Flouting legal proceedings and using force, officials continue to crack down on unofficial places of worship, with the ultimate goal of total eradication.
by Deng Jie
The CCP’s campaign to eliminate house churches is intensifying in the southern provinces of China. One of the most influential house churches in Fujian, Xunsiding Church, was forcibly closed down on May 31; and in Guangdong, Ronggui Lane Church and the House of David Church, as well as multiple unofficial Protestant places of worship ceased to exist after government’s attacks on them since last year.
On May 12, in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong, officials from the city Religious Affairs Bureau and other departments, accompanied by police officers, stormed into a meeting venue of Enzhu Church where more than 70 believers were present. They ordered to halt the gathering on the grounds that it was an “illegal religious activity” and registered the ID information of the pastor and believers.
According to members of the congregation, about 40 law enforcement officers searched the meeting venue and took photos of the facility and believers; the latter were prohibited from recording the harassment by the authorities.
Many law enforcement officers were guarding the corridor outside the meeting venue:
Four believers, including the pastor and co-workers, were taken away. The police questioned the pastor about the whereabouts of the church’s donation money. They let him go eventually, forbidding him to reopen the meeting venue or he would be fined 50,000 RMB (about $ 7,500).
The residents of buildings surrounding the meeting venue were shocked by what has happened to the believers. “Since Xi Jinping came to power, he really has no respect for law and order,” one of them commented.
The same day, police officers, alongside Religious Affairs Bureau and Public Security Bureau personnel, stormed into a meeting venue of a house church in Foshan city. Without providing any documentation, the imposters closed down the site, after about a dozen officers searched and photographed it.
A member of the congregation challenged police officers that they were not handling the case according to legal procedures, to which one of them replied, shouting, that all believers would be arrested in a moment if they hindered the search. An official from the Religious Affairs Bureau claimed that the church was not approved by the government, and thus, their gathering was illegal. He also asserted that the church’s donation money constituted “illegal fund-raising,” and used this as an excuse to confiscate more than 600 RMB (about $ 100) from the church’s donation box. Afterward, the police took more than a dozen believers to the police station for interrogation.
In early April, using the same pretext of “illegal religious venues,” authorities forcibly shut down a Sola Fide house church with more than 100 members in Bao’an district of Shenzhen city.
A house church believer in Shenzhen told Bitter Winter that last October, nine armed police officers stormed into one of city’s house churches and arrested a preacher while he was holding a gathering, attended by a dozen or so believers.
During his interrogation at the police station, the preacher quoted the Bible to debate with the police, which angered the officers. One of them shocked the preacher in the stomach with an electric baton. The preacher’s entire body trembled as he lay on the floor gasping for air, while the officer scolded him, “You even dare to talk about the Bible with us? Aren’t you courting death? If you continue your belief, you’ll see how I deal with you!” The officer then kicked the preacher who remained on the floor for nearly three hours until he regained his strength. The preacher was released the following day, threatened not to hold any more congregation gatherings.
Pressured by the police, the meeting venue’s landlord demanded the church to move out. Relocated to another place, the congregation continues to meet, but they are afraid that with the suppression of Christians that are not part of the official Three-Self Church, their future is grim. They believe that the CCP is arresting and persecuting Christians to make people in China believe only in the government.