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Chinese authorities double fine on pastor couple

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REUTERS/Jason Lee

Chinese authorities have doubled the fines imposed on Pastor Yang Xibo and his wife Wang Xiaofei, the leader of the Xunsiding Church, the largest house church in Xiamen and known for its century-old tradition. The couple were punished for organizing religious activities and now face a combined fine of 400,000 yuan (about $55,100).

Chinese officials moved to enforce the escalated fine last week, according to the U.S. group China AidDocumented religious persecution in China and supported prisoners of conscience in China.

Pastor Yang Xibo and his family | China Aid

The couple, who have been battling the fine since 2021, announced their refusal to pay on social media: “Thank God for allowing us to participate in his suffering and especially thankful that we have no property on earth for courts to use – enforce it absolutely It is the great grace of God,” they said.

The hefty fine comes after state persecution. Xunsiding Church was initially banned on May 19, 2019, and fined 25,000 RMB (approximately US$3,400). The government sent police to surround the church grounds for 30 days, continuing to monitor believers.

Following these actions, the church resorted to frequent changes of meeting places in order to avoid further attacks and bans. However, authorities continued to try to dissolve the church, destroy private property, and force members to send their children to public schools.

The group said the authorities’ campaign against Pastor Yang and his wife was part of a broader crackdown on unregistered churches.

The Chinese government recognizes only five religious groups that accept its influence, and Christians who do not register churches face severe penalties and fines.

Pastor Yang and his wife, a fourth-generation pastor, are following in the footsteps of his father and aunt, who were both imprisoned for refusing to join the state-sanctioned Three-Self Church but resumed church services after their release.

According to a report released by ChinaAid in February, the Chinese Communist Party has intensified its persecution of churches and Christians ahead of the party’s 20th National Congress in 2022. As accusations of “fraud” against house church pastors and leaders have grown, so has traditional church activity. For example tithing and offerings are described as illegal.

The report pointed out that the authorities weaponized the “Financial Management Measures for Places of Religious Activities” updated last June to charge house churches. It also highlights a strategic shift in government policy since the party’s 20th National Congress, bringing the state-sanctioned church closer to Mr. Xi.

Expressing serious concern about the situation, ChinaAid Chairman and Founder Foxx Fu said: “Their goal is not just to build a ‘socialist-friendly’ church; they want to erase it. rise, the international community needs to understand these trends and developments.”

In addition to these concerns, ChinaAid reports that the government has been increasing restrictions on online religious content, impacting Christian freedoms in the digital sphere. The Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information and Services, to be implemented in 2022, has triggered “unprecedented” online censorship, effectively seeking to “clear Christianity from cyberspace,” the report said.

The Chinese Communist Party remains steadfast in its sinicization of religions, as evidenced by the state-run religious groups’ lavish praise of Mr. Xi during the convention. This shift in loyalty to Xi Jinping points to an evolution in the sinicized nature of religion.

According to the 2023 Open Doors World Watch list, China ranks 16th among countries where Christians are most persecuted.

Open Doors, an organization that monitors persecution in more than 60 countries, said in a fact sheet: “Tighter restrictions and heightened surveillance are putting Christians in China under increasing pressure as the Communist Party seeks to limit all threats to its power. .”

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