China shut down a well-known 1,000-member Beijing church over the weekend and then changed the locks to prevent members from returning to the building.
The congregation, Shouwang Church, made worldwide headlines five years ago when it stood up to Chinese leaders and refused to register with the government. Its senior pastor, Jin Tian-ming, remains under house arrest.
In the latest confrontation, more than 20 Chinese police and government officials raided a children’s Bible school class Saturday and told church leaders the congregation could no longer meet, according to International Christian Concern (ICC).
Chinese officials also ordered the pastor, Zhang Xiaofeng, to sign a document claiming the church “has conducted activities as a social organization without registration, which is in violation of Regulations of Religious Affairs and Regulations on the Registration and Management of Social Organizations.”
Government officials then changed the building’s locks. Shouwang is one of the largest house churches in Beijing, according to ICC.
Churches are required to register in China. Registration comes with restrictions on how the Christian faith can be practiced.
“China’s disregard of religious freedom for its 1.4 billion citizens is deplorable,” said Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager. “Christians outside of the state-sanctioned churches can no longer worship without fearing of harassment, detention or even imprisonment. Even official churches face increasing pressure to exalt the Communist Party over God. The international community should continue to press China over its human rights abuses until it is willing to make positive change.”
Said Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, “China’s oppression against house churches will not be loosened. A systematic, in-the-name-of-law crackdown will continue to take place.”