Suppression of House Churches Strengthened Before Party Congress

By Fang Yuan, Radio Free Asia
October 2, 2007 12:00 am Last Updated: October 2, 2007 12:00 am

According to the China Aid Association (CAA), before the 17th Communist Party Congress, Beijing strengthened control over the activities of house church members. Police also arrested house church members from their usual gathering places, such as Uyghur.

Before the October 1, long holiday, Mr. Xu Haiyong, a house church member in Beijing, was warned by police not to organize a gathering or leave home without reporting to the police. Mr. Xu told Radio Free Asia (RFA) last Friday, “The police just left less than half an hour ago, (he) warned me to report to him first before going out during the long holiday, no rally allowed, and no gathering also.”

New House Church Regulations

According to a CAA report on September 28, many house church members in Beijing have been requested to meet with police and received a warning; they were either forced to cancel their gathering, or leave Beijing. The report also mentioned that police had announced a new policy to control the establishment of house churches.

According to Beijing Evening report at the beginning of September, the police announced a new house leasing regulation, there are five new restrictions, including not renting houses to people carrying on illegal religious activities. Mr. Xu said, although followers in Beijing won't be affected badly because of this regulation, it will certainly affect followers who come into Beijing.

Xu further explained, “There is a church in Fengtai District, Beijing. Their members are mainly migrants from Henan Province; they rented a house by themselves. When police patrolled the area, they found out the house was being used for a church gathering. The police located the owner and asked him to terminate the lease, then warned him to avoid this kind of rental before the 17th Party Congress and 2008 Olympics.”

Besides Beijing, house churches in other places are also suppressed. According to CAA news, two female followers and one male follower in Ili, Uyghur, were arrested by the local National Security Brigade with the charge of illegally gathering.

An RFA journalist called Zhang Mingxuan, one of the house church contacts in the mainland said, “They have been released already, they were arrested without procedure and released without procedure also.

The RFA journalist also phoned the local National Security Brigade office, the official who took the call said, “What right do you have to check with me, you can come to my office to talk about this issue, don't call again.”

Talk to the Media and Your Punishment Doubles

Another local follower, who wants to remain anonymous, told RFA, if caught, followers would be detained at least for 30 days, or sentenced to a forced labor camp for a year. Police also warned them no to accept any journalist interviews, otherwise their punishment would be doubled.

According to Zhang, what happened in Ili, Uyghur, is not an isolated case, “Another nine persons in Jianshi County, Hubei Province, were also arrested, seven of them have been sent to a forced labor camp and two of them were injured because of beating. They were gathering in one's home, and police claimed it an illegal gathering.” said Zhang.