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20 Chinese Christians arrested
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
May 17, 2011
5 MIN READ TIME

20 Chinese Christians arrested

20 Chinese Christians arrested
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
May 17, 2011

BEIJING — About 20 members of China’s Shouwang Church were

arrested Sunday during the sixth straight weekend that the congregation refused

to obey government orders to stop worshipping — a confrontation that has seen

nearly 30 church families forced out of their homes and more than 10 members

lose their jobs.

China pressured the congregation out of its indoor facilities earlier this

year, prompting the church — which is an illegal congregation not registered

with the government — to try to gather outdoors on a public square in Beijing.

More than 160 church members were arrested the first week, and the church has

continued to try to gather each week at the same spot, despite warnings from

the government. Throughout the six weeks, hundreds of church members have been

placed under house arrest, prevented from even leaving their homes on Sunday

mornings.

Screen capture from Boxun.com video

This bus was used by Chinese police Sunday to carry off about 20 members of Shouwang Church, who were gathering illegally in downtown Beijing to worship. The Chinese government forced the church out of its indoor facility earlier this year and now is preventing the congregation from meeting ourdoors.

In China, only churches registered with the government who are members of the

Three-Self Patriotic Movement are considered legal. But registration brings

heavy restrictions, including prohibitions on evangelism, Sunday School and

baptizing children and teens, said Bob Fu, president and founder of ChinaAid,

an organization that monitors religious freedom in the country.

ChinaAid itself has become a target. ChinaAid’s website was hacked Friday in

what the organization believes was an attack that originated within China.

Although some parts of the website were down for several hours, ChinaAid soon

restored the full site.

Boxun.com, a Chinese-language website for community journalists, posted a

150-second video Sunday showing two buses parked near the outdoor site, ready

to transport Shouwang church members from the site to police stations.

Boxun.com pictures also showed marked police cars and at least one unmarked

police car. About 20 church members were taken away at 9 a.m. local time. In

past weeks, some had been released within several hours while others had been

held for 24-48 hours, ChinaAid reported.

According to the church’s order of

worship, they had planned on reading several passages, including Revelation

4:1-11, in unison and singing several songs before hearing a sermon.

Their commitment to Christ has cost some of them their homes and jobs. Shouwang

released a statement several days before the service saying that nearly 30

families had been evicted from their homes and more than 10 people had lost

their jobs “because they refused to promise to leave Shouwang Church.” The

church says the members were forced out of work or housing by “employees of

related government departments.”

“They were given just a few days to move out of their rental homes for no other

reason than that they were members of Shouwang Church; in the short-term, they

have no fixed abode, and they are getting by by shuttling among the homes of

various brothers and sisters in the church,” the statement reads. “Many more

believers and church leaders have lost their personal freedom because of being

restricted to their homes on Sundays or the other days of the week by local

police, neighborhood committee workers or residential security guards.”

Shouwang maintains the incidents “violate China’s current laws.”

In a show of solidarity, more than 15 pastors of other illegal house churches

signed a petition to Wu Bangguo, China’s top legislator, declaring that the

government’s actions against the church violate the Chinese Constitution and

the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which China signed and which

guarantees that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and

religion,” a right that includes the freedom “in public or private … to

manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

“Yet, for the last 6 decades,” the petition reads, “the rights to liberty of

religious faith granted to our country’s Christians by the Constitution of the

People’s Republic of China have not been put into practice. According to the

current policy for religion management, unless Christians join the strongly

politically-charged National Committee of Three-Self Patriotic Movement, their

various religious activities (including congregation, worship, ceremony,

formation of church, construction of church buildings and evangelism) are still

being restricted and suppressed by various governmental management departments.”

The petition asks Bangguo and other members of the Chinese government to

investigate China’s rules on churches and determine whether they are in

accordance with China’s constitution. It also asks them to investigate the

government’s move to prevent Shouwang Church from worshipping indoors.

The incident with Shouwang Church, the petition says, is “not an individual,

isolated episode that happens to a single church, but rather a typical

phenomenon in respect of the conflict between state and church.”

“With the incessant growth of the number of urban Christians and the continued

expansion of the church, the conflict between state and church of this sort is

likely to continue to break out,” the petition says. “In view of the

representativeness of the Shouwang Church incident, and the significant impact

of this incident on the future relationship between state and church in our

country, we hereby lodge this Petition.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)

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