China: House church preacher, wife face charges for homeschooling children

A room that used to house Sunday School classes is pictured at a church in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, China December 18, 2017.
A room that used to house Sunday School classes is pictured at a church in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, China December 18, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Christian Shepherd)

A court in China’s southern Fujian province has summoned a house church preacher and his wife for not sending his children to public school and homeschooling them, according to a watchdog.

Preacher You Guanda of Dianqian Church in Xiamen city and his wife have been asked to report to Shaowu Court on the morning of Sept. 23, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.

They were charged with “custody disputes” by the local government, ICC said.

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Dianqian Church, which is a house church that follows the Reformed tradition, has been facing harassment from the provincial government for the last few years. Dianqian is the name of the village the church is situated in.

Last June, local communist authorities disbanded the house church after the preacher and other members purchased a new property for residence, homeschooling and worship. It was forcibly demolished this year.

The church leadership said last year that the government had long been monitoring the church’s activities, according to China Aid, a U.S.-based group that exposes abuses, helps the persecuted and promotes religious freedom, human rights and rule of law. “Some (church leaders and members) have been required to speak to police and other officials. Others experienced illegal treatment.”

Last March, China’s Ministry of Education urged authorities nationwide to deter nontraditional educational institutions from operating, and threatened to punish parents who send their children to such facilities, the magazine Sixth Tone reported earlier.

Schools in China have been teaching children that Christianity is an “evil cult.” A 2019 report by Chinese persecution watchdog Bitter Winter said children were being taught to oppose religion, encouraged to question the beliefs of family members and report those closest to them to authorities.

China has been cracking down on underground churches and Christian activists for years.

In 2015, more than 1,000 crosses were removed from church roofs and entire church buildings were destroyed across the Zhejiang province.

The Chinese government continued its campaign against Christianity during the country’s coronavirus outbreak by destroying crosses and demolishing a church while people were on lockdown.

More than 60 million Christians live in China, at least half of whom worship in unregistered or “illegal” underground churches.

China is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.

In addition to Christians, the communist government continues to persecute and monitor members of various religious minorities, including the detention of over 1 million Uighur and other Muslims in western China over the last three years.

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