By Sheraz Khan, South Asia Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
XINJIANG, CHINA (ANS – February 5, 2018) — Open Doors UK (www.opendoorsuk.org), a British-based charity founded by Dutch-born missionary, Brother Andrew, whose story is told in the best-selling book, God’s Smuggler, has claimed that more than 100 Christians have been sent to “re-education” camps in China’s north-western Xinjiang province over the past few months.
“These ‘mind-transformation centres’ teach citizens to be loyal to the communist ideology,” said an Open Doors press release monitored by ANS:
It went on to say: “Most of those detained are from the Uyghur ethnic minority group and have a Muslim background.
“In recent years the Uyghurs they have been the prime targets of the government’s ‘anti-terror’ campaign, aimed at cracking down on both separatist groups and militant Islamists. Uyghur people who have converted to Christianity have also been caught up in the crackdown.”
It maintained: “When you’re sent to the camps you don’t know how long you’ll stay, and quoted a local church member as saying: “Some stay there for a month, others for half a year or even longer.”
The release stated that the leader of a community of Christians from a Muslim background was taken to a “re-education” camp, adding that his wife has not heard from him since.
It quoted the wife of the missing man as saying: “I don’t know where my husband is right now, but I believe that God still uses him in prisons or camps. Sometimes I am worried that he doesn’t have enough clothes to keep warm in the prison.”
Open Doors UK quoted another Christian as saying: “I am afraid it will affect my children. The teacher in the school is paying special attention to my children after the authorities told the school about my husband.”
It stated that the woman now devoted her time to supporting others, like her, whose family have been sent to re-education camps.
The release said that the Wall Street Journal reported that Xinjiang is the most intensely surveilled area in the world. There are police stations on every corner and surveillance cameras everywhere. To live in this region means being monitored every day.
It quoted a Christian as saying: “Even your smartphone is checked. I feel like I live in a big prison.”
The release revealed that government-registered churches are also required to scan ID cards when they come to Sunday services. An alarm will sound if anyone works for the government or a public institution, it said, adding that many Christians have stopped going to registered churches and instead meet in smaller secret groups.
In February last year, the release said, Xinjiang’s authorities banned all Christian activities not linked to state-approved churches, in what it said were “anti-terror” moves, and added that there are around 20 million Muslims in China, most of them belonging to the Hui and Uyghur ethnic groups.
“Only a few thousand Christians are from a Muslim background. The majority live in the remote Xinjiang province. They experience pressure from the authorities as well as discrimination from their families and communities,” said the release.
China is number 43 on the Open Doors World Watch List. In China, if churches get too large or too political, they are seen as a threat and persecuted. Communist authorities are increasing restrictions on Christians in order to control society and stay in power. House churches are pushed to join the state-controlled Three Self Churches, and new regulations on religion limit freedom. For Christians from a Muslim or a Tibetan Buddhist background, conversion is more than just changing religion, it is betraying a community. They are threatened, attacked and reported to the local authorities.
Open Doors UK & Ireland is part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians in over 60 countries for over 60 years. Last year it raised approximately $70 million to provide practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources. Open Doors UK & Ireland raised over £11 million (approximately $15.42 million US dollars).
Every year Open Doors publishes the World Watch List – a ranking of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. This is produced using detailed information provided by Open Doors co-workers in more than 60 countries, as well as independent experts. Data is gathered on five spheres of life – private, family, community, national and church life – plus a sixth sphere measuring the degree of violence impacting Christians. Persecution in each country is recorded by Open Doors using a point system. Open Doors’ research methods and results have been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom. The 2018 World Watch List accounts for the 12 months ending October 31, 2017.
Photo: 1) Male prisoners inside a Chinese “re-education” camp. (Picture: ALLIANCE/DPA). 2) Uyghur women protest in a bid to discover the fate of their loved ones. (AFP) 3) There are said to be 350 “re-education through labor” camps in China (LIFEANDITSBEAUTY). 4) Sheraz Khan.
About the writer: Sheraz Khan, South Asia Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, is a Pakistani-British journalist. He lives in Scotland and can be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
** You may republish this and any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net). Please also tell your friends and colleagues that they too can have a free subscription to our news service by signing up there.