In coronavirus fight, China hasn't stopped persecuting Christians: watchdog

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The coronavirus pandemic that began in China and spread worldwide hasn't stopped the Chinese Communist Party from persecuting religious minorities, according to Christian watchdog groups.

The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), a nonprofit that aids persecuted Christians around the world, reports Chinese officials cracking down during the coronavirus lockdown.

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"China is now holding itself up as a model for fighting the coronavirus," Todd Nettleton, VOM spokesman, told Fox News. "But fighting the pandemic hasn't stopped communist officials from persecuting Christians."

A volunteer sprays disinfectant inside a Christian church in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Friday, March 6, 2020. World stock markets are down sharply again as pessimism prevails over the economic impact of the virus outbreak (Chinatopix via AP)

A volunteer sprays disinfectant inside a Christian church in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Friday, March 6, 2020. World stock markets are down sharply again as pessimism prevails over the economic impact of the virus outbreak (Chinatopix via AP)

Officials in Jiangsu province used the lockdown as an opportunity to demolish Xiangbaishu Church in Yixing city, according to a video shared by Bob Fu, the founder of China Aid.

Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness shared a video of a red cross being removed from a church with a congregation of about 40 in Guoyand County, Anhui Province, on March 13, Christian Post reports.

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In Shandong Province, officials issued guidance forbidding online preaching, a vital way for churches to reach congregants amid both persecution and the spread of the virus, Nettleton adds.

The official notice, from Shandong Provincial Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the Shandong Provincial China Christian Council -- the two organizations Communist Party leaders use to control protestant Christianity in China -- also instructs officials to shut down all unregistered Christian meetings.

The announcement says to check, “earnestly in each jurisdiction, and the fellowships that meet without approval must be completely eradicated.”

The order, dated Feb. 23, closes by giving officials instructions to “positively guide” Christians in unregistered meetings to “other means,” as long as those other means do not include meeting together for worship, fellowship, and spiritual instruction.

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Though China is cracking down, some believers see it as a positive opportunity. In one area, VOM reports congregants said they can more openly evangelize because they are wearing surgical masks and China’s facial-recognition cameras are less likely to identify them.