RLPB 397. China: Massive Crackdown in Xinjiang
by Elizabeth Kendal
CFF Director of Advocacy
Authorities in China’s volatile north-western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have banned all Christian activities not linked to state-approved churches and launched a region-wide crackdown under the guise of ‘anti-terrorism’. Churches have been targeted in the capital Urumqi and across Xinjiang. China Aid reports that at least 80 believers have been arrested and interrogated; some have even been sentenced to 15-day administrative detention and fined. Most of those arrested belong to the Fangcheng Fellowship, one of China’s largest house church networks. A resident of Shayar county in Aksu prefecture told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that churches in the cities of Aksu and Korla have stopped meeting altogether and that local believers have been warned not to meet privately for worship. ‘We don’t dare gather for worship now,’ the church member said. ‘The police are saying it’s part of terrorism prevention in Xinjiang, and that they won’t allow gatherings of even a few people. . . The police want our church to join the Three-Self Patriotic Association.’ [Churches in the Communist Party controlled TSPA are subject to unreasonable restrictions.]
The regional government in Urumqi has published a list of banned activities which, according to those who spoke to RFA, is so detailed and specific that it could only have been drawn up with the aid of government infiltrators. ‘Unauthorised editing, translation, publication, printing, reproduction, production, distribution, sale and dissemination of religious publications and audiovisual products’ is prohibited. ‘Missionary activities … under the guise of business, tourism, lectures, overseas study, cultural exchange or donations to disaster relief or to fund studies or alleviate poverty and sickness’ are also prohibited.
The deteriorating situation will not help long-time prisoner, convert from Islam and Kashgar house church leader Alimujiang Yimiti (44). A believer since 1995, Alimujiang was accused in 2007 of witnessing to Muslims. Arrested in 2008, he was sentenced in a secret trial in 2009 to imprisonment for 15 years, charged with ‘unlawfully providing state secrets to overseas organizations’. Alimujiang, his wife Gulineur and their two young children need our prayers.
There is absolutely no doubt that Islamic terror represents a serious and growing threat to China. The threat has escalated in recent years as Uyghur jihadists have moved from Pakistan’s tribal regions to Syria, where they have been fighting mostly with al-Qaeda affiliates in Aleppo and Idlib, but also with Islamic State. Keen to counter the threat, Beijing has increased its support for and engagement with Damascus. Syrian-trained Uyghurs are also committing terror attacks further afield, e.g. at the Chinese embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (30 August 2016) and at a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey (31 December 2016). Released on 5 March, Issue 20 of the al-Qaeda-linked Turkistan Islamic Party’s Arabic language magazine, Islamic Turkistan, urges jihadis worldwide to attack Chinese targets in their countries.
On 27 February Islamic State released a sophisticated and bloody, half-hour propaganda video featuring Uyghurs in and from ‘East Turkistan’ (Xinjiang). The video, in which Uyghur militants vow to plant their flag in China and shed rivers of blood, was released as the Chinese government staged its fourth massive military parade in the capital Urumqi. For its part, Beijing has vowed to use ‘thunderous force’ against Uyghur terrorists throughout the region. Large detachments of soldiers have been deployed to Aksu, Hotan and Kashgar in the Uyghur heartland.
Security in Xinjiang is no small issue for China, especially as it forges ahead with its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC is a 3000 km, $46 billion initiative to create a network of roads, rail and pipelines linking Kashgar, Xinjiang, to the deep-water port of Gwadar, Pakistan. China will not tolerate unrest in Xinjiang and will crack down hard to ensure everyone and everything is subject to its power.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:
* grant great wisdom to all Xinjiang’s Christian leaders, so they will know what to do and how to respond at this tense and critical time. ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.’ (James 1:5 ESV)
* bless Alimujiang Yimiti, his wife Gulineur and their two young children; may he preserve, protect and provide for them all. ‘The Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.’ (2 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV)
* awaken the authorities in Beijing and in Xinjiang to the fact that Christians are not the enemy and indeed that the Church is deeply patriotic — always praying for China, eager to bless China.
* break the emotional, spiritual and material connections that exist between Xinjiang’s Uyghur separatist and transnational jihadists who are looking for a door into China; may China’s Uyghurs find peace, dignity, joy and liberty in Jesus Christ.
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
CHINA: MASSIVE CRACKDOWN IN XINJIANG
Beijing has launched a massive anti-terror drive in its volatile north-western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and east Central Asia. It comes as the threat of Islamic terror escalates markedly following threats from al-Qaeda-linked Uyghurs (who have called for attacks on Chinese interests) and Uyghurs with Islamic State (who have threatened rivers of blood). Caught up in the crackdown are Christian groups not linked to state-approved churches. More than 80 believers have been arrested and interrogated. Some have also been detained for 15 days and fined. House church fellowships have either stopped meeting or have gone deep underground. Pray that the authorities will realise that, whilst the Islamic terror threat is real, Christians are not the enemy. Please pray for China and its Church in Xinjiang.
Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.
She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).