In a video released alongside a new report from International Christian Concern (ICC), Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) member Liao Qiang said that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is persecuting Christians by threatening to send their children to re-education camps and by forcibly removing children who have been adopted.
“The reason why we left China is because the Chinese Communist Party is limitless in its persecution,” said Liao, according to the Baptist Press. “They not only threatened us, normal adult, normal church members, but they threatened our children. Some of our members have adopted children, and [the government] forcibly sent the adoptive children back to the original family. That is the main reason why we fled China. Because we can’t guarantee our adopted child would not be taken away by them.”
Liao Qiang: It Is a Living Tragedy
Pei Wenju and Jing Jianan, a couple from ERCC, had adopted four children, but the government returned all four to their biological parents on the grounds that the children were “trapped by an evil religion.” The couple lost their children shortly after the CCP started aggressively persecuting ERCC in December 2018. Liao described the situation as “a living tragedy,” adding, “Their constant oppression made me feel we must flee China, because our children are most important to us.”
ERCC is a 500-member house church in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province. In December 2018, authorities arrested around 100 members of the church, including Pastor Wang Yi, who had been openly critical of President Xi Jinping and the CCP.
Since then, officials have continued to target ERCC church members in various other ways apart from taking away their children. Pastor Wang’s wife, Jiang Rong, was under arrest for around six months before being released on bail pending trial. She and her son were then placed under house arrest. Her husband was kept under arrest and in December 2019 was sentenced to nine years in prison. Shortly before Wang received his sentence, church elder Qin Derfu was sentenced to four years in prison. ERCC members not under arrest have been interrogated without warning and repeatedly evicted from their homes.
More recently, police arrested some Early Rain members as they were participating in an online service on Easter Sunday. Authorities warned them not to participate in religious activities anymore or to listen to Pastor Wang’s sermons. Other churches in the country have reported the government monitoring and blocking their online worship services, as well as tracking their conversations on social media.
Liao and his family of five fled this persecution, leaving China for Taiwan in the summer of 2019. In an interview with AP, Liao and his daughter, Ren Ruiting, described what it was like to live with the government surveilling them for seven months. Ren said that authorities required her to notify them on social media any time she went anywhere. If she did not, they told her they would not be able to ensure her safety. “That’s when I knew it was no longer safe for us here,” said her father.
ICC’s report, entitled “Religious Suppression in China,” offers a comprehensive and helpful summary of the growing religious persecution in China, covering many incidents on which ChurchLeaders has reported over the past year and a half. The report presents several case studies of persecuted churches, including Early Rain, and explains how the government manipulates the wording of its Constitution to infringe on people’s religious rights. ICC also covers the CCP’s strategy of sinicization, whereby the government tries to make anything it perceives as having a western influence to be more “Chinese.” Enforcing this policy includes replacing the 10 Commandments with quotes from President Xi Jinping, removing crosses from churches (even if they are approved by the state) and eliminating references to God in school textbooks.
ICC began collecting data for this report in early 2020, and the evidence indicates the government’s oppression began to spike noticeably within the past couple of years. The report concludes:
There is no longer a safe place to be a Christian in China. According to our incident report, almost every province in China has seen Christian persecution on the rise, specifically Henan and Anhui province. Cross demolition campaigns have been active in these provinces, which have a high percentage of Christians. Thousands of crosses have been removed since 2018, with some churches leveled to the ground. Deteriorating Sino-U.S. relations could further encourage crackdown against churches in 2020.