Beijing Churches Cry Out Against Communist Authorities as Religious Crackdown 'Gets Worse and Worse'

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during the opening session of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 18, 2017.
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during the opening session of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 18, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Aly Song)

At least 34 unofficial Protestant house churches in Beijing, China, have signed a joined statement sent to Communist Party officials against what they say is an ongoing crackdown against believers, warning that the situation is getting worse.

"The normal religious lives of believers have been violated and obstructed, causing serious emotional harm and damage to their sense of patriotism, as well as causing social conflict," read the statement, as translated by Radio Free Asia.

They added that when it comes to the arrests of pastors, the disruption of services, and the destruction of churches, "the situation seems to be getting worse and worse."

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The underground churches insisted that they have the right to freedom of religion as guaranteed by the country's constitution.

"The belief that religious believers are some kind of dissenting force, to be managed and rectified, or a target for containment or direct attack, is misguided, and a fundamental error.

"House churches have a strong desire to contribute to a necessary dialogue to achieve better relations with the government in the new era."

Beijing churches have been increasingly targeted in recent months. Earlier in July, government officials barricaded the campus of Zion Church, the largest house church in the capital.

Christians were prevented from gathering for worship, with authorities apparently calling their faith a "cult."

"The latest crackdown against house churches in China is reflective of President Xi [Jinping]'s disregard for religious freedom. China is experiencing the worst Christian persecution since Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution," said Gina Goh, International Christian Concern's regional manager, in response to the incident.

Elsewhere in China, 70 police officers recently destroyed Liangwang Catholic Church, with videos online depicting the rubble it was reduced to.

The government argued the demolition was necessary in order to build residential housing and a railway station, though the church community insisted that it owned the building, which had been registered since 2006.

A pastor with the surname Dong of Beijing Olive Tree Church said that the ministries are signing the latest statement because they feel they must speak out.

"I think they have a mistaken understanding of us. We aren't a cult, but a law-abiding group," the pastor said.

"I hope they will act in accordance with the constitution and in accordance with the law."

Dong, along with Xu Yonghai, an elder of the Beijing house church Christian Saints Love Fellowship, revealed that police are monitoring their phone lines.

"There was a correspondent based in Beijing who wanted to come to one of our services, but the police got there first and wouldn't let him come upstairs," Xu revealed. "I'm certain that they got their information from listening in to our phone calls."

Xu was not optimistic that authorities will end their persecution of Christians, however.

"They won't listen to us just because we speak out," the church elder admitted. "It's far more likely that churches will have to put up with further forms of persecution as a result of speaking out."

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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