WASHINGTON Government persecution of Christians in China increased in 2012 for the seventh consecutive year, ChinaAid reported, with the government especially moving to eradicate house churches.
Data collected by ChinaAid in 2012 showed a 125 percent increase in sentencings and a 41.9 percent increase in incidences of persecution over 2011, according to the religious liberty group's 2012 annual report.
Specifically, a total of 132 cases of persecution across China targeted 4,919 individuals, including 442 clergy; the detaining of 1,441, including 236 clergy; and the sentencing of nine people. In 2011, ChinaAid reported 93 cases of persecution, involving 4,322 individuals, 337 of them clergy; the detaining of 1,289 individuals, including 267 church leaders; and the sentencing of four individuals.
"Compared with the statistics in ChinaAid's past annual reports, this trend of worsening persecution has persisted for the past seven years," the report said, "with an average increase of 24.5 percent in the total of all six categories of persecution statistics tracked by ChinaAid."
A secret Chinese government document issued in September 2011, which was released by ChinaAid, verified the focus on eradicating the house church, as did the number of incidences reported.
The government, according to the secret document, was engaged in forcibly banning and sealing churches, pressuring congregations to join the official "Three-Self" church, detaining church leaders and sending them to labor camps on "suspicion of organizing and using a cult to undermine law enforcement"; and restricting evangelism targeting college students, the secret document indicates.
In spite of the persecution, ChinaAid indicated the church is persevering.
"China's churches, especially house churches and church leaders, suffered greater pressure and persecution last year; they also demonstrated great endurance and perseverance," the report said. "In this police state where Domestic Security Protection agents run amuck, in a society suffering a serious loss of ethic[s] and morals, and when spiritual pollution is worse than Beijing's air pollution, only Christ's church stands out like a lamp in the dark, preserving light, hope and peace like a light in the darkness."
Bob Fu, ChinaAid founder and president, added in the report that China's house churches "put their trust neither on potentates nor power, much less in man's wisdom and intellect."
"Rather, they trust in the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit and the truth of Jesus Christ," Fu said. "Nothing can separate us from the love of God, neither persecution or freedom, nor poverty or wealth. In the coming year, China's churches will face new challenges, and they will continue to renew people's hearts, influence society and glorify the holy name of the Lord Jesus Christ."
ChinaAid, based in Washington, D.C., is a Christian human rights organization committed to promoting religious freedom and the rule of law in China.