A pastor in China's central Henan province was blacklisted and refused a passport and a pass to Hong Kong and Macau when officials mistakenly labeled him as a member of a persecuted spiritual practice.
Persecution watchdog China Aid reports that the incident occurred when Kang Jinqun, pastor of Jesus Christ Church in Nanyang, Henan, went to the Exit and Entry Administration Bureau of the Sheqi County Public Security Bureau to apply for a passport and a pass to Hong Kong and Maca.
However, authorities refused to issue his documents after scanning his ID card and discovering he had been blacklisted as a Falun Gong practitioner. After local police station issued a certificate proving that he was a pastor, and he attempted to re-apply, but was denied again. While he is a Christian, Kang said he anticipates having trouble traveling in the future due to his mistaken religious identity.
China Aid notes that Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, is is a "spiritual practice that centers on moral principles and incorporates traditional Chinese exercises and meditation" that gained popularity in China in the late 1990s. Despite having no history of violence or terrorist activities, Falun Gong is considered a cult, and adherents of the religion are routinely incarcerated, with many facing extreme abuse. Since 1999, more than 100,000 practitioners have been sentenced to "reform through labor" camps, according to sources cited by the U.S. State Department.
Daily News quotes author Ian Johnson, who in "Wild Grass: Three Portraits of Change in Modern China," wrote that the "cult" label was designed to "[cloak] the government's crackdown with the legitimacy of the West's anti-cult movement." Johnson argued that Falun Gong does not satisfy common definitions of a cult: "Its members marry outside the group, have outside friends, hold normal jobs, do not live isolated from society, do not believe that the world's end is imminent and do not give significant amounts of money to the organization."
Similarly, Newsmax notes that the Chinese government has launched a crackdown on Christian house churches, branding the movement a "cult" and has blacklisted many church leaders and influential believers. Last year, five church leaders were detained over accusations that they were leading a cult and banned ordered to stop meeting.
Some 70 million Chinese believers worship in unregistered house churches, according to a 2007 Pew Research Center report. China's state-sanctioned church organization, the Three Self-Patriotic Movement (TSPM), has only about 16 million Protestant members.
China officially guarantees freedom of religion; however, over the past two years, officials have destroyed Christian churches under laws against "illegal structures" and and detained those protesting against the demolitions.