Photo: Beijing Shouwang Church held worship on a snowy day in 2011 (ChinaAid source)
(Beijing, China—February 10, 2023) On February 8, Shouwang Church held a church service at a place they rented in Kemao Market, Zhongguancun, Beijing when it was interrupted by police. The branch of Haidian District Bureau of Public Security, Culture Enforcement Brigade, Bureau of Civil Affairs, Bureau of Religious and Ethnic Affairs suddenly broke into the worship place while the church members were singing hymns. They announced that the gathering held by Shouwang Church was illegal pursuant to the new Regulations of Religious Affairs and the shutdown decision issued by Bureau of Civil Affairs.
Afterwards, government officials across departments kept the ID records of each Christian attending the service and even interrogated some of them. Around 11:30 PM, Pastor Zhang Xiaofeng was taken to the Zhongguancun police station. The next evening, February 9, Zhang Hui, Pastor Zhang’s wife, received the notice issued by Haidian police that her husband will be detained for 10 days.
Beijing Shouwang Church was planted by the Pastor Jin Tianming couple in the 1990’s. Pastor Jin was called to plant the church after graduating from Qinghua University in 1993. Initially, they met at congregants’ homes, then they rented conference rooms with the number going up. The church rapidly grew from 10 people in the 1990’s to 1000 people before it was shut down in 2011. Most of the congregants are middle class or intellectuals including professors, doctors, Ph.D., lawyers, students and even Chinese Communist Party members. There were a few dozen Bible study groups, choirs, and Bible schools. The church became a representation of the urban church movement and grew to become the largest house church in Beijing.
Shouwang Church was targeted for persecution by the Chinese government because of refusing to join the government-sanctioned three-self churches. It has been raided by police relentlessly since 2004. Pastors were required to speak to authorities, church members were taken away, the landlords of the church’s rentals forcibly terminated the lease and refunded the rent because of the pressure given by police, and even the church’s legal purchase of property was denied. Pastor Jin was put under house arrest in Beijing from March 2011 through October 2020, 9.5 years in total, and three shifts of police watched at the apartment door each day. You Guanghui, an elder of the church, is still under surveillance today. In 2018, Pastor Jin stepped down from the lead pastor position of Shouwang Church and was succeeded by Pastor Zhang Xiaofeng.
On March 23, 2019, Bejing City Haidian District Bureau of Civil Affairs, Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs, and Bureau of Public Security took a joint action and officially shut down Beijing Shouwang Church. The church members claimed that over 20 police officers were in attendance to announce the the church’s closure. Later, multiple meeting spots of the church were searched and sealed, Christians were taken away for interrogation, and the church’s possessions were confiscated. Shouwang Church decided to cancel the outdoor worship earlier in 2020 and moved to meeting online in small groups. According to the church, it has held outdoor service since April 10, 2011, and over 600 outdoor services were held by Sunday August 7, 2022
Shouwang Church published in a prayer request sent out on February 10, 2023:
“We don’t agree on the decrees of the New Regulations of Religious Affairs and government’s approach to our normal gatherings. We believe that government’s raid on our gatherings and detention of Pastor Xiaofeng are persecution against the church. Meanwhile, we also believe what the Lord Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who have been. persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you (1 Peter 4:12). Let’s pray with one heart at this moment, which is the Lord’s command, pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44), also intercede for ourselves and our church, particularly lift up Pastor Xiaofeng.”
The church also sent out four prayer requests, asking brothers and sisters of the Kingdom to pray for them:
- May the Lord have mercy on authorities and enlighten their heart so that they could turn to God soon and use the power granted to them by God in a godly way;
- May God strengthen brothers and sisters’ faith. If we hold fear and restlessness, may the Lord help up get rid of them so that we can still be filled with peace and joy in hardships.
- May the Lord protect the church, lead the church ahead, and revive what He does among us.
- May the Lord be present with Pastor Xiaofeng, give him peace, and let him have sufficient rest while in the 10-day detention. We hope the detention becomes his retreat and he can know more about the Lord’s will on the future of the church; may the Lord protect Pastor Xiaofeng’s health as well as Zhang Hui—his wife and two kids.