|A government official takes video of
Huoshi Church. (Photo: China Aid)
Translated by Brynne Lawrence and Carolyn Song. Written in English by Ava Collins.
(Guiyang, Guizhou—Dec. 14, 2015) A sympathizer within a municipal government in China’s inland Guizhou province leaked a confidential document on Dec. 6, detailing a plan to “deal with” a prominent house church. Additionally, one of the pastors from the church was detained on Wednesday during a raid involving more than 300 officers.
Guiyang’s Huoshi Church has faced intense persecution from the local government since mid-2015; however, their troubles with authorities first began in 2003. Most recently, the church was raided and sealed on Wednesday, the same day that one of the pastors, Yang Hua, was detained.
In a confidential document, titled “Guiyang Command and Control Center for Dealing with Huoshi Church According to the Law,” the Guiyang Office of Maintaining Social Stability directed officers to target leaders within the church and gather information. Officers were also instructed to interrogate and pressure church members one-on-one to stop attending Huoshi Church events and turn in reports via formal secret documents. A full translation of the document can be found below.
Regarding the secret document, China Aid’s Hong Kong-based reporter Qiao Nong, attempted to call the numbers listed as contacts, including an officer named Xie Xiaohong. The number was not answered the first time, then stayed silent after being picked up the second time. The other two numbers listed returned a message that said “the number you are calling does not exist.”
Three days after the document leak, more than 300 officers confiscated all of the items belonging to the church in a joint raid between the Nanming District Civil Affairs Bureau, the Nanming District Public Security Bureau, and the Nanming District Religious Affairs Bureau. Yang was forcibly taken and administratively detained after trying to prevent authorities from taking a hard drive, according to Su Tianfu, another Huoshi Church pastor. The church doors were sealed following the raid, and meetings were officially banned.
“I asked for the search warrant and a list of confiscated items, but they told me to wait and said we would get them soon. … Please pray for us. Pastor Yang Hua might be placed under criminal detention. All of the pictures [we had] have been deleted, and the couple who took those pictures were taken away. I don’t know if they made it home safely. I have no way to contact them,” Su said.
Several other church members, including Chen Lu, Chen Defu and Huang Yanming, were also detained.
Calls to the Guizhou Provincial Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau were unanswered, and upon calling the Nanming District Religious Affairs Bureau, an officer told the reporter to speak with the local propaganda department after being asked about Huoshi Church.
Since 2003, Huoshi Church has faced pressure of all kinds to disband or join the government-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement. Landlords have threatened to make them move or refused to rent space for church meetings, and numerous activities hosted by the church have been shut down. As the result of a negotiated agreement, authorities allowed the church to hold normal Sunday worship but not large-scale events.
On July 28, a deacon and accountant for the church, Zhang Xiuhong, was secretly detained for crimes of illegal business. The church’s account books were seized, and the church’s bank account was frozen with 640,000 Yuan (U.S. $99,000). After four months, neither Zhang nor her books and the church’s funds have been released.
Last month, starting on Nov. 16, the urban management bureau claimed the space rented by Su and other members for church services had improperly “changed usage plans.” Starting Nov. 22, the fine on the church was 20 Yuan (U.S. $3) per square meter per day. At 648 square meters (6,975 square feet), the fine grows by 12,960 Yuan (U.S. $2,000) per day. Authorities threatened to put the building up for auction if the fines were not paid.
Since a Nov. 29 raid involving more than 30 officers, authorities have found reasons to visit and pressure Huoshi Church every week, from taking photographs, issuing official notices, or demanding fines. A raid on Dec. 6 involved more than 100 officers from the public security bureau, urban management bureau, and other religious departments, who took photographs and videos of the premises.
“They are prosecuting us wantonly now,” Yang said of the Dec. 6 raid, three days before he himself was detained. “They went door-to-door and warned 200 people not to come to Huoshi Church.”
Authorities declared that Huoshi Church is an anti-government cult and have pressured church members to stop meeting using a wide array of tactics. “Government officials would go to find [church members’] parents, their relatives, their friends, and used them to threaten Christians, pressuring them not to participate in Huoshi Church,” Yang said. “The families with children in school are told that their children might not be allowed to attend school any more. They are affecting our children. All manner of measures have been used.”
Yang will be held in administrative detention for five days, though his fellow pastor Su said, “It is hard to say whether this will turn into criminal detention.”
“This secret document clearly shows the Guiyang government has been directly organizing the systematic crackdown against the independent Huoshi church,” Bob Fu, president and founder of China Aid, said. “The unprecedented mobilization that violates the religious freedom of hundreds of peaceful Christian believers is contradictory to China’s own Constitution and its international religious freedoms and human rights protection obligation. We call upon the Chinese leaders to immediately halt this barbaric campaign and hold those abusive government leaders accountable.”
China Aid works to expose abuses of religious freedom, such as those revealed in this secret document and the attacks faced by the Huoshi Church.
According to an investigation by related departments and the principle of “who is in charge, who is responsible,” the Guiyang “Command and Control Center” for dealing with Huoshi Church in accordance with law has decided, after close examination, to issue the list of religious personnel of Huoshi church in your hospital. Please accomplish the related work thoroughly by following the requirements below:
1. Focus, with great importance, on strengthening leadership. The work of dealing with Huoshi church in accordance with law is a political task, and we must treat it with great importance. The principal leaders must personally manage and carefully organize the task to its completion in accordance with the unified arrangement of the municipal authorities.
2. Investigate and verify the facts. [The goal of this operation is] to carefully check the list of religious personnel of “Huoshi” church, to verify the basic information one by one, to master the primary situations one by one, to make sure each individual’s personal information is clear, to clarify the situation, and to remove all omissions. This is to improve the work of propaganda, education, and conversion, to ensure the control of public stability, and to get personnel away from Huoshi church and no longer involved in their activities.
3. Outline a practical scheme and designate specific persons to fulfill [its roles]. According to the list and verification, according to the principle of “one to one, many to one”, make a working plan of maintaining stability. Report to the municipal headquarters office (Municipal Commission of Political and Legal Affairs, Municipal Office of Maintaining Social Stability) before 12:00 on December 4th in a formal secret written document.
Contact: Xie Xiaohong (cell) 13595053697, Zhou Xin (cell) 13765001155, (cell) xxx85381130.
The main leaders are the leaders of the first responsibility. To set up stability controlling teams led by specific leaders to ensure that every “Huoshi church” religious personnel’s control is on the shoulders of the specific individuals who are in charge.
Annex: “Headquarters of Maternal and Children Health Hospital, dealing with Huoshi Church”
December 3, 2015