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China: The status and treatment of Jehovah's Witnesses (2004-2006)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 24 February 2006
Citation / Document Symbol CHN100946.E
Reference 5
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, China: The status and treatment of Jehovah's Witnesses (2004-2006), 24 February 2006, CHN100946.E, available at: [accessed 22 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In 22 February 2006 correspondence to the Research Directorate, the general counsel for Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania stated, without elaborating, that it would be imprudent to disclose information about the number of Jehovah's Witnesses and congregations in China, or about their geographical representation across the country. The annual report on the number of active Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide published by the official Website of the Jehovah's Witnesses does not include information on China (ibid.; see also Watchtower 2005). The general counsel further stated that his organization was not aware of any current reports of arrests or detention of Jehovah's Witnesses in China (General Counsel 22 Feb. 2006).

According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, however, "marginal churches" such as the Jehovah's Witnesses "have had virtually no impact on China" (2001, 195). Jehovah's Witnesses first appeared in China in 1883, held their first baptism of Chinese members in 1931, and had 13 members by 1939 (World Christian Encyclopedia 2001, 195). In 1958, however, the Jehovah's Witnesses were "completely suppressed" (ibid.). The executive secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Council, who travels regularly throughout the Chinese mainland to gauge the state of religious freedom and has published numerous articles on the subject (Executive secretary 1 Sept. 2005), commented in 20 January 2006 correspondence to the Research Directorate that he was not aware of any documentation on Jehovah's Witnesses in China. While he believed that there were between 4,000 and 5,000 members of the church in Hong Kong, the executive secretary pointed out that Jehovah's Witnesses were not on the list of banned "cults" in China (Executive Secretary 20 Jan. 2006). There was, likewise, no record of registration of places of worship used by Jehovah's Witnesses with Chinese authorities (ibid.), a point which the general counsel for Watchtower acknowledged (General Counsel 22 Feb. 2006). However, the executive secretary stated that he knew of large quantities of Jehovah's Witnesses literature being circulated in China, which he speculated might indicate some "clandestine" activity among Jehovah's Witnesses on the mainland (20 Jan. 2006).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Executive Secretary, Hong Kong Christian Council. 20 January 2006. Correspondence.
_____. 1 September 2005. Correspondence.

General Counsel, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. 22 February 2006. Correspondence.

Watchtower. 2005. "Statistics: 2005 Report of Jehovah's Witnesses Worldwide." [Accessed 19 Jan. 2006]

World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World. 2001. Volume 1. Edited by David B. Barrett, George T. Kurian and Todd M. Johnson. New York: Oxford University Press.

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: United Kingdom Home Office; one oral source did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Publication: Chan, Kim-Kwong and Eric R. Carlson. 2005. Religious Freedom in China: Policy, Administration, and Regulation; A Research Handbook.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), China Internet Information Center, Factiva, Forum 18, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, International Religious Freedom Report, United Kingdom Home Office.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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