|Christians gather for a service at Huaqiu Church in
Zunyi, Guizhou, in this undated photo.
(Zunyi, Guizhou—May 13, 2018) Religious affairs bureau personnel met with nine members of an unregistered church in China’s southern Guizhou and tried to coerce them to join the state-run Three-Self Church on Tuesday.
The church’s director, Mr. Mou, said that the religious affairs bureau officials told him and the eight other members of Huaqiu Church present at the meeting that the congregation join the Three-Self Church, which would subject it to censorship and monitoring.
“We told them that we belong to a house church,” Mr. Mou said, using the colloquial term for unregistered church, “and we won’t register at the official church. An official replied that we have to obtain government permission (to hold services) anyway … The officials asked us to ‘be more open’ and instructed us to communicate with pastors from the China Christian Council and the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement.”
The China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement are China’s only two Christian government organizations.
Authorities also warned the church against having foreign connections. Mou said, “(An official) said that I misunderstood the concept of the Three-Self Churches, which, according to him, are Chinese churches that will not cooperate with foreigners.” China views religions that originate from outside of China as attempts from the outside to ideologically infiltrate their country and often harasses religious people who communicate with friends from other nations.
In addition, the Huaqiu Church members received a copy of the newly-revised Religious Affairs Regulations, which went to effect on Feb. 1, and the agents who spoke with them encouraged them to read it, saying that its intention was assimilate Christianity into Chinese society. Known in China as “Sinicization,” this tactic aims to monitor and tailor religions until they fit the government’s agenda and tout its propaganda.
This is not the first time the government has targeted Huaqiu Church. Last June, the police pressured the church to give out members’ personal information. Later, they asked one of the attendees, Cao Xianmo, to sign a letter guaranteeing that he would never attend any services in the future. Otherwise, they said, his grandson would be blocked from the college entrance exam, which is required for those seeking a bachelor’s degree, and would be kept from joining the army. At the same time, the police and the religious affairs bureau jointly forbade the members from bringing their children to church. If a child was found in the church, they would be similarly disqualified from higher education and the military.
ChinaAid exposes abuses, such as those suffered by the members of Huaqiu Church, in order to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.