Zhejiang authorities issue new church regulations, increase Christian arrests

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Photo: Human rights lawyers and
Christians have been detained for 
protecting Zhejiang churches like this 
one fromhaving their crosses removed.
(Source: China Aid)
China Aid
By Brynne Lawrence

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—Sept. 2, 2015) The persecution of Christians in China’s coastal Zhejiang escalated Aug. 24-26 as local authorities issued new church regulations and arrested and harassed churchgoers.

On Monday, Aug. 24, local officials publicly issued a draft of “Measuring Standard of Zhejiang Province’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau’s Law of Administrative Penalty” to suggest new restrictions for “… religious sites, parties, training organizations, and colleges and their subsequent staff, including teachers, institutional and financial workers …” These new prohibitions will impact churches across Zhejiang.

Churches in Wenzhou received a notice on Aug. 25 from the government, which demanded that they cooperate with a new, exhaustive set of financial investigations. In this document, the authorities required churches to produce reports detailing their cash flow, use of donated money, balance sheets, spread sheets, business activity sheets and sheets regulated by accounting systems for non-profit organizations. All financial documents from the past three years must be submitted.

Before implementing these new stipulations province-wide, the government has decided to pilot them in a few select areas. The areas to undergo the initial trial period, all located in Wenzhou, are Lucheng District, Longwan District, Ouhai District, the cities of Yueqing and Rui’an, Yongjia County, Pingyang County, and eight sub-divisions of Cangnan County, with the exception of Dongtou Island, Wencheng and Taishun. If successful, the regulations will be enforced provincially.

Additionally, the government plans to control local churches through a 10-provision policy that must be posted in every church. These rules instruct the church on how to operate in accordance with the government—instructions that are often in violation of the Christian faith.

To enforce their regulations, the government wants to integrate a Party branch into existing church structures. House churches in Yueqing District already received a notice announcing that the government dispatched several groups of three Party members to their respective locations. So far, the churches have refused this action, triggering scholarly doubt as to whether this initiative will succeed.

Meanwhile, Zhejiang authorities harassed dozens of Christians in a 24-hour span of Aug. 25- 26. According to one Christian, this was the largest effort on the part of the government to subdue Christianity since July.

According to a message from the wife of recently released Pastor Huang Yizi, officials broke into the couple’s home on Aug. 25, and sequestered them by blocking the entrance. When Huang was finally allowed to leave on the next morning, officials from the public security bureau tailed him despite officially stating that they would not begin watching him until Aug. 27. They failed to state their reason for monitoring him on Aug. 26.

On Aug. 25, authorities also arrested a local church member named Wang Zhen and Yan Xiaojie, a missionary. Their relatives have yet to receive any official information.

Similarly, on Aug. 26, people who claimed to be police apprehended Tengqiao Church’s associate pastors Wei Wenhai, Zhou Jian and Cheng Congping but neglected to give any formal statement to their families.

Officials forcibly took church elder Wang Yunxian that same day and summoned several church members, including a pastor, to “drink tea with the police.” At around the same time, the Taishun County Board of Education interrogated a Christian teacher from Hengkeng Church.

According to a Christian, the authorities already released some of those they arrested, but the others remain in police custody.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
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