Beijing’s Zion Church, Renai Church in Guiyang, and Early Rain in Chengdu continue to be under attack.
by Qi Junzao
There is no pause nor mercy in the CCP campaign to crack down on independent house churches. The limited tolerance granted to some of them in the pre-Xi-Jinping era is gradually coming to an end. Either the house churches join the government-controlled Three Self Church, or their leaders go to jail. It also happens that house churches are labeled as xie jiao, “heterodox teachings,” and their elders and pastors prosecuted under Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code, originally conceived to crack down on banned new religious movements.
Beijing’s Zion Church is one of the most famous house churches in China. In 2018, it was officially “dismantled” and banned by the authorities, which tried to bankrupt it by imposing extravagant fines. It was also accused of being a xie jiao. Much to the CCP’s surprise, however, Zion Church did not disappear. It lost its place of worship, as the CCP persuaded the landlord to cancel the lease, but devotees continued to meet in private homes. A believer told Bitter Winter that there are “hundreds” of Zion Church meeting places, not all of them in Beijing, and the total membership may be in excess of 25,000.
Obviously, this is not something the CCP can tolerate. Two Zion Church preachers, Qie Jiafu and Huang Chunzi, have been arrested in their homes in the last days of April. It is unclear whether they will be formally incriminated, but believers are afraid that this is just the beginning of a new crackdown on their church.
In March, Bitter Winter reported about the attack against another significant house church, Renai Reformed Church, in the prefecture-level city of Guiyang, in Guizhou province. When the church’s elder, Zhang Chunlei, went to the police station to negotiate the release of the devotees arrested during a police raid in a hotel where they had gathered for praying, he was arrested himself.
Elder Zhang should have been released after 11 days of administrative detention, but this did not happen. When his wife and the Christians of the Renai Reformed Church protested, they were told that Zhang’s case was being investigated. On May 1, he was formally indicted for “religious fraud” and placed under criminal detention at Yunyan Branch Detention Center. Houses of Renai Church members were also searched by the police, and religious items were confiscated.
On May 7 in Chengdu, Sichuan province, yet another pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church, Wu Wuqing, was arrested for “disturbing the public order” after officiating the funeral of a church member. Wu had already been arrested in April, and Early Rain’s leader, pastor Wang Yi, is currently serving a nine year sentence in jail.
These are significant messages sent to all house churches throughout China. Unless they submit to the government, their days are numbered.