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Ethnic minority Christians arrested in China

Protestant pastor and four others have been charged with 'organizing and financing illegal gatherings'

A Lisu church in Fugong county of Yunnan province of China

A Lisu church in Fugong county of Yunnan province of China. (File photo: Bitter Winter)

Published: September 21, 2022 10:34 AM GMT

Updated: September 21, 2022 10:35 AM GMT

The authorities in Yunnan province of southwest China have detained at least five Protestant Christians from ethnic minority communities including a pastor for allegedly refusing to join a state-sponsored church body, says a report.

Pastor Wang Shunping and four Christians were detained at the end of August on charges of “organizing and financing illegal gatherings” and were formally charged this week, reported Bitter Winter, a magazine on religious liberty and human rights.

Pastor Wang is an ethnic Nu and the other four hail from Nu and Lisu communities in Fugong county of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan.

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Pastor Wang is a graduate of Yunnan Theological Seminary. He is a popular musician and preacher who used to teach students for free.

About 52 percent of the region’s population belongs to Lisu and Nu communities. The Han Chinese, who make up more than 90 percent of China’s estimated 1.4 billion people, is a minority in the prefecture.

Since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) adopted repressive new regulations on religious affairs in 2018, house churches in Fugong county have come under a series of raids by officials from the Public Security Bureau and Religious Affairs Bureau, Bitter Winter reported.

Observers noted the CCP officials have turned their eyes on Lisu and Nu communities as the minority groups have resisted efforts for sinicization and insisted on affirming their rights.

The communist officials allegedly perceive religion has been playing a key role in the life of the minorities who speak the Tibeto-Burman languages.

Lisu people reportedly make up most of the Christians in Fugong county, with official estimates of 300,000 to 700,000.

Nu people are a smaller group, and they mostly practice traditional faith. However, in recent times, many have embraced Christianity.

Lisu and Nu considered each other enemies for years, but the animosity largely subsided recently. In various places, Lisu and Nu Christians worship together.

Following the arrests of Christians, the Christian Reformed Church of Dashanli in Fugong county sent a request to Christians for prayer for the detained members.

Since a large number of Lisu and Nu people follow Christianity, it is impossible for the CCP to eradicate the faith from them, Bitter Winter reported.

However, the CCP aims to crack down on popular pastors and force house churches to join the Three-Self Church, the state body overseeing Protestant churches in China.

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