|Plainclothes officers arrest a house church
pastor during a service in Luoning County,
Henan in early March. (Photo: ChinaAid)
(Nanyang, Henan—March 26, 2018) Authorities across many regions in China’s central Henan province have started going door-to-door, forbidding all meetings of Christian citizens and disbanding house church groups.
In a crackdown which started on Feb. 1, house churches in Henan have been interrupted and forbidden from gathering. Even meetings of only two people are not allowed. The government has threatened to issue subpoenas or fines to any who defy the new orders and continue to gather.
Though Christianity is not illegal in China, the Communist Party requires that all religious activities take place within government-operated churches. The Protestant branch of these state churches is the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, but many Chinese Christians fear that the Three-Self churches are more concerned with preaching loyalty to the Chinese state and Communist Party than true Christian doctrine. Because of this, Christians often meet outside of the official system in underground groups called “house churches,” risking their safety to do so.
As of March 19, more than 100 house churches have been shut down in the city of Nanyang. According to the officers carrying out the crackdown, the orders were given by “a superior government organization,” but they refused to clarify which organization was responsible. Officials have also issued notices to landlords in the province, forbidding them from renting space to any church groups.
“All gatherings are banned,” an anonymous Christian in Zhumadian, Henan said in an interview. “The condition is bad in Henan. The officials from village committees knocked on the doors of every household and announced this government decision. Christian billboards, crosses, and couplet banners were also removed.”
Another Christian in Nanyang said that they had heard that the Chinese government was experimenting with the crackdown, and that if it was deemed successful, these methods would be put into effect all over the country.
China’s revised Religious Affairs Regulations went into effect on Feb. 1, paving the way for stricter government control over religion throughout China. Since then, persecution incidents across the country have been on the rise, from house church shutdowns for underground Christians to detaining predominantly Muslim minorities and forcing them to learn and recite propaganda pieces.
ChinaAid reports on persecution events, such as the ongoing persecution in Henan, in order to promote human rights, religious freedom, and rule of law in China.