China-backed separatist authorities in the north-east of Myanmar’s Shan state are cracking down on Christians over alleged links to Western missionaries.
In September, the United Wa State Army, which controls the Wa Special Region that borders China’s Yunnan province, issued an edict ordering an investigation into “missionaries” and banning the construction of new churches.
Within a fortnight of the order being issued, Baptist Christians in Shan State pleaded for prayer in a letter to outside world, reporting that authorities had, by that point, already closed 52 churches, destroyed three others and arrested 92 pastors. They had also shut down a Bible school and arrested 41 of its students, sending them to work as military porters, who are known to sometimes be worked to death by carrying heavy loads.
A copy of the edict was recently obtained by an Asian newspaper and, according to experts, includes Chinese Communist-style phrasing. The order uses a Chinese term “jidujiao” which refers to Protestant and Evangelical Christians, indicating it is aimed at specific denominations.
The first ethnic Wa Christians were led to the Lord by American missionaries in the early twentieth century. The written form of the Wa language uses Latin, rather than Chinese character letters as it was first codified by Western missionaries compiling hymn books and other Christian literature. A Chinese-character alphabet was introduced in the 1950s, but Wa people in Shan State still use the original form.
This escalation in persecution of isolated believers in the separatist-controlled area of Shan State is yet another example of the ideological reach of Chinese communism in opposition to “Western” Christianity.