A Taiwanese Christian pastor was detained in China after he sang "Jesus Love You" and accused of engaging in "illegal religious activity."
According to persecution watchdog China Aid, Pastor Xu Rongzhang from Taiwan was detained over the weekend because he led a group of Christians in Zhengzhou to sing the popular song. Xu was released later on the same day, though his identification documents and permit to travel to mainland China were not returned until Monday.
Local officials reportedly told the pastor that the song was an "illegal religious activity", but never explained why.
The ongoing targeting of Christians prompted Open Doors USA to place the country at 39th on its World Watch List of countries where believers face the most persecution.
Earlier this month, fifteen Christians attending a Bible study in China's southwestern Sichuan Province were detained by twenty police officers and forced to remain in custody for over two weeks. Also this month, five Christian leaders in China's northeastern Liaoning province, who were arrested for allegedly purchasing and selling Christian books, received prison sentences for doing so.
A March report from Christianity Today notes that over the past several months, China expelled dozens of South Korean missionaries from Jilin, a northeastern province that neighbors North Korea. Claiming to maintain the "safety and beauty," of the country, Chinese authorities have bulldozed churches and torn down hundreds of crosses from church rooftops.
According to Freedom House report, there are some 350 million believers in China, more than a fourth of the population. There may be 185 million to 250 million Buddhists, 60 million to 80 million Protestant Christians, 21 million to 23 million Muslims, 7 million to 20 million Falun Gong practitioners, 12 million Catholic Christians, and 6 million to 8 million Tibetan Buddhists.
The report also said that at least 100 million Chinese, or about one third of the country's population, face "high" or "very high" persecution levels, the report said. However, the outlet notes that while President Xi Jinping has intensified religious persecution in the country, Christians have responded "with a surprising degree of resistance".
Notes the report: "Despite tightening controls, millions of religious believers defy official restrictions in daily life or engage in some form of direct protest, at times scoring significant victories."
ChinaAid is an international nonprofit whose employees expose abuses of persecuted Christians and promotes religious freedom, human rights and rule of law in China.