By BosNewsLife Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– A key official of one of China’s largest umbrella group of thousands of underground house churches has been detained on suspicion of “using superstition to undermine national law enforcement”, in the first step towards a criminal trial, fellow Christians said Thursday, July 7.
Pastor Shi Enhao, deputy chairman of the Chinese House Church Alliance, reportedly disappeared on June 12 before police confirmed his detention nearly 10 days later. Advocacy group China Aid, which is in close contact with Chinese house church Christians, said the detention notice from the Sucheng district office of the Suqian City Public Security Bureau in Jiangsu Province briefly outlines the reasons for the detention of the prominent house church leader.
Previously, the charge of “using superstition to undermine national law enforcement” has been used to convict practitioners of the banned spiritual practice, Falun Gong. Christians said his detention comes after leaders from his group faced “severe persecution in the past, including arrest, imprisonment and harassment”.
Pastor Shi has been under scrutiny for some time. He served a 12-day administrative detention sentence after he was arrested on 31 May in Jiangsu province. On 1 June Pastor Shi’s home was raided by police, who took away books and papers, according to rights activists.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a religious rights group closely following the case, said Pastor Shi’s criminal detention comes as a prominent Beijing house church faces ongoing repression. “The 1000-member independent Shouwang Church currently has four of its leaders under house arrest. Church members are being detained weekly as they attempt to worship outdoors, after their landlord was pressured to evict the congregation from his building.”
Unofficial or ‘house’ churches in China are those congregations that choose, often for reasons of conscience, not to join the officially recognized Three-Self Patriotic Movement, or official Protestant Church. “House churches can face persecution from authorities due to their de facto illegal status,” CSW said.
Stuart Windsor, Special Ambassador for Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, “CSW calls upon the Chinese government to uphold the right to freedom of religion for its citizens by releasing Pastor Shi Enhao from criminal detention and to allow all its citizens to practise their religion within an organisation of their choice.”
China has denied wrongdoing saying Christians are free worship within the established churches. There may be as many as 130 million Christians in China, many of whom prefer to worship outside the Communist government’s approved denominations, church observers say.