Chinese Christians find it more difficult to obtain passports amid the spread of the travel ban pandemic – Radio Free Asia

Radio Free Asia has learned that the authorities in eastern China are rejecting passport applications from Chinese Christians wishing to emigrate or study abroad.

Families of several children brought up to Christianity in the eastern provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu said they were recently questioned about the purpose of their passport applications, which were later denied after entry-exit office officials found out about the family’s religious beliefs.

An outside education consultant said the cases had surfaced in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province – which has a high proportion of Protestant Christians – as well as other locations in the region.

“A group of students from Wenzhou with a church background were planning to go and study in foreign universities, but the government refused to give them passports,” Zhou Christian from Xuzhou city in Jiangsu told RFA.

“The government is continuing the pressure and these controls, even though the epidemic is not that severe at the moment,” he said. We have come to another crossroads after 40 years of reform and opening up.”

China announced the day May 10 It will impose severe restrictions on its citizens’ “non-essential” travel abroad, amid a surge in immigration inquiries after weeks of grueling mass testing, lockdowns and forced mass transfers to quarantine camps.

A Christian named Chen from the southern city of Guangzhou said he was also refused a passport, as immigration officials said there was “no need” to travel during the pandemic.

But they declined to specify what they might consider an “essential” foreign trip.

Hundreds of churchgoers wear T-shirts and pledge to “maintain religious dignity” in protest of the forced removal of crosses from churches in Wenzhou, August 10, 2015. Credit: Church Member.

“No one can obtain or renew a passport”

A Protestant pastor in eastern Shandong province, who only gave the religious name John, said Christians across the country are now banned from leaving China.

β€œIt is not only about students with Christian backgrounds but also non-religious students,” John said. “No one can get or renew a passport.”

But he added, “I think it will be difficult for church leaders like myself to go abroad in the future.”

His colleague Shandong Christian Shi Tao said he knows people who have had similar experiences in recent weeks.

“Someone I know has been repeatedly questioned… [by border guards]who said their political views could mean they are banned from leaving the country if they are not careful.

“If they find out you’re a sensitive person or you’ve dealt with the police, they won’t let you leave,” he said. “they will [also] Look for reasons not to let you out if you have a religious background.”

“In particular, they are very likely to prevent people from traveling abroad to attend a seminary.”

A Zhejiang Christian, who asked not to be named, said the apparent travel ban comes amid an ongoing crackdown on Chinese Christians under ruling Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

“No gatherings are allowed in the name of disease prevention, and authorities will close any religious schools linked to home churches if they hear about them,” the source said.

Cut passports

A study abroad agent surnamed Ma said the controls on people leaving China are currently too tight.

“Some wealthy families like to send their children to high schools abroad, but the government is discouraging that since the epidemic started,” Ma said. “You have to say that you are going for tourism, and not even say that you are going to visit relatives; they question everyone closely.”

In March, police in the central province of Hunan ordered local residents to hand over their passports to the police, promising to return them “when the epidemic is over.”

a March 31 Posted on social media, the Baisha Police Department in Central Hunan Province ordered employers to hand over passports of all employees and family members to the police, “to return them after the epidemic.”

Local police confirmed the report they sent to Radio Free Asia, and said the measure is being implemented across the country.

Meanwhile, people who leave China to study abroad have their passports cut when they arrive or attempt to leave the country, according to passport holders, overseas study agencies and social media reports.

China’s non-spreading coronavirus policy of mass mandatory testing, strict lockdowns and digital health codes has sparked an immigration wave fueled by “shocking” middle classes fed up with food shortages, confinement at home, and amid broader security concerns.

The number of keyword searches on social media platform WeChat and Baidu search engine for “Canada immigration criteria” has surged nearly 3,000 percent in the past month, with most queries aggregated in cities and provinces under strict restrictions and COVID-free, including Shanghai. Jiangsu, Guangdong and Beijing.

Immigration consulting firms have seen a spike in immigration inquiries in recent weeks, as clients look to apply for overseas passports or green cards, while keeping their Chinese passports, they said in April.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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