In Beijing, Jiangsu, and Guangxi local communities were forced to close. Several members remain in jail.
by Qi Junzao
This month (May 2021) the Beijing Municipal Court sentenced a man called Lin Xianzan to a jail term of three years under Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code for having “used a xie jiao,” i.e., having been active in a banned religious group. The court sentenced Lin as a member of the “Shouters.”
Churches in the tradition of Chinese ministers Watchman Nee (1903–1972) and Witness Lee (1905–1997) continue to be targeted by the CCP. Under the nickname “Shouters,” they were banned as xie jiao banned in 1983, well before an official list of the xie jiao was compiled in 1995.
In fact, “Shouters” is a generic and somewhat misleading label for a constellation of different groups. Some of these groups accept the teaching of Nee but not those of Lee. The name “Local Church,” used in the West to designate Lee’s group (but dating back to Nee’s days), is also ambiguous in China. Some distinguish between the “old Local Church” (Laodifangjiaohui, 老地方教会), who accepted Nee but rejected Lee, and the “new Local Church” (Difangjiaohui, 地方教会), i.e., Lee’s own organization.
According to American scholar J. Gordon Melton, “Interestingly, the Shouters remain banned as a xie jiao but not the Local Church. This means that the Nee groups that do not recognize Lee are not considered xie jiao, but as part of the unregistered Christian congregations that constitute the unofficial Christianity about which the government is so concerned. But the situation of the Lee groups is in turn unclear. Since we are dealing with a network of independent congregations very much different from one another, perhaps the listing as a xie jiao should be, or will one day be, interpreted as referring only to certain Lee groups and not to all of them.”
Recently, however, the CCP seems to be cracking down on all groups in the Nee-Lee tradition. Bitter Winter has learned that in Beijing, Wuxi, in Jiangsu Province, and Nanning, in the Guangxi region, members of congregations they refer to as “Local Churches” have been arrested and sentenced again. Their churches have been forced to close.
This is not the first time these communities are attacked. In Nanning, three men called Lin Zhe, Chen Xianyang, and Chen Weiyi are in jail from two years, although no trial date has been set for them. A man who goes under the name John Yang is also in jail in Wuxi.