CHINA (BP) – Amid increasing attempts to suppress religious activities, Chinese authorities have detained, fined, and imprisoned Christians for public
worship, buying and selling devotionals and group Bible study.
In late April, a court in Xinjiang convicted five Protestants who attended a Bible study in 2016, charging them with "gathering a crowd to disrupt social order," Asia News reported. The verdict came with five-year prison sentences for two pastors, and four- and three-year sentences for three others. They plan to appeal.
Earlier in April, authorities raided a Christian concert and arrested those attending. Taiwanese Pastor Xu Rongzhang was singing "Jesus Loves You" when the raid took place, China Aid reported. Before releasing them, officials forced the Christians to say they would not organize large gatherings again and told Xu not to hold any meetings of more than 10 people.
A Chinese court also recently convicted prominent Christian human rights lawyer Li Heping on charges of subverting state power. Judges sentenced Li to three years in prison but suspended the sentence for four years. If he does not reoffend during that time, Li will stay out of prison.
Since 1997, Li has defended dissidents, victims of forced evictions, and members of the banned Falun Gong religious group. Officials detained him and nearly 250 others in 2015, in what Amnesty International condemned as a nationwide crackdown against human rights lawyers and activists.
Amnesty said the Communist Party's official newspaper described it as an attempt to destroy a "major criminal gang."
Several of those lawyers and activists remain in detention, even though Western governments urged Beijing to release them.