BEIJING — At least 13 members of a Beijing church were
arrested Sunday, May 8, in the fifth straight week of its defiance of the
Chinese government, which continued to force people out of their homes in an
effort to pressure the congregation.
One family learned they were being kicked out of their home at 6:40 Sunday
morning, before the service even began.
The high-profile clash between the government and Shouwang Church — one of the
largest unregistered illegal churches in Beijing — has led to hundreds of house
arrests or detentions. More than 500 church members were placed under arrest on
Easter weekend alone, prevented from leaving their houses or apartments.
ChinaAid, a U.S.-based organization that monitors religious freedom in the
country, said the government, as in previous weeks, continued “rendering church
members homeless by pressuring their landlords to evict them.”
Shouwang Church itself is homeless, having lost its meeting space when the
government pressured the owners of a restaurant — its last home — to kick out
the church. The church also has tried to rent space, only to see various
landlords pressured not to cooperate.
Each week during the past month, the church has tried to worship at a public
site in Zhongguancun in northwest Beijing.
Churches in China are legal only if they register with the government and join
what is known as the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. But ChinaAid founder Bob
Fu, in an interview with Baptist Press, said churches have a solid, biblical
reason for refusing to register with the government.
“Fundamentally,” Fu said, “the number one reason is focused on who is the head
of the church? Is it the Communist Party, the Chinese government or Jesus
Christ alone? The Three-Self Patriotic Movement is nothing but a political
organization with a religious uniform. All the leaders are appointed by the
Communist Party, the United Front Work Department and the State Administration
for Religious Affairs, and they are salaried. And many of the leaders are also
Communist Party members.
“Secondly, once you join the government-sanctioned church, you lose pretty much
all the freedom of evangelism. There are lots of limitations and rules that
will forbid you to do any evangelism outside of the four walls of the church
building. You can’t baptize anybody under 18 years old, you’re forbidden to
have a Sunday School. There are fundamental differences.”
More than 160 were arrested the first week Shouwang tried to meet outdoors,
about 50 were arrested the second week, approximately 40 on the third week and
about 30 on the fourth week. The declining number of arrests likely is due to
the government placing so many other members under house arrest, which prevents
them from even leaving their homes.
Included in the latest round of arrests was a woman who is a member of another
illegal church, New Tree House Church. She showed up at the outdoor site to
show solidarity with her fellow believers, ChinaAid reported.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
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