The Chinese government has reportedly issued a secret directive to crack down on at least several major house churches in Beijing, a U.S.-based group reported Tuesday.
ChinaAid Association, a religious freedom group with a focus on house churches in China, was informed by sources inside the country that the public security bureau has ordered the Beijing Huajie Plaza to terminate its rental contract with the Beijing Shouwang house church.
The Shouwang house church is one of the largest house churches in the area with more than 1,000 members. For a few years now, it has rented two floors for worship service and Sunday school at the Huajie Plaza. Most of the members are intellects from nearby universities.
This is not the first time authorities have pressured the church. Last May authorities raided the church and most recently in April, government officials forcibly shut down Shouwang Church's Web site.
Reports of similar pressure to prevent church gatherings at other Beijing house churches have also been reported this month, ChinaAid said.
In mid-August, government officials disrupted a house church's baptism service at a river in a Beijing suburb. And the training school of another house church was raided and then banned by authorities.
ChinaAid president Bob Fu believes the recent intensification of crackdown is taking place to prepare for the 60th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party.
"The upcoming 60th anniversary of the CPC is not cause for trampling on rights of peaceful citizens gathering in accordance with their right to religious freedom," Fu said. "ChinaAid urges the Chinese government to revoke the secret directive, which is contrary to international covenants signed by the CPC, to acknowledge the positive societal influence of these house churches, and to allow these churches to meet freely throughout the anniversary period."
Media reports indicate the Oct. 1 celebration promises to be as grand as the Olympics ceremonies, and will include, among other displays of strength and prosperity, extra-stretch limousines, according to the Los Angeles Times.