Chinese Government Curbs Christmas Celebrations

Posted December 22nd, 2011 at 7:55 pm (UTC-5)
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As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas, some Christian leaders in China complain the government is trying to stop celebrations by religious communities that are not officially sanctioned.

Pastor Zhan Gang Qingdao who heads a 300-member Protestant community near Qingdao in eastern Shandong province says China's religious authorities have warned him against holding Christmas gatherings. He told the U.S.-based ChinaAid organization Thursday that the local government run electricity bureau had cut off all power lines to his house church.

ChinaAid's President Bob Fu says authorities have harassed Pastor Zhan since he left the government-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement and established the independent house church. He also serves as the general-secretary of the Chinese House Church Alliance. House churches are not approved by the Chinese government.

Earlier this month, Chinese authorities blocked an outdoor Christmas gathering in the village of Xintan in eastern Zhejiang province. Xintan village is known for producing Christmas ornaments which bring in billions of dollars in revenue. Local government officials said a scuffle in connection with the outdoor gathering in Xintan was started by the worshippers. Zeng Jianhua, deputy director of religious affairs in the Xintan area, said government rules forbid outside organized religious celebrations.

ChinaAid's Fu told VOA more than 40 people have been arrested so far for trying to celebrate Christmas. He said he expects more incidents in the days before the holiday, notably in Beijing, where he says a 1,000-member Protestant house church plans a big outdoor celebration.

Fu is urging China's government to permit believers nationwide to have a peaceful Christmas celebration.

There are media reports that Christmas celebrations are also being suppressed in other countries, including Iran, Pakistan and some parts of India and Africa.