(Shanghai, China – May 10, 2022) The Shanghai Xinguang Presbyterian Church, which is independent of the officially registered church, has been included in the banned list of “illegal social organizations” by the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau in 2021. Recently, several government departments have continued to remove their relevant web pages and social media accounts.
On April 12, the WeChat official account of “China’s Social Organizational Structure” said that recently the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Cyberspace Administration of China, and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology have continued to implement the central government’s precise use of strategies for an effective crackdown on illegal social organizations. Xinguang Presbyterian Church, a house church in Shanghai, was included in that second batch of ten illegal social organizations.
On July 5, 2021, the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau announced a list of unlawful social organizations and persuaded the dispersion of these groups in 2021, and the Xinguang Presbyterian Church was included in that list of illegal social organizations.
The ban announcement (2021 No. 01) of the Civil Affairs Bureau of Minhang District, Shanghai, stated:
After investigation, the “Xinguang Presbyterian Church” was found to be unregistered and carried out activities in the name of social organizations without authorization, violating the provisions of Article 3, paragraph 1 of the “Regulation on Registration and Administration of Social Organizations.” According to Article 32 of the “Regulation on Registration and Administration of Social Organizations” and the “Provisional Measure on Closing Illegal Civil Society Organizations,” this organ has decided to close the “Xinguang Presbyterian Church.”
The Xinguang Presbyterian Church is a house church that adheres to the Presbyterian creed. Unlike the worship tradition of the Universal Presbyterian Church, the worship program of the Xinguang Presbyterian Church is very simple. Perhaps there are traces of “venues for meetings” from the practices of the Chinese Christian groups.
In 2017, a member of the church was baptized and said: “Grew up here, baptized here, and I want to have a wedding here too. In just a few months, I found that I have really changed a lot; I have a newfound understanding of life, career, and marriage.”
The Xinguang Presbyterian Church set up an online prayer project on the church’s official social media account to pray for fellow believers in 2017. The description of the project stated that the congregation could join their “intercession team.” The church also set up a WeChat group, “Intercession Team,” which was open to those in need of prayer. The Xinguang Presbyterian Church is undoubtedly an orthodox Christian church, but officials in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may not necessarily understand the true meaning of the words “Intercession Team.” Perhaps these words are enough to arouse the regime’s vigilance and overreaction.
In recent times, China has been using the pandemic as an excuse to shut down or restrict Christian activities in whole or in part, even in provinces where the outbreak has been under control. Even when a house church has been forcibly closed or banned, it is rare for the Civil Affairs Bureau to come forward to ban it on account of an illegal social organization and furthermore issue an announcement. The Xinguang Presbyterian Church case is clearly managed as an outlier.
~Gao Zhensai, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid
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