The Chinese government is continuing its persecution of Christians by shutting down another unregistered church in Beijing. On March 23, authorities shut down Shouwang Church and its affiliates, seizing the church’s belongings.
“China’s oppression against house churches will not be loosened. A systematic, in-the-name-of-law crackdown will continue to take place,” China Aid president Bob Fu told International Christian Concern (ICC).
According to China Aid, the shutdown occurred when people were meeting for Bible classes on Saturday at 1 p.m. Officials took them to a school in the area where they recorded the Christians’ information and questioned them. Authorities announced that the church was shut down, claiming the reason was the church had not registered as a “social organization” with the government. The church had applied for government approval in 2006, but did not receive it because its pastor at the time, Jin Tianming, was not ordained by the state.
Since Shouwang Church was founded in 1993, the government has harassed the church in various ways. Officials seized a multi-million dollar property, compelling the members to meet outside, even when the weather is bad. The government has also put church members, including Pastor Jin, under house arrest. While Pastor Jin has since retired, he remains under house arrest and his confinement has recently grown more limited. Now, he is not even allowed to go downstairs in his own apartment building, but must stay within the apartment itself.
The persecution has taken a toll on the people who attend Shouwang church, with some leaving the country or deciding to comply with the government.
A Year of Hostility
This recent crackdown is simply the latest in a series of antagonistic moves from the Chinese government against the Christian church, an aggression which has grown more severe since the state revised its Religious Affairs Regulations in February 2018. At that time, China Aid reported that Christians in China were experiencing antagonism from government officials, who were breaking into churches, confiscating or destroying church possessions, detaining members and pastors, and otherwise threatening people. In April 2018, the Bible stopped being available online in China. In May, authorities in Shandong province raided five underground house churches and confiscated over 1,000 Bibles, as well as prayer and song books. The raids were supposedly part of a government crackdown on pornography.
One of the other churches that authorities have shut down (last August) was a large, unregistered church in Beijing called Zion Church. The shutdown followed the church’s refusal to comply with the government’s demand that it install cameras inside the sanctuary. The government also destroyed the building of a Catholic church, even though the church was properly registered with the state. Despite the increasing persecution, in September 2018, more than 300 pastors signed a statement of faith, protesting the government’s infringement on their rights.
Early Rain Arrests
The persecution has only continued. In December, officials arrested 100 members of the house church Early Rain, and attempted to get them to sign a pledge saying they would stop meeting. More recently, on February 24, 2019, authorities arrested 44 members of Early Rain Church, detaining some of them, including children, overnight. This is only a small part of the hostility Early Rain has endured from the government, yet the members remain unwavering in their devotion to Christ.
When hearing of the Shouwang Church’s shutdown, Early Rain expressed its support, saying, “When we heard that Shouwang Church is being persecuted again, […] and other churches facing various pressure from the government, we kneeled down to pray to give thanks and praises to our God, because we are delighted that the bride of Christ is closely following her husband.”
Finally, concerns in 2018 that the government was planning to “Sinicize” the Bible were confirmed a few weeks ago. Chinese officials announced a new translation of the Bible that will make it more “Chinese” and supposedly have less of a Western influence.
ICC Regional Manager Gina Goh says, “China’s disregard of religious freedom for its 1.4 billion citizens is deplorable. Christians outside of the state-sanctioned churches can no longer worship without fearing of harassment, detention or even imprisonment. Even official churches face increasing pressure to exalt the Communist Party over God. The international community should continue to press China over its human rights abuses until it is willing to make positive change.”