Religious meeting venues that go against government’s requirements to joint Three-Self Church are sealed off and their pastors arrested across China.
by Tang Zhe
If house churches join the Three-Self Church, they are automatically managed by the CCP, that seeks to “normalize” all religions in China by replacing faith with socialist ideology and traditional Chinese culture. Many believers fear that they will eventually be allowed to only believe in the Communist Party. That is why numerous house church pastors and preachers refuse to join the state-run church, clearly infuriating the communist authorities that are intensifying suppression of house churches by shutting them down as “unlicensed” religious venues or various other pretexts.
Jiangxi: Pastor arrested, Bibles confiscated
On August 6, a house church meeting venue in Jiujiang city, in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, was shut down by the local government, and the church’s pastor was arrested and interrogated. Personnel from the city’s United Front Work Department and police officers wanted to know the number of believers in the congregation, where the donation money was kept and if the church had contacts with foreigners. They also attempted to force the pastor to disclose the whereabouts of a pastor from another church, but he refused to say anything. The pastor was released later the same day, but he has been placed under tight surveillance and prohibited from leaving the city.
About a month earlier, a Sola Fide house church in Jiujiang was raided by the local government. According to a congregation member, more than 20 officials stormed in, confiscated over 300 Bibles and other spiritual books on the grounds that the church’s gatherings were illegal because it refuses to join the Three-Self Church. Six church members, including the pastor, were arrested and taken away for interrogation.
According to a church co-worker, local Religious Affairs Bureau officials tried to lure the pastor to join the state-run church by promising to give him a house and arranging a government position, but he promised his congregation not to compromise with the government. The meeting venue has been shut down and believers forced to disperse into smaller groups for gatherings.
In Jiangxi’s capital Nanchang, city government personnel stormed into a Sola Fide church. The preacher asked them to present a search warrant, but one of the officers said in a haughty tone that he could conduct any searches he wants because he is a police officer. Subsequently, more than 1,000 Bibles and hymnbooks were confiscated on the grounds that they were illegal because they were “not published by the state.”
On June 30, a house church meeting venue in Nanchang’s Wanli district was closed because it was unregistered, and the person in charge was taken in for questioning. Three other meeting venues in Nanchang were also shut down.
Chengdu, Sichuan: House church emptied and shut down
In May, Guanghua House Church, located in Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, was shut down for refusing to submit to the government’s control.
Congregation members recalled that more than 20 government personnel broke into the meeting venue that day and ordered believers to end their gathering. Police officers registered the IDs of all believers who were present and drove them out of the church. “Hurry up and leave. Don’t come back anymore. We’ll have people guarding this place every day,” an officer shouted at the believers. All church’s belongings, including Bibles, podium, sound equipment, and over 100 chairs, were forcibly removed.
The police also questioned if any members from the Early Rain Covenant Church – one of the most prominent house churches in Chengdu and the whole country that was severely cracked down on at the end of last year – were present at the meeting venue. Apparently, the authorities want to make sure that the church’s congregation members do not continue holding gatherings.
Police officers are raiding the meeting venue in Chengdu:
The CCP often uses a variety of pretexts to suppress religious sites. Six years ago, authorities in Duqiao town, administered by Linhai city, under the jurisdiction of the prefecture-level city of Taizhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang, forcibly demolished a house church meeting venue. To continue their gatherings, believers built a bamboo shed, but town officials destroyed it in April because of “substandard fire control measures.”
Another house church meeting venue in Duqiao was ordered to cease gatherings in the spring. “In China, the Communist Party calls the shots,” a local preacher said helplessly. “If you disobey them, they will arrest you. There is no way to reason with the Communist Party.”