ICC Note: Harassment of Christians by Zhejiang provincial authorities continues to escalate as the government seeks to further intrude into the life of the church in China. New rules, restrictions and financial reporting requirements go far beyond what could possibly be needed, if any government oversight is needed at all.
By Brynne Lawrence
09/02/2015 China (China Aid)
The persecution of Christians in China’s coastal Zhejiang escalated Aug. 24-26 as local authorities issued new church regulations and arrested and harassed churchgoers.
On Monday, Aug. 24, local officials publicly issued a draft of “Measuring Standard of Zhejiang Province’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau’s Law of Administrative Penalty” to suggest new restrictions for “… religious sites, parties, training organizations, and colleges and their subsequent staff, including teachers, institutional and financial workers …” These new prohibitions will impact churches across Zhejiang.
Churches in Wenzhou received a notice on Aug. 25 from the government, which demanded that they cooperate with a new, exhaustive set of financial investigations. In this document, the authorities required churches to produce reports detailing their cash flow, use of donated money, balance sheets, spread sheets, business activity sheets and sheets regulated by accounting systems for non-profit organizations. All financial documents from the past three years must be submitted.
Before implementing these new stipulations province-wide, the government has decided to pilot them in a few select areas. The areas to undergo the initial trial period, all located in Wenzhou, are Lucheng District, Longwan District, Ouhai District, the cities of Yueqing and Rui’an, Yongjia County, Pingyang County, and eight sub-divisions of Cangnan County, with the exception of Dongtou Island, Wencheng and Taishun. If successful, the regulations will be enforced provincially.
Additionally, the government plans to control local churches through a 10-provision policy that must be posted in every church. These rules instruct the church on how to operate in accordance with the government—instructions that are often in violation of the Christian faith.
To enforce their regulations, the government wants to integrate a Party branch into existing church structures. House churches in Yueqing District already received a notice announcing that the government dispatched several groups of three Party members to their respective locations. So far, the churches have refused this action, triggering scholarly doubt as to whether this initiative will succeed.