As soon as coronavirus lockdown lifted, house churches immediately felt the resurgence of CCP’s crackdowns, aimed at forcing them to join the state-run church.
by Tang Zhe
On April 27, over 30 personnel were dispatched to demolish a house church in the Guangxin district of Shangrao, a prefecture-level city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi. Local officials said that the venue had to be demolished because it was privately owned and unapproved by the government.
“The Communist Party’s persecution of house churches is increasingly severe,” a congregation member said. “This is mainly because more and more people believe in Christianity. As house churches refuse to register with the state and be managed by it, the CCP exerts a lot of effort to pressure them. The ultimate goal is to ‘sinicize’ Christianity.”
The venue’s 20-plus congregation members had to gather in secret after the demolition. “We will be fined 50,000 RMB [about $ 7,000] if the government discovers us worshiping together again,” the congregation member said.
A resident who witnessed the demolition commented that the government can find any pretext to demolish a church. “It bans your gathering because it claims your church is ‘illegal,’” he added. “Common people are repressed, mistreated, and they have no freedom of speech. Those who try to reason with the government will be detained. Xi Jinping wants to be as powerful Mao Zedong, to rule everything.”
In mid-April, officials from the Fenglingtou town government in Guangxin district broke into an old Local Church venue and forcibly removed a cross and other religious symbols. They also looted the church’s donation money.
A church member told Bitter Winter that it was the third time the church was raided in one week. “We have suffered frequent harassment from the government for our refusal to join the Three-Self Church,” he said. “They fear that since Christianity came to China from abroad, we will unite with Americans against the Communist Party. We cannot follow the atheist Communist Party when it comes to our belief in the Lord. The government aims at eliminating our faith.”
Two more house church venues were shut down in Fenglingtou. On April 17, over 30 local thugs, led by town government officials, stormed into a meeting venue of the old Local Church in the town’s Kengkou village and dispersed a gathering.
“They told us to raise a national flag and display portraits of Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping,” a congregation member recalled. “All gatherings were banned, and the officials said that if we meet again, we will have to hand over the church building to the government, and it would be converted into an activity center for the elderly or a factory. Or it would be demolished.”
In late April, local officials threatened to dismiss the director of a house church in Fengcheng city from his post in the village government and arrest congregation members if they continued their gatherings. They also went from home to home to register the believers’ personal information and collect their fingerprints. Several days later, local Religious Affairs Bureau officials put up portraits of Xi Jinping in the venues and sent photos as proof to their superiors.