House Churches face emergencies in various places in China, Pastors being investigated and harassed, believers being threatened, and church sites being taken back.
Recently, the situation for house churches in Shanghai, Shandong, Jiangsu, Yunnan and other areas has become very tense. Pastors are being investigated and believers are being threatened! Communist authorities are forcing the landlords of many gathering sites to void their leasing agreements and take back the rental units. This week, a house church in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province with a congregation of nearly 300 people received a notice from the landlord on Thursday that they must vacate the premises within seven days. The landlord specifically said that he had received instructions from agencies in charge of religious affairs and the Public Security Bureau. After the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress were convened, news came in from house churches in various provinces and municipalities. Zhan Gang, vice president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, told this radio station on Thursday that the situation has become very tense: “Recently, I’ve received information from pastors in the provinces that the situation with them is very tense. A pastor in Shanghai was recently investigated and the work unit of every member of theirs and of some families have been investigated. The authorities threatened the believers that they must not gather at this pastor’s meeting place. In the meantime, the landlord of the site this pastor leases has been ordered to cancel the lease.
In another development, the landlord of the church site where I am at has told me that due to intense pressure from the government, he is not going to renew the lease with us. Pastor Zhan Gang who lives in Jiaozhou, Shandong Province said: “Last week, a leader of a house church in our area came under the same pressure. The local government told the landlord of the unit he rents that the church must move out, that the landlord must not renew the lease with them. A pastor and an elder from Kunming told me recently that the situation in Kunming is also very tense and they are being forced to move out.” The police investigated the families of the believers and their work units. Gao Aijun, pastor of a Reformist house church in Shanghai, told this reporter that about 10 days ago the lease on his gathering site was canceled by the landlord: “Recently, the situation has become tense. We the Christian church in Shanghai rented a room, yet suddenly we received an order that the landlord won’t let our church use the site. The landlord said the authorities won’t let him lease the place for use by our church. That’s why no matter how much money we give him, he won’t be able to lease the place to us. Then brothers and sisters stopped gathering at his place. This is because state employees have come to investigate the pastor at the work units of these brothers and sisters. The message is clear. They want the brothers and sisters not to have anything to do with this pastor. If they attend services there again, they will be fired and lose their jobs.” Pastor Gao Aijun, who is a logistics engineer, has lost his secular job. He said: “Before I was a logistics engineer and it was easy for me to find a job. I had already made arrangements with a company and we had already finished negotiating my salary. However, on the second day, they went back on their words. Last week, my mother was asked to go to her neighborhood committee because I went to attend a conference in America last December. At the neighborhood committee, they asked my mother what her son was doing and they asked many questions. My mother was very nervous.” He also said that recently the minute his mother goes out the door of her house, she is stalked by some strangers which is making us uneasy. They are required to move out of their gathering site within seven days.
Enxin House Church in Gulou District, Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province has a gathering site that can accommodate over 200 people. This Thursday, they received a notice from the landlord that they must move out of the place by a certain date. A co-worker in the church by the name of Zhao told the reporter: “The landlord told me we must move out within seven days. The landlord said that the authorities won’t allow him to rent the place to me, saying that they had been notified by their superior that the place cannot be rented for use by a church. They also said that meeting places of churches not approved by the state agencies must be taken back. On Tuesday of last week (March 19) when over 200 co-workers were attending a training session at the gathering site of Enxin Church, it was raided by dozens of police officers. In the meantime, the landlord who provided the site also came under pressure to terminate the lease. Ms. Zhao said that one week after the incident, they received a written notice from the landlord: “After we got the notice, it told us to move out unconditionally within seven days. He said the Public Security Bureau and the Bureau of Religion have talked with them and exerted pressure on them.”
Reporter: “How long is the lease that you signed with the landlord?”
Answer: “It was a one-year lease which ends in November. He has breached the agreement. The church has over 200 people.”
Reporter: “What’s your plan for the next step?”
Answer: “We don’t want to move out. This is because if we move out, there’ll be no way for the church to rent such a big place.”
Reporter: “How many square meters are there?”
Answer: over 200 square meters.”
Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, worries a lot about the current situation the house churches in China find themselves in. He said: “The local governments have consistently persecuted and attacked Christianity with the religious mentality of the past 50 years. Now that Xi Jingping has come to power and the two conferences (National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference) are over, they still attack and persecute the churches according to their old mentality. This does not fit our expectation of the new administration in holding a more liberal policy toward religion. I’d like to express my hope through the media here that the new leaders of the state can correctly treat the house churches.” The above is an interview report by Qiao Long, special reporter from Radio Free Asia.
Radio Free Asia 03/28/2013