China Ends 20-Year Ban on Russian Orthodox Church

United Press International

Ending a 20-year ban, China has formally reinstated the Russian Eastern Orthodox Church in the vast northwestern region of Xinjiang bordering the Soviet Union, the official New China News Agency reported Sunday.

The announcement came as Chinese leaders arrived in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to mark the 30th anniversary Tuesday of its founding.

Xinjiang, a rugged, thinly populated area, was settled by a mass influx of Han Chinese in the early 1950s.

At a gathering Saturday in Xinjiang’s windswept capital of Urumqi, the agency said that about 100 Russian Orthodox believers celebrated the formal revival of their church after a 20-year hiatus, which included a strict ban on the faith during Mao’s radical 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.