Beijing’s Shouwang Church has become the fourth major underground church raided by authorities in China during the past seven months. The raids have led some to speculate the Chinese government may be preparing for a broader crackdown against Christians.
“China’s oppression against house churches will not be loosened,” ChinaAid President Bob Fu said, according to International Christian Concern (ICC), an organization that monitors persecution of believers worldwide. “A systematic, in-the-name-of-law crackdown will continue to take place,” Fu said.
More than 20 police officers raided a Bible school class at one Shouwang Church location March 23, ICC reported. Attendees were taken to a nearby school, questioned and asked to sign a letter pledging not to attend the church anymore. They refused to sign.
Meanwhile, believers from another Shouwang location also were detained and brought to the school for questioning, according to ICC.
All the church members were released, but authorities changed the locks at the locations of both raids, according to media reports. Shouwang — which has about 1,000 worship attendees — and all its subsidiary organizations were closed, reported ChinaAid, a group that promotes religious freedom in China.
The church said in a statement it will change its venue and continue to meet, according to ICC.
Shouwang founding pastor Jin Tianming and two other of the church’s pastors have been under house arrest since 2011, ICC reported. The church has been accused of failing to register with the government as a “social organization.” As a result, according to ChinaAid, Shouwang has had its “multi-million dollar property” confiscated and been forced to meet outdoors — even during inclement weather.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom “condemns Saturday’s raid of Shouwang Church by Chinese police officers, part of #China’s continuing and escalating crackdown on house churches,” USCIRF tweeted March 26. “Shouwang Church has regularly faced persecution for refusing to join the state-sanctioned church.”
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Source: Baptist Press