China has a new way of cracking down on unregistered church activities, reported a ministry that supports persecuted Chinese churches.
The Population Management Office of Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau issued a public notice recently forbidding all owners of rental housing properties from leasing space to house churches for worship services.
In the Sept. 5 notice, the Beijing public security authority also ordered the staff members of the bureau as well as all the local police station to inspect buildings for prohibited tenants, the China Aid Association (CAA) discovered Wednesday.
More specifically, police officers are to warn all owners of rental properties that they should, by their own initiative, refuse to rent their properties to people engaging in "illegal religious activities."
"This is clearly a new tactic to persecute house churches before the 2008 Beijing Olympics is held," a Beijing house church leader told CAA.
China has been widely accused of religious freedom violations and increasing restrictions on unregistered church activities, especially with the approach of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
Christian ministries working with persecuted churches have reported the increased presence of the Public Security Bureau at house church meetings, baptism services and training gatherings. Many house church pastors in Beijing have also been visited and "requested" to leave the city before the Olympics begin.
"These crackdowns on Chinese house church believers and others is not unexpected as the communist government of China tries to put its best foot forward to the world in preparing for the Olympics," commented Dr. Carl Moeller, president/CEO of Open Doors USA, earlier this month.
The ministry noted that the Chinese authorities are pursuing a "softer approach" in order to avoid attracting attention from the global community for its religious freedom abuses.
But reports of arrests and torture of Chinese Christians still persist inside the communist country.
Prominent human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng of Beijing and his family members were reportedly re-arrested after he sent an open letter to the U.S. Congress on Sept. 23. Gao was detained earlier this year and even severely tortured for a number of months before being sentenced to three years with five years probation for his human rights works, according to CAA.
"The continuing arrest of Christians, detention of leaders, and their imprisonment on contrived charges stand in stark contrast to the more politically and socially developed nation that the government of China wishes to portray," read a statement by U.K.-based Release International.
China has an estimated up to 100 million Chinese Christians who worship outside of the state-approved churches.