Two Christian women and a child are being held by Chinese officials - Sign here
In late September, Chinese officials detained Pastor Xu Shizhen, her daughter, Xu Yuqing, and Xu Yuqing’s three-year-old son, Xu Shouwang. The three were reportedly detained due to their involvement with the Zion Christian Church, which is considered by authorities to be an unregistered religious group.
Since their detainment, their whereabouts have remained unknown. According to China Aid, police informed family members that they had separated the women from the child. The young child was being kept at the police station while his grandmother and mother were transferred to other facilities.
Back in August, the Chinese government’s Religious Affairs Bureau sent Pastor Xu Shizhen a notice accusing the Zion Church of violating State Regulations on Religious Affairs and ordered her to stop her missionary work. The officers claimed that because the Church was not officially registered and the ‘religious activities’ took place outside of approved venues, they were illegal.
Freedom of religion in China is provided for in the constitution. The government, however, only protects what it calls "normal religious activity." In practice, this is defined as activities that take place within government-sanctioned religious organisations and registered places of worship. These "government-sanctioned" groups amount to five state-run religious organisations, including the Buddist Association of China, the Chinese Taoist Association, the Islamic Association of China, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. These are recognised by the State and are afforded a degree of protection. At the same time, they are subject to restrictions and controls under the State Administration for Religious Affairs.
Unregistered religious groups face varying degrees of harassment. "House Churches” are among these unregistered groups, including Pastor Xu’s Zion Church. Citizens who defy the Chinese Religious Affairs Bureau can face imprisonment, torture, and forced religious conversions. This is the situation where Pastor Xu finds herself. Due to the persecution and restrictions on the freedom of religion of people who do not adhere to State approved Religious groups, China is ranked 39th on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution.
Prior to this detainment Pastor, Xu was already being targeted by Chinese authorities. In August she and members of her congregation were driven from a public square while attempting to preach.
At the time, Pastor Xu told a ChinaAid reporter that she has no intention of stopping. “The government doesn’t allow me to spread the Gospel. I’ve been doing missionary work for 38 years in Xianning. I established the local churches. They said that my current church was not registered and that we could not do that. (On Aug. 23) they visited twice, at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. They told me that [this method of spreading the Gospel] violated the Regulation on Religious Affairs because I wasn’t registered. They also said that the certifications that could prove my clerical status had expired.”
This latest arrest took place after Pastor Xu and her daughter, Xu Yuqing, took part in efforts to spread the Gospel in local public parks and squares. The women sang, danced, and performed with bamboo instruments. They also preached, despite being frequently interpreted by the local religious affairs, public security, and national security bureaus.
Please join this international petition to send a strong message to Chinese authorities that the world is watching how the government is harassing and persecuting Christians. The detainment of these women without arrest or explanation is unwarranted and a deliberate flouting of their rights. Further, separating a 3-year-old child and his mother is shocking, and the child should be immediately returned to his family. We stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians in China and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.
This petition will be sent to Yang Haijun, the deputy director of the Xianan District Religious Affairs Bureau, who has been spearheading the persecution of Zion Church. The petition demands the immediate release of Pastor Xu and her family.