Several Christians belonging to China’s Early Rain Covenant Church, which has faced substantial persecution over the last few years, have received eviction notices with no stated reason from their landlords who appear to be under pressure from the communist government.
Shu Qiong and her husband are among the families from the Chengdu-based ERCC who received eviction notices, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.
When the Christian couple received a phone call from the landlord about their eviction, they asked if he was being threatened by the government to force them out but he denied it, offering to refund their breach penalty and rent.
Shu told the landlord that she understood that he was also under pressure.
“I only ask God to remember your grievances. I can understand the pressure you are under,” she was quoted as telling the landlord, in part.
She added, “But I am a Christian, and although I am poor, so poor that I need to rent a house and be driven around, I still know that it is not pleasing to God to covet unjust money in this way.” Shu and her husband refused to move out until the lease was up, as they had not broken any laws. She added that she and her husband are prepared to face the legal consequences of their decision if they must.
“China’s ongoing crackdown against ERCC is the prime example of how Beijing continues to disregard religious freedom for its people even if the Constitution guarantees this right,” Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, previously said.
“Since the incarceration of ERCC Pastor Wang Yi and elder Qing Derfu in 2018, the government has not ceased its harassment and persecution of the house church. The government’s goal is to see all house churches go extinct so they can fully control Christianity in China.”
Meanwhile, Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 90-year-old longtime critic of China’s communist regime who was arrested in Hong Kong in May for his role in a now-defunct humanitarian relief organization that helped people who participated in the large-scale 2019 pro-democracy protests, stood trial last month.
During the trial, Hong Kong police testified against Zen and the judge ruled that his case could move forward, ICC said, adding that his next court appearance has been scheduled for Oct. 26.
If convicted, he faces a fine. However, Zen is also under investigation for “colluding with foreign forces,” for which he could face a life sentence.
Zen, a former bishop of Hong Kong, fled Shanghai for Hong Kong about seven decades ago after the communists took over China. The Vatican, as well as many international organizations, had condemned his arrest in May.
In 1997, China had agreed to a “one country, two systems” arrangement to allow certain freedoms for Hong Kong when it received the city back from British control. Critics contend the security law imposed by China recently undercuts the promised autonomy.
Open Doors USA, which monitors the persecution of Christians in over 60 countries, estimates that China has more than 97 million Christians, many of whom worship in unregistered or “illegal” underground churches.
The five state-sanctioned religious groups in China are the Buddhist Association of China, the Chinese Taoist Association, the Islamic Association of China, the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
Even the organizations affiliated with the five authorized religions can be subject to surveillance and limitations.
ICC documented more than 100 incidents of Christian persecution in China between July 2020 and June 2021 as the country’s communist regime sought to forcefully convert independent religious groups into mechanisms of the Chinese Communist Party.