06/22/2011, 00.00
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Police arrests Shouwang Church members, talks theology with them

Fifteen people were arrested on Sunday, joining dozens already under house arrest. Members of the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement took part in the interrogation of those arrested in order to convince them to join their organisation. A campaign of repression is underway against ‘House Churches’.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Police arrested 15 more Christians from the Shouwang House Church (16 other sources say) who tried to gather last Sunday in Beijing’s Zhongguancun Square to pray together. Members of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) visited police stations to "educate" and "admonish" them as well as urge them to join the Communist Party’s official Church.

Two of those arrested were held in protective custody whilst the rest were sent to ten different police stations; most were released after a few hours.

TPSM members took part in the interrogations in order to convince those arrested to desist from such action and join them instead.

Some of the interrogators even addressed theological issues in order to question whether the action of underground Christians was in line with the Christian faith.

Since 10 April, members of the Shouwang House Church, one of China’s largest ‘House Churches’, have been meeting in the streets to celebrate Sunday Mass. The faithful are protesting the fact that the authorities expelled them from the rented facilities where they used to meet and still prevent from taking possession of a building they bought years ago.

Each Sunday for the past 11 weeks, police have been waiting to arrest them whenever they congregate. Dozens of the faithful along with their pastors are presently under house arrest banned from leaving on Sunday. Some have been threatened with the loss of their job or rented flat if they continue the protest.

The peaceful protest has attracted great attention and support, in and outside of China.

"I hope the government can see that the Shouwang incident is not an isolated case; rather, many churches in China want the same thing," Wang Wenfeng of the Wenzhou China Theology Forum told Radio Free Asia.

"The most basic request is, 'Let us meet in public, and let us register. We Christians have nothing to hide. At the same time, our faith itself requires us to be open with non-Christians, society and the state,” he explained.

The Shouwang House Church has a congregation of over a thousand members. In 2005, the government rejected its application for registration.

Other groups face the same problems. Members of the All-Nations Alliance Church in Shanghai and Liangren Church in Guangzhou worship outdoor to protest after being removed from their rented facilities.

In China, only registered religious groups are allowed. However, among Protestants underground Churches have more members (about 80 million) than the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (20 millions).

Fearful that matters might get out of hand, the Communist Party launched a crackdown against underground Churches four years ago to either eliminate them or force them into the official organisation.

Protestants are being arrested along with pro-democracy activists and human rights lawyers.

Beijing is concerned that any movement that is not controlled by the Party might spark a “Jasmine Revolution” like the one that swept across North Africa and the Middle East.

Such concern is fuelled by the fact that many human rights activists are also Christian converts.
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