to undermine law enforcement.” The pastor was later released on bail.
“In the face of the epidemic, the government spares no effort in controlling and suppressing believers instead of fighting the disaster. For the Communist Party, stability maintenance always comes first!” a Christian from Guangdong Province told Bitter Winter.
“The CCP has been wildly persecuting our churches for the past few years,” a Christian from Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, commented. “It demolishes church buildings, removes the Ten Commandments, replaces crosses with Xi Jinping’s portraits, distorts biblical teachings, detains pastors. And the persecution continues amid the deadly outbreak.”
A Three-Self church co-worker from Shandong Province told Bitter Winter that since the start of the outbreak, the provincial Two National Christian Councils issued strict orders prohibiting members of the state-run Protestant Church to visit unregistered churches. Leaders of official churches claim that discussions about the virus in house churches, which are not regulated by the state, amount to “anti-government speech” and harm “social security and public safety,” and they call on believers “to be the pioneers of maintaining social stability” amid the epidemic.