The Chinese government has banned African international students from worshiping in Christian churches under the pretext of “preventing foreign infiltration through religion,” a persecution watchdog group has revealed.
A group of over 80 African students who are residing in a city in the northeastern province of Liaoning told Chinese persecution watchdog Bitter Winter that in September, the person in charge of the Three-Self church that they attended received a government order prohibiting foreigners from participating in gatherings at the church.
“We just want to have a place to congregate,” one student told the outlet.
A Chinese believer at the church said that at an “anti-religious infiltration” symposium held by the local government in August, the officials questioned the person in charge of the church about foreign-related activities.
Shortly after the symposium, the international students were driven out of the church.
“In our hearts, we were unwilling to see them leave,” the Chinese believer said.
The government also pressured or threatened other Christian meeting venues. When the African students asked to be allowed to attend gatherings at another Three-Self church, they were turned down.
A similar incident occurred at a university in the central province of Hubei, where a church attended by over 40 African students received repeated threats from government officials who demanded the church’s director drive out the international students.
The students now are forced to worship in secret, disguising their gatherings like birthday parties, according to Bitter Winter.