Both state-run and house churches are subjected to continuous CCP’s clampdowns.
by Yao Zhangjin
On November 25, 2019, the police in Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, broke into the “House of Cornelius,” a local Three-Self church. They ordered the pastor to stop holding gatherings, took away his pastoral certificate, and told all clerical staff to leave. The church was sealed off after the cross over the entrance, the signboard “House of Cornelius,” as well as paintings with Bible verses on the walls have been removed. Two days later, the police changed the church’s lock.
A resident in the area told Bitter Winter that after the church was closed down, the police guarded the entrance for more than 20 days, preventing believers from entering. They did not leave until the church was cleared out.
According to congregation members, before the venue was shut down, they applied for a permit at the local Religious Affairs Bureau, but were refused.
“The more the government persecutes us, the more actively we’ll share the gospel,” a church worker commented. “As long as we worship God, his temple stays in our hearts.” After the closure, about 200 church members have dispersed into small groups and meet in secret.
In July, a True Jesus Church venue in Chengdu-administered Jianyang city was shut down as an “illegal venue.” Government officials posted a notice about the shutdown on the door and arranged workers to saw off the cross and block the door. Bitter Winter was told that the church had repeatedly applied to the local Religious Affairs Bureau for a permit with no luck.
The person in charge of a Three-Self venue in Jianyang said that according to the new Regulations on Religious Affairs, sites without a religious activity venue registration certificate would be deemed as “illegal.” But when believers apply for such permits, as prescribed by the regulations, the Religious Affairs Bureau does not approve them, and the authorities use this pretext to shut down religious venues.
House churches that refuse to be controlled by the government are subjected to even more severe suppression. On September 20, a Sola Fide meeting venue in Chengdu was shut down after Religious Affairs Bureau officials and police officers stormed in and registered ID information of the 30-odd believers present. They threatened to detain and fine those who continued gathering and closed down the venue. Bitter Winter learned that the church had been repeatedly persecuted, forced to change meeting venues for over ten times.
In May last year, 12 people from Neijiang city’s Public Security Bureau, Religious Affairs Bureau and other government institutions raided a house church venue. They ordered the congregation to stop gathering and took away the preacher for interrogation because he refuses to join the Three-Self Church.
A co-worker explained to Bitter Winter that his church left the Three-Self Church nine years ago and refuses to return to it. “The Three-Self Church praises and follows the Communist Party, it’s Christianity in name only,” he said. “Those who have been assigned by the government to give sermons distort the Bible and promote the core socialist values. These churches must sing red songs, post portraits of Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping.”
On August 21, the police broke into the church’s new venue and threatened to fine the host 50,000 RMB (about $ 7,200) if she continued to host religious meetings.
Since the Guanghua Church in Chengdu was shut down in May 2019, its congregation frequently changed meeting venues, gathering at tea shops, deserted factory buildings or other places. To avoid being caught by the state, believers meet in secret, soundproof their venues, and assign someone to be on guard during gatherings. They sometimes put up signs “Activity Room for Party Members,” “Library,” or “Painting Studio” for disguise.