12/19/2015, 00.00
CHINA

Shandong: five Christian students expelled from university for praying in private

The students came together in a private room at Shandong Yingcai College. Someone took their picture and reported them to the police. The provincial Department of Education has banned "religious meetings" involving "three or more students." Recently, state control over religion has increased.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – A university in Shandong province, eastern China, expelled five Christian students "guilty" of engaging in prayer in a private room, this according to ChinaAid, an organisation that monitors the situation of Chinese Christians.

The five students are Li Binbin, Zhang Yaqi, Chen Huiyun, Ni Wangjie and Chen Ping. A sixth student who was with them, Jia Rong, was not punished.

A disturbing aspect of the story is that in all probability a fellow student reported the “guilty” students. Local police came to Shandong Yingcai College only after receiving a picture of the group in prayer.

The name of the person who took the picture is unknown, but according to some sources, a young man from the Communist Youth League is probably responsible.

From a legal standpoint, the expulsions were was based on an order issued a few weeks ago by the Shandong Provincial Department of Education.

The latter informed colleges and universities that "religious meetings involving three or more people" had to be considered "illegal". Thus, university officials expelled the students for "activity of a religious nature."

The news confirms a growing climate of intolerance by an increasingly heavy-handed Chinese State against all forms of religious expression.

On several occasions in recent months, President Xi Jinping and other national Communist leaders made it clear that religion – in any form allowed by the government – had to be "sinicised” as much as possible, and in any case should be kept out of educational institutions.

Currently, expectations are high with respect to a planned national summit on religion organised by the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA).

The latter announced on its website that it is preparing the meeting to revise the regulations governing religious controls.

Many Christians who spoke to AsiaNews said that they fear that darkness will fall upon the life of their communities, as they come under heavier restrictions.

SARA Deputy Director Zhongrong Chen said that the summit will discuss "intensive" training of local religious leaders. President Xi Jinping is expected at the event.

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