|Authorities forced this small house
church in Dazhou, Sichuan to register
with the government.
(Photo: China Aid)
Written in Chinese by Qiao Nong. Translated and written in English by Brynne Lawrence.
(Dazhou, Sichuan—Dec. 7, 2015) Authorities in China’s southern Sichuan province accused a small house church of failing to register with the government, a mandate that seems to ignore a requirement stating that institutions must have 50 people in order to apply for registration.
On Nov. 10, government officials issued a notice to a house church in Dazhou that claimed the church was an “illegal organization,” commanded them to immediately stop meeting and forbade the church members from renting a local apartment in order to conduct their religious services. During a visit to this church on the same day, the previous town clerk told the church attendees that they must apply for registration in order to legally continue holding religious activities.
“It seems as if, according to the … stipulations, 30-50 people are required to apply, Li Shengfen, a church member, said. “We don’t have that many people. Is meeting together with our friends and neighbors in our home not OK? He said we could not meet together. I said, ‘How is this called religious freedom?’”
Li reported that several government officials also came to the church to examine it. “They looked at our Bibles. After that, in order to understand our church, they looked at our poetry. Because the place where we worship has a cross, a Bible and some scripture on the walls, they looked at it all. I said ‘Right now, is this freedom of religion?’ If we go to the city to meet, many of the Christians are old and some people get carsick. I said, ‘How can you not give us freedom?’”
In response to these measures, Li went to the town’s local government building to emphasize the church’s legal right to hold services without applying for registration. “I said, ‘According to the current freedom of religion policies, we can continue meeting [at our church building]. You want us to apply, but we don’t have that many people. Right now, we can’t apply with the religious affairs bureau.’ He said, ‘If you want to continue meeting, I cannot allow you to continue meeting.’ This is where we got yesterday.”
China Aid seeks to expose violations of the right to religious freedom, such as the experiences of this house church.