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Fines for Worship, Prison for Bible Study in China

Persecuted Chinese Christians

The Persecution of Believers in China

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.

Earlier this year, officials in Xinjiang targeted a network of Christian house churches and arrested more than 80 people. They fined and later released them, according to China Aid.

All these incidents illustrate the worsening persecution of Christians under President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on religious activity and human rights. Critics say he wants to eradicate any potential opposition to the ruling Communist Party.

Because religious freedom in China continued to erode in 2016, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called on the U.S. State Department to keep China listed as a country of particular concern in its recently released 2017 report.

USCIRF reported China’s government revised regulations to more tightly control religious groups, increased penalties against “illegal” Christian churches and activities, and formally prohibited any religion from harming “national security” concerns.

A campaign to remove crosses from churches has continued, and officials targeted and imprisoned Christians who spoke out against it, including Pastor Bao Guohua and his wife, Xing Wenxiang. Not even members of state-sponsored churches were safe from persecution.

China also continues to suppress other religious groups, including Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong, while continuing to forcibly repatriate North Korean refugees, according to USCIRF.

“It is crucial that the U.S. government not only integrate human rights messaging—including on freedom of religion or belief—across its interactions with China, but also consistently make clear that it opposes Beijing’s overt violations of international human rights standards,” USCIRF said in its report.

 

 

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Preacher locked up for hate crime after quoting the Bible to gay teenager

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Christian evangelist was accused of a hate crime and locked up in a cell after preaching from the Bible to a gay teenager.

Gordon Larmour, 42, was charged by police after telling the story of Adam and Eve to a 19-year-old who asked him about God’s views on homosexuality.

The street preacher referred to the Book of Genesis and stated that God created Adam and Eve to produce children.

Within minutes he was frogmarched to a police van, accused of threatening or abusive behaviour ‘aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation’ – despite not swearing or using any form of offensive language.

The father-of-one spent a night in custody and faced a six-month ordeal before a sheriff cleared him of any blame.

The incident, which occurred in his home town of Irvine in Ayrshire, has become a rallying point for Christian campaigners who are concerned that freedom of speech is being stifled by political correctness.

Mr Larmour told the Scottish Mail on Sunday: “I can’t see why I was arrested in the first place – it was a massive overreaction and a waste of everyone’s time. The police didn’t listen to me. They took the young homosexual guy’s side straight away and read me my rights.

“I feel they try so hard to appear like they are protecting minorities, they go too far the other way. I want to be able to tell people the good word of the Gospel and think I should be free to do so. I wasn’t speaking my opinions – I was quoting from the Bible.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “It is a great relief that the judge ruled in favour of Gordon, because the case simply did not stand up to scrutiny.”

Mr Larmour is a born-again Christian who has been street preaching for seven years. At around 7.30pm on July 17 last year he was handing out leaflets on Irvine’s High Street when a group of young men passed him.

He told them: “Don’t forget Jesus loves you and He died for your sins.” One asked Mr Larmour, “What does your God say about homosexuals?”

The two argued and Mr Larmour claimed he was chased by the young man. However, he was the one arrested when the police arrived.

He said: “I think the police should have handled it differently and listened to what I had to say. They should have calmed the boy down and left it at that.

“In court the boy’s friend told the truth – that I hadn’t assaulted him or called him homophobic names. I had simply answered his question and told him about Adam and Eve and Heaven and Hell. Preaching from the Bible is not a crime.”

At Kilmarnock Sheriff Court last month, Sheriff Alistair Watson ruled there was no case to answer and acquitted Mr Larmour of threatening or abusive behaviour, aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation.

The sheriff also found him not guilty of a second charge of assault aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation.

 

 

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