02/14/2009, 00.00
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Chinese police shut down Protestant community in Shanghai

The group of 1200 faithful belong to the underground domestic churches. The State Administration of Religious Affairs has revoked the rental contract that allowed the community the use of a hall. One more step toward the "normalization" of the Protestant communities.

Shanghai (AsiaNews/ANS) - The missionary church of Wanbang, located in Shanghai, will be forced to close. The community of 1200 people is an unauthorized domestic church, and had rented a a hall in the city for its gatherings. The police have forced the property owner to cancel the rental agreement within 30 days.

The missionary church of Wanbang has been under surveillance for some time. On February 10, the police and members of the State Administration of Religious Affairs ordered pastor Cui Quan to cancel a meeting among evangelization leaders, which was to be held in Shanghai. The annual meeting gathers only a small number of pastors to study ways to live evangelization in the cities.

Pastor Liu Tongsu, a witness to all of these events, says that "terminating a civil agreement that is completely in line with the legal process, through the use of a state compulsory organ (the police) is already a violation of more than one law."

Shanghai, a cosmopolitan city, has always been more tolerant toward Christian communities, including the underground ones. In other regions and cities, the policies toward unauthorized Protestants are much more harsh, with arrest and the demolition of churches. It is likely that the fear of social revolts is prompting the authorities to exercise much tighter control of every kind of gathering. In any case, since 2007 a campaign has been underway in China against the underground Protestant communities, which, according to the most modest estimates, number more than 50 million faithful. The campaign is aimed at the absorption of the communities within the Movement of the Three Autonomies, the group of Protestant communities that are recognized and controlled by the government, or their suppression (see Secret party document wants to “normalise” Chinese Protestants).

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