Taiwanese Pastor Xu Rongzhang was arrested in China over Easter weekend. His crime? The pastor is accused of leading a gathering of Christians in the popular worship song “Jesus Loves You.”
Pastor Xu was detained in the city of Zhengzhou in the Henan province for the offense. He was in jail only for a few hours, but the Henan authorities refused to turn over his confiscated identification and travel documents until Monday.
According to Communist officials, singing the song is an illegal religious activity.
The international human rights organization ChinaAid brought attention to Pastor Xu’s case as an example of Christian persecution in the Communist nation. ChinaAid also reported in early April that authorities in the Chinese province of Zhejiang planned to install cameras in all of the churches in the area to monitor religious ceremonies. The churches appealed the decision, but the authorities forcibly installed the cameras and injured dozens of dissidents who peacefully resisted. Parishioners were beaten by Communist Party associates and later hospitalized.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has instituted new legal sanctions on both unregistered and state sanctioned places of worship. Freedom House released a report stating that Buddhist and Taoist monks have been forced to study a reinterpretation of their doctrines through "patriotic reeducation" sessions. The government arrested and jailed a Muslim farmer for praying over his field.
According to the report,
Nonviolent forms of control are more prevalent, but they are also deeply offensive to many believers, directly intruding on the internal functions of religious organizations. They include vetting religious leaders for political reliability, placing limits on the number of new monastics or priests, and manipulating religious doctrine according to party priorities. Extensive surveillance, “reeducation” campaigns, and restrictions on private worship affect the spiritual lives of millions of people. And increasingly, economic reprisals and exploitation have become a source of tension and a catalyst for protests.
The report detailed that at least 100 million people are in "high" or "very high" danger of religious persecution. President Trump has signalled that his initial meetings with Chinese President Jinping will not focus on human rights violations. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump touted his support for religious freedoms, which earned him popularity among Christian conservatives.
As the Jinping government ramps up attacks on churches, religious liberty in China stands to lose even more ground.