In a Monday webinar hosted by non-profit human rights group the Jubilee Campaign, a former kindergarten teacher in China described imprisonment and harassment by the Chinese Communist Party, which accused her of teaching religion in her classroom.
The teacher, identified as Esther, says she used materials that highlighted Christian values such as joy and humillity, but did not directly teach Christianity in her classroom. She did organize Christian camps for teenagers and adults.
The webinar was titled "China Bans Faith For All Children," and it described the Chinese Communist Party's policy that people under the age of 18 must not engage in any religious activities or receive any religious teaching. The virtual event also focused on other victims of the party's anti-religious policies for children.
Esther told of repeated phone calls from government officials encouraging her to abandon her faith and of her imprisonment and questioning by the party.
"I was asked over and over again, ‘Do you only have Christian materials at school?'" she said. "Is the current material based on the Bible? Who was involved in printing the material?"
Eventually Esther was sentenced to two years' imprisonment. Following her release, she says, the party constantly surveilled her and her husband. The couple has since left the country seeking religious freedom.
Bob Fu, president of the nonprofit organization ChinaAid also spoke during the webinar. He recounted how last year in Zhejiang province, the party asked hundreds of children to complete forms that requested information about their religious beliefs. Officials then pressured children who identified as Christian to sign a renouncement of their faith.
"After rounds of threats, pressure, intimidation and direct coercion by their teachers and public security officers, all but one student in that high school were forced to sign that paper," Fu said. "For the first time since the Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao in the 1960s, Chinese children are forced to renounce their faith in public by the Chinese Communist Party."
The Jubilee Campaign hosted the webinar as a "side event" to a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, and said the goal of the event was to "serve as a base to understand the widespread effects of China's breaches to the Convention ... and facilitate steps forward for member states and U.N. bodies to address the violations."