.- A new analysis by ChinaAid found that persecution of Christians by the Chinese government increased in 2012, and focused on the eradication of Protestant “house churches.”
“Last year the...central government continued to adhere to an ultra-leftist anti-Christ ideology, sparing no effort in persecuting Jesus Christ's church in mainland China and plotting and scheming to completely eradicate house churches,” read ChinaAid's annual report, released Feb. 4.
“China's churches...suffered greater pressure and persecution last year; they also demonstrated great endurance and perseverance.”
The report found that the number of people sentenced for Christian faith jumped 125 percent from 2011, and that the incidences of persecution rose 42 percent. The trend of worsening persecution is seven years running in China.
ChinaAid said the reason for the increase was a Sept. 2011 government memo which outlined a plan for eradicating house churches.
The beginning phase, which took place in the first half of 2012, was to “conduct thorough, intensive and secret investigations of house churches throughout the country and create files on them,” according to the report.
Over the following two to three years, the government plans to “clean up” the investigated house churches, and to have completely eliminated them within 10 years.
ChinaAid found that the government used various means to prevent the use of property for house churches; pressured churches to join the officially-sanctioned “Three-Self” church system; detained church leaders; and restricted evangelization on campuses.
Despite this, “Christian churches....have already deeply and comprehensively impacted social culture and the people's ideology,” ChinaAid stated.
Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, said, “nothing can separate us from the love of God, neither persecution or freedom, nor poverty or wealth.”
The study noted the detention of Bishop Ma Daqin, auxiliary bishop of Shanghai, who left the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, announcing his loyalty to the Vatican. In addition to his detention, classes at the city's seminary have been suspended by the government.
The report did offer hope, citing a “power struggle” in the Chinese government which concluded with a purge of the “ultra-leftist political forces.”
The term of the current Chinese president, Hu Jintao, will end in March, and he will likely be succeeded by Xi Jinping. Xi's government “could take another step on the road to reform,” ChinaAid suggests.
ChinaAid is a “Christian human rights organization committed to promoting religious freedom and the rule of law in China.”
Its findings were corroborated by Human Rights Watch, which released a “World Report” which noted that “unregistered spiritual groups such as Protestant 'house churches' are deemed unlawful and the government subjects their members to fines and prosecution.”