China’s communist government estimates that there are around 22 million Christians in the country, based on membership of state-recognised churches. Unofficially, there may be as many 100 million believers. The majority are part of the flourishing “house church” movement of unregistered churches, who, along with Catholics, are viewed as a threat to harmony by the government. These congregations are from time to time targeted by Chinese authorities, and church leaders can face arrest, torture and imprisonment for their faith. The availability of Christian literature is restricted and the government censors internet access, including blocking many Christian websites.
In May 2015, the government began a campaign to remove Christian symbols and demolish unregistered churches in the eastern province of Zhejiang, which has a significant Christian population. Under the pretext that the buildings are in breach of building code violations, more than 1,500 churches have been demolished. Last year, a Christian lawyer protesting against the campaign was arrested. Held without charge for six months in a notorious prison, Zhang Kari was paraded on television after “confessing” to crimes against the state. He was later released, but many believers are not as fortunate; one underground church leader was held for 14 years without charge and died in custody.
Although outright persecution of Christians is localised and sporadic, Chinese believers suffer wider discrimination in employment and are barred from most high-level jobs, including government positions, which require membership of the atheist Communist Party. This includes members of the registered churches that are only allowed to operate under close supervision. Believers who come to faith in Muslim communities, such as the Uighurs in north-west China, face persecution from their communities as well as the state.
Give thanks for the continued move of God in China and the growth of the Church despite strengthening of state opposition. Pray that the government will allow its citizens freedom to practise their faith openly and that the perception of the church as a “subversive” element in society will be challenged. Pray especially for Christians enduring torture and hardship in prison; ask that they will know peace, comfort and joy despite their terrible circumstances.