The celebration of the Chinese New Year remains a difficult time for Christians in China, particularly for those who are in prison and cannot be with their families and those whose loved ones have gone missing.
Chinese New Year is usually a time for families to gather. However, while everyone else took part in the Chinese New Year celebrations, which began on February 12, many Christians in China are not able to join the festivities. On the other hand, the holiday is a tough time for them, according to persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.
During this season, believers who have been incarcerated for their faith remember that they cannot be with their families and loved ones. Other believers remember their loved ones who have gone missing, presumably taken by the authorities, and who they haven't heard from in a long time.
Some of the incarcerated Christians who spent the Lunar New Year away from their homes include ERCC Pastor Wang Yi, Qin Derfu, Pastor Zhang Shaojie, Pastor John Cao, Hu Shigen, and Christian activists Gao Zhisheng and Zhang Zhan.
Pastor John Cao was taken into custody for trumped-up charges for his work in the Wa state of Myanmar. His mother wrote him a poem, which captures the pain of the Christians in China who have been separated from their loved ones. She wrote,
"The sense of New Year is thick, but so are my tears
I have not heard my filial son's call for his mother
He is chained and does not have freedom
But God must watch over him."
For ERCC members, the authorities' harassment continues even in the midst of the Chinese New Year festivities. One ERCC member, Chen Yan, said a man followed her around when she went out on Feb. 11, according to a separate report from the International Christian Concern.
Another ERCC member, Jia Xuewei, returned home on Feb. 12 to find that the keyhole of his door knob was filled with toothpicks so that he could not insert his key, making it difficult for him to enter his house, China Aid reports.
Jia Xuewei had been previously targeted by the CCP. In October 2020, authorities had shut off his utilities, a tactic they often use to force Christians out of their homes. To get by, Jia Xuewei taught himself to adapt wilderness survival skills in his own home, using candles for light, eating cold meals, and taking cold showers.
During the colder months, other ERCC members welcomed him into their homes, fed him hot meals, and gave him a warm place to sleep and access to hot showers.
Authorities have targeted ERCC since 2018. From that time on, the church leaders and members have been continually harassed with no letup, even during the Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in China.
Early this year, police officers and government officials conducted a raid on a homeschool being run by ERCC. The church's pastor, Wang Yi, was sentenced to nine years in prison for "subversion of state power" and "illegal business operations" in 2019. He was previously being held at Chengdu Detention Center but was transferred to an unknown location last year.