Translated by China Aid Association
Since Beijing Shouwang Church started to worship outdoors on April 10 after losing its indoor worship space, some believers who are part of the church have been forced out of their jobs or evicted from their homes or sent back to their hometown because of participating in the outdoor worship or simply just because they are members of the church. We have reason to believe that these occurrences were the result of pressure placed on the believers’ work places or the landlords of their rented homes by employees of related government departments. The answers given by some employers or landlords to believers [who asked for an explanation] was simply, If you continue going to Shouwang Church’s worship services, then you [must] leave this job or move out. Up to now, nearly 30 families in our church have been evicted; more than 10 have lost their jobs because they refused to promise to leave Shouwang Church. 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. 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 cops, neighborhood committee workers or residential security guards.
We believe that the above incidents are all illegal incidents that violate China’s current laws. If taking part in outdoor worship really is a violation of some law or regulation of the People’s Republic of China, then for the sake of maintaining the dignity of the law, the believer or group that has violated that particular law or regulation can be held accountable by following the proper legal procedures. As Christians, we are willing to take responsibility for the legal ramifications of our actions. But we have not seen the related government departments acting in this way; instead, we find them pressuring the believers’ employers or landlords, using the outdated and feudal “lianzuozhi” penalty system1 [of the Qin dynasty (221-206 B.C.)] to administer a modernizing major urban center, such that, if this kind of person is found working in such-and-such work place, then the supervisors or management are held responsible, or if a landlord dares to rent to such a person, well, then the landlord is held accountable. Doing things this way turns a pure and simple work or collegial relationship or a leaser and lessee contractual relationship into a joint liability system of surveillance, guarding and shouldering shared responsibility for something that originally wasn’t their responsibility at all.
The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China respects citizens’ right to freedom of religion. In a civilized society, what religion a citizen believes in or what church a citizen goes to to worship are all part of a citizen’s most basic rights. If a citizen loses his job or his home simply because of believing in a particular religion or attending a particular church, then the governmental organs have not fulfilled their responsibilities in protecting that citizen’s legitimate rights. And if it is the governmental organs themselves that are doing this, then it is the governmental organs that are abusing the governmental powers granted to them to engage in religious persecution, which is a violation of the right to religious freedom granted to citizens in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.
Even though from the perspective of our faith, we regard this unfair treatment we have received as the price we perhaps are required to pay for the sake of holding to our faith – and we are happy to suffer for the sake of our Lord Christ and hold no resentment in our hearts for the perpetrators – but as citizens of China and as Chinese Christians, out of our love for this country and out of respect for this country’s laws, we are willing to do all that we can to protect the dignity of the law.
Therefore, we will organize legal experts from within our church and set up a legal small group that in the coming days will start collecting the necessary evidence in the cases of citizens of faith being forced to leave their jobs or being evicted because of their religious belief. In order to promote the establishment of a Chinese society ruled by law, we do not rule out the possibility, if the circumstances require, of holding legally responsible for violating the law the related individuals or departments who infringed upon the basic rights of these citizens of faith. At the same time, we still call on the related government departments and the work places and the landlords of the believers involved to uphold their responsibility and do their duty out of respect for the law and with a conscience that respects a citizen’s right to freedom of religion. Stop forcing believers to resign and evicting them because of their religious belief, which will advance Chinese society becoming a society ruled by law.
May 12, 2011
Footnote 1 – This system has been called “the law of punishing the related family members” and described as “guilt by association.” Under this system, all close family members of a person who has committed a crime is punished as well and given the same penalty as the criminal himself.