Closed down for “not having a religious activity venue registration certificate,” home-church Christians try to rent spaces, but are still suppressed.
Driven out of their house churches, Chinese Christians are getting a little enterprising and trying to rent out homes instead of owning them outright. Unfortunately, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is onto this tactic, and is not only ushering them out of such venues, but also threatening the buildings’ landlords.
On the morning of December 14, 2018, believers from a house church in Huangshi city in central China’s Hubei Province were holding a gathering in a rented duplex building when two community staff members stormed in, asserted that the meeting venue did not have a religious venue registration certificate, in violation of the law, and ordered them to move out.
The church’s director explained that the church was in the process of applying for a registration certificate and had already paid several thousand RMB in rent and tried to explain that moving out would come at a massive loss for them.
The community members didn’t care.
“That’s your business,” one said before ordering them to cease meetings there on the grounds that it was disturbing other people. In reality, the only people bothered were the Christians: They’d been continually harassed by the authorities since last August. The church meeting venue, see, had originally been an employee activity center. So, on August 28, the church’s director received a phone call from the activity center’s administrator, saying that the house’s lease was being revoked, by order from the community secretary.
Then the church director was forced to turn a simple warehouse into the church’s new meeting spot. After that, it was moved to a narrow passageway outside a believer’s home, but water continually dripped from the balconies, so the Christians moved again, this time renting a duplex in another building. The believers loved this venue, so did all they could to not draw attention to themselves.
To no avail.
The meeting venue was shut down, and church members had no choice but to look again, only for the old routine to repeat itself.
“The meeting venue we found is relatively remote, so [the issue of] disturbing people doesn’t exist. Besides, I signed a contract with the landlord. Why are you obstructing us and leaving us with nowhere to go?” the church’s director asked government officials.”
Their only response was that it was “an order from higher level of government, and we have to execute it.”
With the meeting venue in the duplex building facing closure and the newly rented meeting venue facing obstruction from the government, the church’s director had to continue looking for a meeting venue.
“The government has blacklisted me,” said the church director.
A church worker added: “While the government is asking us to obtain a permit, it keeps delaying approval of the permit. In fact, they’re intentionally hindering us. When the government comes to do inspections, they say, ‘Your fire control measures are substandard’ or ‘You’re disturbing people.’ When we find a suitable building, they prohibit the landlord from renting it to us. In short, they won’t let us hold gatherings.”
That’s the other new development: The CCP is now strictly controlling landlords and prohibiting them from renting apartments or houses to Christians.
Ms. Yang, a Christian who lives in Yichun city in southeastern China’s Jiangxi Province, revealed to Bitter Winter that in late November 2018, when signing a rental agreement with her landlord, she discovered a provision in the agreement that stated: “Engaging in illegal/improper activities or superstitious activities in the apartment is prohibited.” When Ms. Yang asked what “superstitious activities” referred to, the landlord said that the apartment cannot be rented to anyone who believes in God or Buddha. If such a person is discovered, they will be immediately evicted, their deposit not refunded, and they will have to bear all responsibility themselves.
Not that the Christians are the only ones bearing the brunt of the suppression.
On July 19, 2018, police from Sanming city in southeastern China’s Fujian Province arrested a Christian in a rental property and, afterward, the police took the landlord to the local police station for an interrogation, too. When the officers showed the landlord a photo of the Christian for identification, he denied knowing who the person was. He was then educated on how renting apartments to Christians is illegal and punishable by fines of tens of thousands of RMB.
Reported by Cai Congxin