Authorities in communist China have sent more than 100 Christians, mostly converts, from the Muslim Uighur-majority province of Xinjiang to “re-education camps” that teach loyalty to the country’s ruling party, reports Keep the Faith magazine, citing Open Doors, an organization that monitors the persecution of Christians.
“For Christians from a Muslim or a Tibetan Buddhist background, conversion is more than just changing religion, it is betraying a community,” notes the U.K.-based magazine. “They are threatened, attacked and reported to the local authorities.”
“Another persecution driver is the Communist government,” adds Open Doors in its 2018 list of the top 50 countries for Christian persecution. “Christians, in particular, are hedged in by authorities, as they are the largest social force in China not controlled by the state.”
Christians in Xinjiang, which borders Afghanistan, have reportedly been caught up in the crossfire of Beijing’s counterterrorism crackdown against separatists and jihadists from China’s oppressed Uighur (or Uyghur) ethnic minority.
Keep the Faith reveals:
More than 100 Christians have been sent to ‘re-education’ camps in China’s north-western Xinjiang province over the past few months according to Open Doors sources. These ‘mind-transformation centers’ teach citizens to be loyal to the communist ideology.
Most of those detained are from the Uyghur ethnic minority group and have a Muslim background. In recent years the Uyghurs they have been the prime targets of the government’s ‘anti-terror’ campaign, aimed at cracking down on both separatist groups and militant Islamists. Uyghur people who have converted to Christianity have also been caught up in the crackdown.
While Afghanistan ranks No. 2 in Open Doors list of the worst countries for Christians, China is number 43.
Referring to the followers of Christ who are sent to the “re-education” camps, an anonymous local church member told World Watch Monitor (WWM), which also covers Christian persecution across the globe, “Some stayed there for a month, others for half a year or even longer.”
Some Christians have gone missing after being forced into the communism loyalty centers, including a leader of a Chinese community of Christian converts.
“I don’t know where my husband is right now, but I believe that God still uses him in prisons or camps. Sometimes I am worried that he doesn’t have enough clothes to keep warm in the prison,” the leader’s wife told WWM.
Authorities in Xinjiang are even monitoring Christian children.
“The teacher in the school is paying special attention to my children after the authorities told the school about my husband,” said the wife.
Nearly a year ago, authorities in the allegedly autonomous region of Xinjiang, China’s largest province, banned all Christian activities outside communist government-approved churches as part of Beijing’s anti-terror efforts, reports Keep the Faith, adding:
Government-registered churches are also required to scan ID cards when they come to Sunday services. An alarm will sound if anyone works for the government or a public institution. Many Christians have stopped going to registered churches and instead meet in smaller secret groups.
There are around 20 million Muslims in China, most of them belonging to the Hui and Uyghur ethnic groups. Only a few thousand Christians are from a Muslim background. The majority live in the remote Xinjiang province. They experience pressure from the authorities as well as discrimination from their families and communities.
Open Doors places the estimated number of Christians in China at 97.2 million.
Christians in Xinjiang have insufficient choices for where they can flee to escape persecution.
The Chinese province borders Muslim-majority Afghanistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir where mistreatment of Christians is rampant. Kashmir is a Muslim-majority region claimed by Pakistan, India, and China.