December 22, 2010
China's Anti-Christian Edict
Politburo campaign puts house-church leaders at greater risk.
The announcement by China Aid.org that the Chinese Politburo had decided to unleash a major new assault on China’s house-church community was broadly publicized after the original press release in early December.
But the organization also paid a heavy price.
Its own website was brought down by a concerted attack of hackers within hours of the December 1 starting date of the new Politburo-organized campaign. Within three and a half days, skillful Internet repair operators have restored the China Aid website to normal.
China Aid says it believes the Chinese government might well have been behind the website attack because hundreds of thousands of different computers have to be commanded to overload a website before an attack can be successful, and only a government-sized agency could mobilize such an attack, says a China Aid officer.
A China Aid representative also said that he had heard reports coming from China of close surveillance and investigation of a few Chinese Christian leaders in Beijing, and in Henan Province in the center of China.
“The leaders we spoke to said that something unusual was happening,” he said. One house church pastor from central China said that he had the impression that the authorities were collecting evidence to put him behind bars.
China Aid was especially watching the case of Dr. Fan Yafeng, the head of Christian Human Rights Lawyers of China and of the Shengshan (Holy Mountain) Research Institute. Fan had been detained for nine days, his wife had been interrogated overnight, and items had been removed by authorities from both his home and the research institute.
Although Fan was allowed to go home, he remained under house arrest. Fan was the recipient (in absentia) of the of the 2009 John Leland religious liberty award of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has represented China’s persecuted Christians and campaigned for the concept of constitutional democracy.
Other reports from China were less gloomy.
A source with frequent access to the house church situation in China, who nevertheless did not want to be identified, reported that he had not heard follow-up stories of the crackdown in the nearly three weeks since December 1, when “Operation Deterrence” was formally supposed to have begun.
“Twenty-one days is a long time. I have not been able to identify any impact or any action taken against any house church leaders of group of leaders. I am personally doubtful that any action has taken place.”
There were other reports of some of the original Chinese invitees to the Lausanne conference in Cape Town, South Africa, in October – who had been prevented from traveling to Cape Town -- having been able to travel abroad in the past few days.
China’s annoyance at the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident, but not apparently a Christian, might have lessened since the December 10 Oslo award ceremony.
Attention to the situation of Christians in China, however, is an important part of their ability to operate freely. China Aid credits the media response to their original press release about "Operation Deterrence" with speeding up Dr. Fan's release from police custody.
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Today, China Aid posted a statement from Fan Yafeng in which he expresses thanksgiving for the prayerful support of the global Christian community. Click here for the statement.
For more from David Aikman, formerly a columnist for Christianity Today, visit his website. -- eds.