Congressional Report on China: 500 Members of ‘Unregistered’ Protestant Church Under House Arrest

Saturday, October 15, 2011

By Penny Starr  October 13, 2011

) – In continuing religious freedom violations, the Chinese government placed 500 members of a Protestant church under house arrest between the fall of 2010 and the fall of 2011 reporting year, according to a Congress-mandated report on China released this week.

In April 2011, the report states, “public security authorities in Beijing repeatedly took into custody and placed under ‘soft detention’ members and leaders of the unregistered Shouwang Church as they attempted to worship outdoors.”

The incident occurred after the landlord of the building where the church meets was pressured by the government to prevent the congregation from accessing the property.

As of April 29, all seven pastors of the church were still in custody, it says.

Releasing the Congressional-Executive Commission on China report at a press conference Wednesday, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said it shows that “China’s leaders have tightened their grip on Chinese society and grown more aggressive in disregarding the very laws and international standards that they claim to uphold.”

On May 10 this year, the report records, public security officials in Zhengzhou city interrupted a Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA) Bible study and took 49 people into custody.

On June 21, CHCA vice-president Shi Enhao was detained for “using superstition to undermine the implementation of the law.” He was subsequently sentenced to serve two years’ “reeducation through labor,” the report states.

It also noted that Fan Yafeng, a legal scholar and house church leader, has been unable to leave his home since Nov. 1 last year.

Beijing tolerates Christian practice through “patriotic” movements, one Protestant and one Catholic.

“House churches” and other unregistered Protestant congregations that do not belong to the Three Self-Patriotic Movement (TSPM) have long faced harassment.

While the TSPM’s claims 16-18 million members, the estimated number of Protestant Christians in China varies widely, ranging from 20 to 100 million.

The TSPM’s state-sanctioned Catholic counterpart, which is not under the authority of the Holy See, has some five million members. An estimated four to 12 million underground Catholics who are loyal to the pope also face continued harassment by the Chinese government.

The report cites that in July 2011 authorities in Shantou, Guangdong province, took four Catholic bishops, Liang Jiansen, Liao Hongquing, Su Yongda and Gan Junqiu, into custody and reportedly forced them to attend the ordination of another bishop that had not been approved by the Holy See.

At least 40 unregistered Chinese bishops are in hiding, or in detention, home confinement or under surveillance, “or have disappeared under suspicious circumstances,” the report states.

“As a nation committed to freedom and democracy and the rule of law, the U.S. must redouble our efforts, work harder to hold China accountable for its actions and ensure that any push for enhanced economic ties with China does not come at the expense of our own economy, national security and our commitment to help the Chinese people secure human rights protections from their own government,” Smith said.

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China comprises members of the House and the Senate, and representatives of the departments of state, labor, and commerce and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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