By Hilary White

January 7, 2010 ( – The US has missed a chance to stand up for human rights by instead focusing on financial gains in communist China, a new report has said. Carl Moeller, head of Open Doors USA and the lead author of the report, said, “It's like selling our birthright. Our nation was founded by people fleeing Europe to seek the very religious freedom being denied people in these countries.”

The annual World Watch Report by Open Doors USA lists China as 13th on the list of countries that actively persecute Christians by official policy. The worst were North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

“In the case of China, the chance to use influence is now gone. The American economy has become enslaved to the Chinese banks. It would be economic suicide to make threats now,” Moeller said.

At the same time, the Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA) has issued its report on government persecution of Christians for 2009. The CHCA detailed 13 cases of House Church Christians being detained by Chinese authorities and churches being destroyed.

The group said, “In the past year, as the Chinese House Church Movement continues its revival, the Satanic attacks have increased more intensively with its anti-Christ evil power through Chinese Communist government who never stops their violation of citizen rights and religious freedom.”

“The storm of persecution never stops the growth of the Chinese House Church, for the persecuted Brothers and Sisters hold their faith firmly continuing to meet outdoors in the snow and rain after their church was cancelled or blocked by government and even praying for the persecutors.”

Chinese house church leaders have expressed their concern about a report by the World Evangelical Alliance that praised the Chinese government for their cooperation in supporting state-sanctioned Christian churches. The report was issued after Evangelical Alliance leaders met with leaders of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement church and other state-run national church organizations in Beijing.

Just before Christmas, AFP reports that Chinese authorities detained 10 local religious leaders and shut down a church, the Golden Lamp Church, in Linfen, North China. Five of the church leaders were given prison terms of up to seven years by a Linfen court on charges of “illegally occupying farm land” and “disturbing transportation through a mass gathering.”

In nearby Fushan county, 400 police and hired thugs leveled a makeshift church in a farming community, attacked worshippers and seriously injured several people. “None of the followers fought back, they just silently protested the action by the authorities and took the beatings,” one Christian told AFP by phone, asking to remain anonymous.

The annual report by the US State Department on religious freedom around the world said that the Chinese government continues to persecute unofficial religious groups, those outside the state-sanctioned “patriotic” religious associations.

“The Government repressed the religious activities of ‘underground’ Roman Catholic clergy in large part due to their avowed loyalty to the Vatican, which the Government accused of interfering in the country's internal affairs. The Government also continued to restrict severely the activities of groups it designated as ‘evil religions,’ including several Christian groups and Falun Gong.”

The State Department report also notes that the communist government repression of religious practice, mainly Buddhism, continues to be “severe” in Tibet and in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

But Christians in China have refused to be cowed. On January 1, thousands joined in a protest in Hong Kong to urge the government to release dissident Liu Xiaobo, who has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for publishing the document “Charter 08″ asking for democratic reforms. The Christian presence at the rally was encouraged by a public statement by Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who said that “a country can not progress if there is no one making suggestions [for] change.”

Yesterday, in Xiwanzi, Hibei province, 2,500 worshippers defied a government ban to attend the funeral of Bishop Leo Yao Liang of Xiwanzi, a bishop of the Catholic Church in China that retains its official ties with the Vatican.

The Union of Catholic Asian News reports that as a leader of the underground Catholic Church, Bishop Yao was recognized only as a priest by the government. He died on December 30 at the age of 86. Bishop Yao spent 26 years in prison for his refusal to cooperate with the government.