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Concern grows over Christian crackdown in Xinjiang

Unregistered meetings being targeted, rights activists claim

Police in the Chinese province of Xinjiang have launched a crackdown in recent months on unregistered Christian groups, according to the China Aid Association (ChinaAid).

The first reported incident was in March, when a group in Yili was closed by police and the local religious affairs bureau and a home used for meetings was searched by armed police. One woman was arrested.

Two meetings in Urumqi were reportedly disrupted in June and two people were detained for short periods. One of them was re-arrested on August 4 when officials broke up another meeting, the US-based ChinaAid said.

Commenting on the reports yesterday, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said that in most cases police did not produce identification or warrants.

The Christians were often not sure why their meetings – usually of fewer than 20 people in members’ homes – were targeted.

The Chinese constitution, it said, gives protection only to recognized religious groups and those involved in the recent crackdown were all unregistered churches.

But in Xinjiang “citizens typically face more restrictions” and Muslims, Catholics and Protestants are also “closely monitored and often restricted.”

“By prohibiting even small-scale, private religious activities the government is severely restricting individuals’ right to freedom of religion or belief,” said Mervyn Thomas, CSW’s chief executive.

The fact that police did not show any identification or warrants, he added, “reflects the general weakness of the rule of law in the region.”

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