China Launches Crackdown on House Churches, Secret Document Shows
We urge the Chinese government to stop this kind of illegal secret practice if China intends to be a true respected responsible stakeholder in the international community.”
By Stefan J. Bos
Tuesday, 13 November 2007 China (BosNewsLife)– China’s Communist government has ordered a crackdown on mushrooming underground house churches in a key province as part of a nationwide plan against devoted Christians across the country, according to a secret document leaked Tuesday, November 13, and obtained by BosNewsLife.
The respected advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA) said the order was issued July 24, 2007, by the Duodao District Committee Office of Jingmen Municipality of the Communist Party of China in Hubei province.
The document entitled ‘Notice on Forwarding Work Plan for Special Administration on Christian Activities in Duodao District’ was apparently sent to all townships, Party committees, and other relevant government officials. Several government institutions, including the District Bureau for Religious Affairs of Ethnic Minorities and a branch of one China ‘s main law enforcement agencies, the Public Security Bureau, were involved in formulating the secret plan, the document revealed.
Although it “was issued on a local level it does reveal that the central government has directed a national campaign specifically against unregistered Christian house churches” CAA told BosNewsLife. The secret campaign was launched based on information from, among others, “leading comrades” in the national government, local authorities and a government-backed conference “on special administration on Christianity,” according to the document.
CAA said it learned that China ‘s government “convened a secret National Christian Working Seminar” to discuss the pending crackdown. The document said China wants to “Fight against
infiltration activities by hostile overseas forces under the guise of Christianity and safeguard the stability of society and in the religious arena.”
It also urged government-sanctioned patriotic Christian organizations “to work closely with the public security agents”, to “establish a socialized mechanism of management of religious
affairs.” The crackdown started June 15 and ends November 30 and includes “propaganda, actions, and inspection,” the document showed.
It suggested authorities to also take action against “self-appointed missionaries” or house church leaders, by “education” and by “ordering them to stop their activities and crack down
on their activities according to law.” For unregistered churches, public security agencies have been asked to “work with departments in charge of religious affairs and resolutely stop
their activities. In the meantime, the leaders of the site should be investigated and due penalties rendered. All their illegally acquired income shall be confiscated.”
The paper also urged “public security agencies” to “resolutely crack down” and “abolish” the “unauthorized churches” who have been proven to preach “heresies, religious fanaticism, feudal superstition, or harming the physical and mental health of the people, and violating the laws of the state.”
“The whole campaign was asked to be carried out in super secrecy,” CAA said, referring to a key paragraph in the document. “Without approval from the district’s leading team for the special administration, no agencies in all the areas shall disclose the information in this document to any media. All the documents for the special administration are classified as confidential and must be printed in serial numbers. After the documents are used, they shall be stored at a confidential room and their content must not be disclosed,” the document said.
CAA told BosNewsLife it also received sets of registration forms from Anhui province where believers and their relatives are allegedly forced “to fill these forms including their personal data” such as when they became Christians, where the meeting took place, as well as their home and work addresses.
“This campaign is another clear example of absolute violation of the relevant international human rights covenants and China’s own [constitutional regulations regarding] the protection of citizens [and] religious freedom, said CAA President and former Chinese house pastor Bob Fu in a statement to BosNewsLife. “We urge the Chinese government to stop this kind of illegal secret practice if China intends to be a true respected responsible stakeholder in the international community.”
Human rights groups have said China stepped up actions against Christians ahead of next years’ Olympic Games in Beijing amid fears among officials that missionaries, church leaders and others will use the event to spread Christianity in the Communist-run nation.
The Communist Party, atheistic in its ideology, only allows ‘official’ churches to operate, but a majority of China ‘s over 100 million Christians prefer to worship in unregistered house churches, according to several human rights investigators. Chinese officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the secret document. They have however denied China violates religious rights.