The Chinese government has increased its efforts to eradicate the country's growing underground church movement, a Chinese watchdog group said in a recent report. China Aid, which monitors instances of government persecution of the church in China, reported a 42-percent increase in government harassment of Christians and unauthorized places of worship from 2011 to 2012. In its study the Texas-based group, headed by former Chinese house church pastor Bob Fu, documented 132 cases of government persecution involving 4,919 persons in 2012, and noted a 125-percent jump in the number of people arrested and sentenced for involvement in unauthorized Christian worship over the previous year.
China Aid noted that last year the Chinese communist government launched a focused program to wipe out the underground church movement, which competes with the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement, a closely monitored and government approved Protestant church in the country. Among the strategies the government is using, Fu explained, is forcibly banning and closing down worship places that have been operating for years, pressuring churches to join the official “Three-Self” church system, detaining church leaders and sending them to labor camps, and cracking down on Christian outreach to students.
Experts say the government fears the rise of any movement that could gain political clout among large numbers of people in the country. Fu told Fox News that over the past year the government has secretly investigated house churches, creating files on leaders and members, and has followed up by closing down churches using a variety of methods.
“Instead of using law enforcement officials directly to attack churches,” Fu told Fox, “last year we found they used a softer approach. They used utility companies, service committees, and neighborhood committees to terminate contracts with rental facilities and cut off electricity and water [to the churches].”
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