Scottish Catholic Observer | May 1, 2020
Open Doors, an organisation that fights Christian persecution in countries where it is most rife, spoke out after it was revealed that government officials in China were alleged to have targeting Catholic and Protestant churches in the Anhui Diocese and Suzhou City areas in April.
China ranks at 23rd on Open Doors’ world watchlist where Christian persecution is most prevalent.
Open Doors International’s director of strategic research, Dr Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, has warned that ‘we will have to wait and see’ if the instances are part of a wider crackdown on Christian Churches in China.
He told the SCO: “This kind of stuff is going on all the time. It is derived from the general trend coming from President Xi Jinping, who took power in 2012, although it was really in 2015 that the central administration got around to cracking down on the churches.
“The essence of President Xi’s rule is that the central administration got around to conformity, to (a) the rule of law and (b) a new ideological loyalty. In practise, what this means is everyone has to obey the Communist Party in every particular and support its agenda as ‘country loving people’—that is what is meant by rule of law.
“The problem in China is that there has developed a ‘grey area,’ where everyone ha gone ahead and constructed churches, put up crosses etc, on the basis that permissions will be granted. Very few churches have all their permits in place—the government bureaucracy has seen to that.
“So it’s very easy for an official to come along and say, ‘we have to take that cross down or ‘you don’t have permission for that building’ and then act to bring them down.”
Dr Boyd-MacMillan said it is hard to find reasons why churches in specific areas of China appear to be under threat.
“Sometimes it is due to an overzealous local official wishing to curry favour with Beijing, or sometimes the initiative could come from Beijing itself to intimidate the local churches,” he said.
“Anhui province has seen astonishing growth over the past thirty years, and it is no secret their that the networks in Anhui have good links to the world wide church outside China—a sure sigh in the government’s eyes that the church is an instrument of western interference.”