House churches in Shandong are having their power and water cut off and their doors blockaded for refusing to join the state-sanctioned Protestant church.
Imagine worshipping at a small house gathering and having your basic necessities slowly stripped away: That’s what’s happening to Jiang Zhen (pseudonym), who runs a Protestant Sola Fide house church in the Jimo district under the jurisdiction of Qingdao city, in China’s eastern coastal province of Shandong.
According to an inside source, after authorities found she had admitted over 20 elderly Christians at her home to worship, she got a threatening phone call, in which they warned: “You have to either move or go to the Three-Self Church. If you don’t, we’re cutting off your water and electricity, as well as your welfare.”
Jiang Zhen refused.
And a few days later, the authorities kept their word and cut off her power. Another month goes by, and the authorities shut off her water. Initially, Jiang Zhen had thought she’d forgotten to pay her property-management fees. But when she rushed to pay the bill, the payment was denied – two local officials told her that a document had been issued by the higher-ups requiring she join the government-approved Three-Self Church or move.
The church has done none of the above and as a result, a source said, the house of worship is still without power or water – three months later.
The same story is going on in Shandong’s Tengzhou city, where authorities have used similar methods to go after a house church. On October 3, when worshippers arrived at the meeting place, they discovered that the entrance had been blocked by a truckload of construction rubble, leaving roughly 60 to 70 church members without a place to meet. The order, they were told, came from a local village party secretary.
Two other congregation sites of this house church were victim to the authorities: Keys for both sites were confiscated by the government and a Christian sign by the entrance was removed at one congregation site, and a cross and portrait of Jesus destroyed at the other.
Members of the church said, as early as July, authorities had been pressuring them to join the Three-Self Church, or they would “resort to extreme measures.” Moreover, the authorities, have threatened to round up all of the Christians if they refuse to obey, saying that even if they don’t sentence them to jail time, they will be fined 50,000 – 100,000 RMB (roughly $7,270 to $14,540).
“We can comply with government taxation, but we can’t surrender allegiance to the Three-Self Church,” the head of this house church said.
According to sources, the church has now split into smaller groups and is being more secretive about conducting their congregations.
Reported by Jiang Tao