China Aid Association
(Beijng – April 24, 2011) Beijing police restricted at least 500 Christians to their homes on Sunday in an attempt to prevent one of the capital’s largest house churches, ShouwangChurch, from holding an outdoor worship service to celebrate Easter.
Putting half of Shouwang Church’s members under house arrest did not, however, stop many of Shouwang’s other members from showing up, as they had the two previous Sundays, at the church’s designated outdoor meeting site in the Zhongguancun area of northwest Beijing’s Haidian district, ChinaAid sources said.
As happened the previous two Sundays, police and police vehicles were waiting at the plaza, and church members were bundled onto a waiting bus. Other church members were able to assemble in small groups in nearby restaurants, where they proceeded to hold their Easter worship service.
Based on an incomplete count in the early afternoon, at least 34 Shouwang Christians had been detained by police. Twenty-four were known to be held in various local police stations. Eight were in transit and at least two were unaccounted for.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Chinese authorities chose to disrupt peaceful worshippers who were simply celebrating Easter today,” ChinaAid founder and president Pastor Bob Fu said.
“By doing this, Chinese government again demonstrates its total disregard for Chinese citizens’ basic religious freedom and freedom of assembly. We continue to call upon the free world to stand firm in solidarity with the persecuted faithful in China.”
Among those who were held under informal house arrest were Shouwang’s pastors and lay leaders, including founding and senior pastor Jin Tianming. These church leaders have not been allowed out of their homes for more than two weeks. Also detained were all the members of the Shouwang choir, reputedly the best of the Beijing house church choirs. The choir had been practicing for months for the Easter celebration.
The church-state standoff has attracted world-wide interest, with news reports spanning the globe from Sofia to Singapore, and comes amidst a larger crackdown on all forms of dissent in China that observers say is the harshest in a decade.
Shouwang, which has 1,000 members, has repeatedly made clear that its outdoor worship is not political in any way and that it has no choice after having been forced out of its rented space earlier this month due to government pressure. It has been unable to take possession of property it had purchased more than a year ago for $4 million because the seller, also under pressure from the government, has refused to hand over the keys.
ChinaAid, which was founded in 2002 to draw international attention to China's gross human rights violations against house church Christians, monitors and reports on religious freedom violations in China. Drawing on a wide network of sources throughout the country, ChinaAid issues frequent news releases on cases of religious persecution in China. The Midland, Texas-based organization also assists victims of religious persecution to assert their rights and works to promote the rule of law in China.
ChinaAid has earned an international reputation as a reliable source of the most up-to-date information about religious persecution and the overall human rights situation in China. Fu has testified before many government and international organizations, including various U.S. congressional committees, the European Parliament and the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.
Rachel Sparkman, Media Coordinator
Tel: (888) 889-7757, or Rachel@ChinaAid.org
Mark Shan, CAA Spokesperson
Tel: (267) 205-5210, or Mark@ChinaAid.org
Website: www.ChinaAid.org and www.MonitorChina.org