Christian Students in China Barred From Going to College Unless They Stop Going to Church

(Photo: Reuters/Aly Song)Students attend a class at the Oxford International College in Changzhou, Jiangsu province January 10, 2013. The website for a private school in Changzhou, one of China's smaller cities, features blue blazers and plaid skirts, music classes and an ivy-clad brick doorway -- all the trappings of the British school system designed to appeal to wealthy Chinese parents. In choosing a smaller city, Oxford International College - no relation to the British university - is tapping into a growing market of upwardly-mobile Chinese willing to pay as much as 260,000 yuan (,700) a year for a Western-style education and a ticket to college overseas. Picture taken January 10, 2013.

Chinese students attending a Christian house church in the central Guizhou province are being threatened by government authorities who are warning them that if they don't stop going to the church, they will be barred from going to college.

"This notice was sent to all of the schools in Huaqiu," explained Mou, the person that human-rights advocacy group China Aid said was in charge of Huaqiu Church. "They (public security) intend to cleanse us and ask us to join the Three-Self Church."

The house church members have also reportedly been pressured into signing a document vowing that they will not take minors into the church. Additionally, parents have been told that they will be sued if they bring their children to church, while the children themselves will not be allowed to take the college entrance exam or be admitted into the army.

House churches in China face regular crackdowns from the Communist Party, which fears the rise of Christianity in the world's most populous nation, with followers of Christ outnumbering members of the Party.

Even state-run churches have faced religious freedom challenges in the past couple of years, with an ongoing-campaign continuing to tear down church buildings and church rooftop-crosses over alleged building code violations in several Chinese provinces. Protests from Christian pastors and church members have led to hundreds of arrests.

China Aid explains that children younger than 18 are not allowed to receive any religious education. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement, a government-run Protestant church, does not permit the "brainwashing" of teenagers or children by bringing them to religious services.

Mou added: "Yesterday morning, I questioned a government official in our township, saying, 'We do not accept the way you handled our church's public meetings. … What regulations does the central government have prohibiting [church] meetings? Let us see them.' He said, 'The higher level leadership ordered us to do this; we are just doing [as they say].' Huaqiu is in a dark place."

Churches in the Pingyang County, Wenzhou have meanwhile been told to hand over all of their tithes and donations to government officials, the Texas-based human rights agency said in a previous report. One local Christian man, who wasn't named, said government officials interfere in church affairs and seek to manage the donations that churches receive, as well as their long-term projects.

"We have to obtain their (the government's) permission if we would like to buy equipment or decorate the church. We will have to ask for permission for any expenses more than a few thousand yuan ($300)," the Christian man said.

He added that government officials have also asked to speak to the congregations during services, and church leaders have had to set up tables for them.