Church Closures in China For G20 Summit: What Politicians Didn’t Discuss

View over West Lake in Hangzhou, China.

View over West Lake in Hangzhou, China.

The G20 Summit just finished in Hangzhou, China. While the most publicised event was arguably President Obama’s Air Force One staircase incident, a lot happened over the few days.

But some things didn’t make the news. 

In July, Chinese authorities reportedly ordered churches to close in Hangzhou, in Zhejiang Province. They did so in light of the G20 summit. They banned large-scale religious activity and house churches from meeting during the summit. Their reason was to “create a safe environment” for world leaders when they met.

Zhejiang Province has a strong Christian presence. It’s also the area where over 1,200 crosses have been pulled from churches since 2013.

Man holds a Bible in front of a church in Hangzhou, China.

Man holds a Bible in front of a church in Hangzhou, China.

Christian human rights lawyer Li Guisheng said this decision had no basis in Chinese law. He said, “I cannot understand why they have done this… Worshipping God has nothing to do with the G20 summit.”

In late August, five Christian prisoners were released from prison in Hangzhou. They were arrested earlier in 2016 for alleged “disturbance of public order and obstruction of government administration”.

One local resident told Christian charity ChinaAid, “I feel like the government is trying to pacify the people before the summit… The government began to worry that they have detained the Christians for too long. The local government was concerned about petitions organised by the family members. (They thought) higher officials would pressure them.”

This is just one of many recent incidents of persecution in China.

In July, a Human Rights report was released by the UK Foreign Office. The report highlighted cases of Christian persecution in China. It mentioned the ongoing pressure on “underground” religious groups and the large number of churches being destroyed. It also mentioned Christians being detained for opposing the removal of crosses from churches.

Persecution analyst for World Watch Research, Thomas Muller, isn’t surprised.

“This has happened before and it will continue to happen… Christians are the largest social group not controlled by the Communist Party, they can be perceived as a threat to the rulers.”

Religious expression in China has opened up since the 1990s. However the persecution of religious groups, including Christians, continues today. 

China is ranked as the 33rd hardest place to live as a Christian, according to the 2016 Open Doors World Watch List. The World Watch List is an annual report ranking the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted.

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