Beijing (AsiaNews) – Members of Beijing’s Shouwang Church, the largest Protestant congregation in the Chinese capital, have been arrested again.
Police on Sunday arrested four members of the underground church after the congregation gathered in Beijing to worship in public and request the return of Church property. The four were given ten days of administrative detention for “disturbing public order,” ChinaAid* reported.
Rev Xu Yonghai, the pastor of the underground Divine Love Fellowship Christian Church in Beijing, said that Chinese authorities have intensified pressure on house churches.
“The Beijing Shouwang Church is relatively large,” he explained. “It has more than 1,000 members,” but “They are forced to worship outside, in public. Each time, people are arrested.”
In 2005, the Church applied for official registration, but the authorities turned it down. Since 10 April 2011, the faithful have been forced to meet outdoors for Sunday service.
Every time they try to rent a place, police raid them. In 2009, the congregation had bought a 1,500 square metre building for its activities, but the authorities prevented them from using it.
In view of the situation, Church members chose another route, meeting in a private flat and then in a restaurant. In either cases, police stormed their gatherings and drove everyone away.
Every prayer meeting ends up in a police raid, especially in the summer. In June 2011, security forces set a record when they arrested scores of Christians on seven consecutive Sundays. Despite this, at least a hundred faithful met each time.
Under Chinese law, only those groups that are officially registered are allowed to operate. Yet, the number (80-90 millions) of people affiliated with unofficial Protestant Christian groups is far greater than with the Party-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (about 20 million).
Concerned that it might lose control, the Party has been carrying out a crackdown for the past eight years against underground communities, trying to destroy them or force them into official Party-controlled body.
* ChinaAid is a US-based China advocacy group that monitors religious freedom and human rights abuse in mainland China.