In addition to the ongoing massive round up and detention of Muslim minority Uighurs in government-built internment camps, China has also detained a prominent Protestant pastor and around 100 members of his congregation.
The New York Times reported on Monday that Wang Yi, who leads the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, was taken in on Sunday night as his congregation started arriving for a service. Church members were also rounded up, and on Monday, police vans showed up, with police officers loading them up with materials taken from church offices.
The report comes on Human Rights Day, which was marked by the State Department with a general statement, and President Donald Trump issued a general statement of proclamation for the day three days earlier.
In September, Chinese authorities carried out raids, burning bibles and taking crosses at churches across the county. President Trump said nothing about those raids at the time.
The Early Rain Covenant Church released a statement shortly after Sunday’s arrests.
“Lord, help us to have the Christian’s conscience and courage to resist this ‘Orwellian nonsense’ with more positive Gospel action and higher praise. Without love, there is no courage,” read the statement.
Some of the members were released by Monday afternoon (local time), but have not spoken on the record, fearing government retaliation.
The issue, according to authorities, is that they do not recognize religious organizations that have not registered with the state and operate under its control, although, as the Times reported, the majority of the country’s 60 million Protestants worship at churches that aren’t registered.
On Monday, Reuters reported that a letter signed by bar associations in nearly 20 countries called on Chinese authorities to release rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang.
Representing those facing religious crackdowns as well as those who allege that they have been tortured by police, Wang has been locked up and incommunicado since August of 2015.
He is the only one of the 321 lawyers and activists who were arrested in that crackdown who has not yet been released. Wang is charged with “subversion of state power.”
“We understand that no evidence of any form or shape has substantiated the charges put against him,” read the letter, “Wang Quanzhang was not given access to an independent legal counselor of his choosing and has been denied access to his family lawyer, who was allegedly intimidated into withdrawing from his case.”
While Wang’s case is relatively well-known, little is known about the fate of prominent photojournalist Lu Guang, whose wife claims was detained by Chinese National security officers in early November.
Lu, who is a New York resident, was attending a photography event in the Xinjiang region, where the government has built the Muslim internment camps it refers to as cultural “re-education” camps. Uighurs who have left the camp have spoken of harsh treatment, including psychological torture and beatings.
It’s unknown whether Lu, who was known to shoot stories that upset officials — from pollution, to how people in the country became infected with the AIDS virus after selling their blood — had any plans to report on the plight of the Uighurs.
The Trump administration has been focused on trying to close the trade deficit with China, a persistent problem for the Untied Sates, but has thus far only managed to increase that deficit to historic levels.
President Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping at the recent G20 Summit that he was willing to suspend the next round of tariffs on Chinese goods for 90 days as long as Xi used that time to change some of this country’s practices, such as forced technology transfers and the theft of intellectual property.