By Brynne Lawrence
(Wuhan, Hubei—Aug. 31, 2015) A local religious affairs bureau in China’s central Hubei province interrupted a house church meeting on Aug. 16 and threatened to arrest its members and raze their establishment if they refused to register with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM).
When around 40 people from Wuhan’s Jinshuixia Church gathered for their Sunday worship service, personnel from the religious affairs bureau and the TSPM disrupted the meeting. According to the church’s pastor, Li Yongguang, “They told us to go register. They said that if we didn’t go register, our house church would be destroyed, and we would be arrested. They said, ‘If you don’t go register, you aren’t Christians. It is necessary for you to have the administration of the government.’”
Even after the church service, authorities continued to harass Li. The pastor said that, after the service ended, an official intercepted him and beat him.
Li also commented that the government wants to demolish the house church even though it is private property. He said, “ … the house we are gathering inside has been bought by fellow church staff members and Christians.”
Despite these warnings, Jinshuixia Church refused to join the TSPM. While discussing the possible consequences of their actions with China Aid’s reporter, Li insisted that he didn’t care if they arrested him or destroyed the church: “(A police officer) said, ‘You don’t listen to me. I could have you arrested.’ I said, ‘You deprive us of our faith … Just do whatever you want, whether it be arresting people or demolishing the house church. I’m not afraid.”
Conceived out of a Communist Party-driven agenda to maintain a tight control over China’s ideology, the TSPM is a legal, government-monitored association of churches in which authorities restrict teachings. Under Chinese law, every church must register with the TSPM and adhere to its regulations; otherwise, it is considered illegal.