China Aid Association
(Mengla county, Yunnan—Aug. 21, 2014) Ethnic minority Christians in southwest China’s Yunnan province have been harassed by local police, religious affairs officials and authorities from other local government departments who have threatened to ban their small house church meetings.
Zion House Church in Mengla, part of the autonomous region of Xishuangbanna, a favorite of foreign tourists, was founded by a former drug addict, Rong Xiahu, who credits his conversion to Christianity with enabling him to have a fresh start in life. Since his conversion, Rong, who is in his 30s and a member of the Jingpo minority group, has led a simple and quiet life with his wife and two children. After several friends and family members also became Christian, Rong started the house church.
Earlier this year, Rong and his church became the focus of investigation. Domestic Security Protection agents have questioned him over two days, with one afternoon session lasting for three hours. In addition to asking Rong how he makes a living, the agents wanted to know if he or the church had been in contact with foreigners or foreign organizations and what their political views were.
Domestic Security Protection agents have also gone to the Communist Party School where Rong is taking some classes in preparation for signing up to take the national college entrance exam and investigated him there.
On May 16, a joint law enforcement team made up of local police officers, Domestic Security Protection agents and officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau and the Committee of Politics and Law searched his home and told him he should join the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement church.
“They searched everywhere for name lists and asked for phone numbers,” Rong said. “They said we were meeting illegally and told us not to meet anymore or they would ban our meetings.”
Three weeks later, on June 8, local authorities broke up a Sunday worship service at Zion House Church.
“At about 8:30 a.m., while the seven or eight of us friends and family members who had gathered were planning to read the Bible and pray, an official from the Religious Affairs Bureau suddenly showed up and said ours was an illegal meeting and that state law doesn’t allow us to meet at home. If this were to happen again, they will give us a written notice and then take people away [into custody].”
Rong and the others argued that there was nothing unlawful about their meeting, pointing out that there is no law prohibiting Christians from gathering in their own homes.
“We just said we were engaging in normal religious activities that did not violate the law or disturb public order,” Rong said. “But, he said that there is a big church (a Three-Self church) in the county seat and that we must not hold our Sunday service at home. If we gather at home, he said, we are in violation of religious regulations and they will ask Domestic Security Protection agents to come to deal with the problem.”