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ICC Note: In a courageous move, 34 house churches in Beijing issued a statement on Tuesday asking the government to respect their freedom to practice religion under Chinese Constitution. Many unregistered churches are under increasing scrutiny under the newly revised religious regulations – their services interrupted, churches shut down, and members harassed.

07/24/2018 China (Radio Free Asia) – Dozens of unofficial Protestant “house churches” in Beijing issued a statement on Tuesday calling on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to respect their constitutional freedom of religion.

In the wake of recent revisions to rules governing the activities of religious believers, many church members have suffered disruption to religious services and prayer gatherings, the statement, signed by 34 churches, said.

“The normal religious lives of believers have been violated and obstructed, causing serious emotional harm and damage to their sense of patriotism, as well as causing social conflict,” the statement said, adding that “the situation seems to be getting worse and worse.”

The statement called on the authorities to respect freedom of religion enshrined in China’s constitution, which contains many rights that are not upheld in practice in the one-party state.

“The belief that religious believers are some kind of dissenting force, to be managed and rectified, or a target for containment or direct attack, is misguided, and a fundamental error,” it said.

“House churches have a strong desire to contribute to a necessary dialogue to achieve better relations with the government in the new era,” it said, in a nod to President Xi Jinping’s slogan, “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era.”

A pastor surnamed Dong with the Beijing Olive Tree Church, which was among the groups that signed, said house church followers felt they had to speak out in the face of worsening persecution by religious affairs officials and police.

“I think they have a mistaken understanding of us,” Dong said. “We aren’t a cult, but a law-abiding group.”

“I hope they will act in accordance with the constitution and in accordance with the law,” he said, adding that his cell phone is likely being monitored by police.

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