Xinjiang Christian Zhu Jinfeng, 60, says she attends "house churches" - religious services at home - instead of state-sanctioned ones because she prefers to talk to God without going through China's administration of religious affairs.
But Zhu’s habits of more than 10 years came to an abrupt end after local policemen stormed into her home in Urumqi last month during a bible study session she held with elderly neighbours. The group was dismissed on site. Zhu was briefly detained, charged with conducting “illegal” Christian activity, and fined 200 yuan (HK$250).
Zhu, while still shaken by the raid, hasn’t given up her fight for her freedom to worship in her own home. She decided to appeal her case by filing an application for “administrative reconsideration,” a legal action pursued by Chinese citizens when they feel their rights are infringed upon.
“Christianity is not a cult, and we are not criminals,” Zhu told South China Morning Post on Friday. “We do pray for our country, too, in our gatherings.”
ChinaAid, a non-profit Christian organisation monitoring religious persecution in China and an activist lawyer in Beijing, offered to help Zhu draft the application letter. But when she tried to submit it, a local official told her to visit at another time when “at least two people were present” - presumably to follow government protocol.
“I am lost and desperate now,” Zhu sobbed while revealing her frustrations in a phone interview with the Post . She has stopped worshipping God at home since, but still refuses to go to a state-sanctioned church - as suggested by law enforcement officers.
Bob Fu, founder and president of ChinaAid, said government harassment of Christians who go to "unauthorised" places to worship have been increasing in the last few years. Christians are also being given harsher punishments, he said.
In a separate case, Ren Lacheng and Li Wenxi, two Christians bookstore workers, were sentenced to five and two years jail by a Shanxi court after they were found guilty of “illegally operating a business” in June.
Li's wife, Li Caihong, told the Post the accusations were unfounded and she would appeal to a higher court.