Singing in the Midst of Darkness

China Aid Association

CHINA

A report on the house-church movement in China- from the China Aid Association 
by Kristyn Komarnicki

As 2007 wound to a close, multiple arrests of peaceful house church worshipers took place in various Chinese provinces. Their crime? Celebrating Christmas,an act that had become, without public announcement, a punishable offense. According to sources reporting to the China Aid Association (CAA), China’s central government had issued a secret order in early December that no official media in China should publically acknowledge Sheng Dan Jie (Christmas). One Christian leader in Shanghai was beaten so severely for organizing a Christmas celebration bythe PSB that his family members sent him to the emergency room of a local hospital for treatment.Persecution of the house church in China is steadily increasing in intensity and scope as the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing draw near. Last June the Chinese government mandated a crackdown on “unregistered religious sites” and “illegal Christian activities.” In a secret document leaked to the press through CAA by a high-ranking government official, the world learned that the Chinese government planned a systematic, nationwide crackdown on the underground house church in China in preparation for the Olympic Games. Evidence of this policy is found in the number and geographical sweep of recent arrests, the closures of “illegal Christian businesses,” and the detention of well-known and respected members of the Christian community in China. In November Australian businessman Daniel Ng and his wife were put under housearrest while their multi-milliondollar Enoch Biological Science and Technology Co., Ltd., located in Guangdong province, was shut down and their assets frozen. According to officials, Ng was found guilty of promoting Christianity through the distribution of literature not sanctioned by the state. As an expression of his faith, Ng was indeed in the habit of freely distributing Christian books and periodicals to his employees and members of the community. Government officials view him as a threat to national security, in spite of the fact that he has personally poured millions of dollars into the surrounding impoverished community. Pending their trial, Ng and his wife have been denied the right to leave China to see their children. They have written an open letter to President Hu Jintao in hopes of an appeal. In the same month, police officials raided owner Shi Weihan’s Holy Spirit Bookstore, confiscating books and arresting Shi for “publishing illegal religious literature.” Under current Chinese law, only Christian literature that has been approved by the state can be printed and sold. A conviction would have meant up to 10 years in prison, but Shi was released in early January 2008, thanks in large part to pressure from both the international and domestic Christian community. Such pressure had also led to the Communist Party’s conference on the collective study of religion and religious policy, held on December 18, 2007. During the conference, President Hu Jintao reiterated his government’s stance on the “implementation of free religious policy.” While the government’s decision in Shi’s case should be lauded, hundreds of similarly charged prisoners still remain in custody, as in the case of Xinjiang church leader Zhou Heng, who was arrested in August 2007 for receiving “illegally printed” Bibles and who continues to serve an unjust sentence behind bars. Zhou’s case and many others reveal the Chinese government’s inconsistency, especially in those cases that receive little or no international attention. The September 2007 kidnapping and torture of Christian lawyer Li Heping for his advocacy on behalf of Christian and human rights organizations is another blatant example of the Chinese government’s commitment to crack down on the underground church, as is the massive arrest of nearly 300 house-church leaders in Shandong province in December. A youth summer Bible camp in Yutai province was also closed in August and its leaders arrested on charges of conducting illegal religious activities. Church leaders in Gansu province were detained in May for distributing Christian flyers to Muslims; one pastor was sentenced to 18 months’ detention in October. In light of these stories and thousands more like them, it is evident that the Chinese government’s touting of religious freedom and tolerance is a mere smokescreen erected for the benefit of the international community, veiling its true intentions to repress and eradicate underground believers in China. The government’s own document of June 2007 bears witness to the fact that a nationwide crackdown on house churches is in full force. The Olympic Games will come and go this year, and persecution of the Chinese house church is sure to persist, but hope prevails among Chinese Christians. When asked whether he wanted CAA to publicize news of his Christmas beating and arrest, a pastor in Shanghai replied, “No, because we know there are still thousands of unreached that God has entrusted us to reach out to in this city. My bloodshed onChristmas Eve is not worth mentioning compared to the cause of the gospel.” It seems we have entered yet another year of revival in China.  Bob Fu founded the China Aid Association in 2002 to draw internationalattention to China’s gross human rights violations againsthouse-church Christians. He has testified before many organizations,including the House International Relations Committee, the USCommission on International Religious Freedom, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and the UN Commission onHuman Rights. Fu is a PhD candidate of Westminster TheologicalSeminary in Philadelphia, a visiting professor at Oklahoma WesleyanUniversity, and editor-in-chief of the Chinese Law and ReligionMonitor Journal. Learn more about his story in the sidebar “Freed to Fight for Others.”


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: [email protected] 
Website: www.chinaaid.org