Government officials are on a tear, cracking down on renowned house churches all over China.
The only thing on fire when it came to a charismatic house church in Xiamen city in southeastern Fujian Province were authorities’ pants as they lied to the congregants about the church’s fire control facilities being substandard.
On December 18, 2018, Home of God’s Love Christian Church became one of the latest churches to be closed down by government officials for made-up code violations. In September, the local Fire Prevention Bureau stopped by unannounced to inspect the church. They claimed the church’s fire prevention measures weren’t up to par and then forced the property management company to demand fixes or else have the entire building be sealed off.
The church’s pastor said that he would make the fixes: the Fire Prevention Bureau demanded that the house of worship be installed with four emergency exits – at the time there were only two – and demanded that they use specialized fire exit doors.
But then the fire prevention team threw in the real kicker, saying, even if the church spent one million RMB ($147,710) on fixes, they would still fail to meet the required standards.
Video: Police are guarding the entrance of the meeting venue.
“This is just an excuse,” one church worker said.
And indeed it is, if the past is any indication: After the church had rented an apartment, the government pressured the landlord into terminating the lease contract. Now that the meeting venue has been purchased by the church, the government has applied the same kind of pressure to the property management company.
This isn’t anything new, according to an insider, who said that the authorities have been drumming up all sorts of excuses to try to shut down the church – all the way to 2005.
Xiamen city isn’t alone.
On December 23, 2018 a house church in Quanzhou city, near Xiamen, that was established more than 20 years ago was harassed by more than 30 local police officers, who guarded the entrance of the church meeting venue and prohibited believers from entering on the grounds that “the meeting venue’s fire control facilities were not up to standard.”
So, the more than 40 believers were forced to hold their gathering while standing outside the meeting venue while on-site police officers videotaped them and ordered them to end the gathering.
“You need to register [to join the Three-Self Church]. If you keep holding gatherings, you will be fined,” a police officer told the church pastor.
This church has been enduring government persecution since May 2018. And in October, three of the church’s co-workers were summoned for questioning by the Religious Affairs Bureau.
“Either you can go and register with the Three-Self Church, or you’ll be dissolved,” an official from the Religious Affairs Bureau threatened. “The church’s finances have to be managed by the government. If you refuse, the Public Security Bureau will shut your church down. This is an order issued by the central government.”
One official from the Three-Self Patriotic Movement tried to lure them, saying: “As long as you go to register, you will receive a position as a standing committee member.”
But the church worker countered, saying that only “God is the head of the church,” no matter how much the government would like itself to be.
Reported by An Xin