Human Rights Watch World Report 1998



The government devoted particular attention to controlling organized religious activities. Local officials redoubled their efforts to implement regulations issued by the government in 1994 requiring all "unofficial" Christian, Muslim, Daoist, Buddhist, and other religious congregations to register with the Religious Affairs Bureau or face dissolution. In December 1996, some eighty members of the underground Catholic church near Linchuan city in Jiangxi province were reportedly detained, beaten and fined by the police, apparently in an attempt to dissuade them from carrying out plans to hold a large outdoor mass at Christmas. Around the same time, CCP officials in Jiangxi reportedly issued an internal directive on registering such persons and forcing them to write letters denying their faith and pledging to join the official church. Similarly, an internal document issued by the authorities in Zhejiang province's Tongxiang municipality in February 1997 outlined a three-stage "special campaign" against all unauthorized religious activities by local Christians, including Catholics. A new requirement that all religious groups and organizations undergo annual government inspections was instituted during the year.


In March, eight public security officers conducted a night-time raid at the home of Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, leader of the city's underground Catholic diocese, and confiscated Bibles, medals, rosaries and cash amounting to 20,000 yuan (around U.S. $2,500); no receipt was issued, and the goods and money were subsequently not returned. The following month, police ransacked the home of another local underground Catholic priest, Rev. Zen Caijun, and seized religious articles, cash, a telephone and a video-recorder.

In April, eight Protestant house-church leaders, including Peter Xu Yongze, leader of the Zhengzhou-based "Born Again" evangelical group, were detained by police in Henan province after a meeting. On September 25, the Zhengzhou Intermediate Court reportedly sentenced Xu to a ten-year term for "disturbing public order." The sentence is believed to be the longest meted out to a religious dissident since 1983.

In November 1996, a peasant named Jiang Fenglan and other prominent members of a Sichuan-based chapter of the Asia-wide sect devoted to the worship of a charismatic woman known as the "Qinghai Master" were arrested; by the end of the year, there had been no further word on the detained sectarians.

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Human Rights Watch World Report 1999



Religious persecution continued, as did concern that unchecked religious practice was a threat to social stability. New regulations were adopted in Guangzhou city and Zhejiang province requiring religious communities to accept government control, restrict contact with overseas organizations, and register with authorities or face fines and other penalties. In May, Hunan provincial officials banned the "indiscriminate" establishment of temples and outdoor Buddha statues. In April and again in June, officials in Gansu "invited" underground Catholic clerics in at least two dioceses to week-long meetings to pressure them to join the officially recognized church. Some religious leaders who rejected state control of their activities were detained, usually under reeducation through labor provisions.

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