China Government Raids House Churches, Landlords Pressured

By BosNewsLife Asia Service and BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)-- Chinese authorities pressure landlords to cancel their leases to house churches and security forces are raiding home congregations as part of a government campaign against Christianity, rights activists, and local Christians say.

In recent weeks several house churches were "raided" in the capital Beijing, according to Christians familiar with the situation.

On May 6, dozens of officers from the Public Security Bureau, China's main law enforcement agency, entered a church service, said the ChinaAid advocacy group. Police reportedly took pictures of the gathering, prompting the landlord to revoke the church lease two days later.

"The police called us today and forbade us from organizing religious activities in any form," ChinaAid quoted church member Yin as saying. Only one name was used, amid apparent security concerns.

Elsewhere, authorities interrupted a Bible study meeting at the 'Holy Love Fellowship' congregation on April 20, and questioned those present, Christians said.

Xu Yonghai, a church elder, said in published remarks that "it is becoming harder" to find a place to rent due to government pressure on landlords.

POLICE SHOWING UP

"On April 19, the police showed up at my house and asked me: 'Who is going to attend the gathering tomorrow? Will there be reporters?' A few reporters visit our church frequently and attend the Bible study sessions. Two reporters had planned to come on April 20," Xu recalled.

Xu said one reporter called him to say that he would not go inside the building after seeing police and area officials. Christians said authorities had harassed members of Holy Love Fellowship in the past.

In January 2014, 13 church members were detained after "gathering illegally" and seven others for "using evil cults to disrupt law enforcement," ChinaAid said.

Actions by the Communist government against devoted Christians also include threats, church representatives said. On May 8, authorities reportedly met with nine members of the independent Huaqiu Church in the southwestern province of Guizhou.

Officials of China's Religious Affairs Bureau warned church members against having any "foreign connections" and told them to join the government-approved Three-Self Church or face further repercussions, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

ZION CHURCH TARGETED

Beijing officials also forced the Zion Church to install surveillance cameras inside and outside of the church premises in recent weeks, Christians said.

Last month, members were reportedly interrogated by officials about their housing situations, occupations, family background and their relations with the church.

The unregistered house church reportedly tried to calm its members by quoting part of China's Constitution that guarantees the freedom of religion for citizens. The church promised parishioners that it would "safeguard their rights, maintain their safety and support them according to Chinese law."

Actions by the Communist government against devoted Christians also include threats, church representatives said. On May 8, Chinese authorities reportedly met with nine members of the independent Huaqiu Church in the southwestern province of Guizhou.

Officials of China's Religious Affairs Bureau warned church members against having any "foreign connections" and told them to join the government-approved Three-Self Church or face further repercussions, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

DIFFERENT OPPOSITION

Christian advocacy activists told BosNewsLife that Christians in China continue to face opposition "from many different" directions.

"Pray that they will have the wisdom to know the appropriate ways in which to respond," said Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC) in a statement to BosNewsLife. "May God strengthen and encourage these Chinese believers, so they will stand firm in Christ and continue the spread of the Gospel."

Chinese officials have not commented. However, late last year, thousands of villagers in southeastern China were already told to take down pictures and symbols depicting Jesus Christ and put up a lovely photograph of President Xi Jinping in a sign of the growing cult of personality around the leader as well as rising pressure on Christian worship.

Despite the difficulties, the number of Christians in China has increased from 70 million to at least 130 million in recent years, according to Chinese officials and church estimates.

Many devoted Christians meet outside the official churches in underground 'house churches' as they oppose government interference. Local faithful Christians fear more hardship for churches and activists under President Xi Jinping and his atheistic oriented Communist Party.

Xi's presidential term limits were removed by legislators this year, giving him the right to remain in office indefinitely as China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong died more than 40 years ago.


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