China Continues House Church Raids; Website Closed

Thursday, June 18, 2009

By Worthy News Asia Service

BEIJING, CHINA (Worthy News) -- At least six Christians from China's Henan province were behind bars Thursday, June 18, after security forces stormed their house church following a similar raid on a house church in Sichuan province, Christian rights investigators said.

Chinese authorities reportedly also closed down the Web site of a Beijing-based church as part of an apparent nationwide crackdown on what authorities consider "illegal" activities of Christian groups operating outside state-controlled denominations.

Advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA) told Worthy News that several Christians of the Panshi (Rock) House Church in Zhengzhou city of Henan province were the latest to be detained during a Sunday worship service June 14. CAA said security officials arrested six believers, including Pastor Dou Shaowen, and his wife Feng Lu. "The six arrested were later sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention with a fine."

It said officials from China's main law enforcement agencies, the State Security Bureau, Public Security Bureau, Religious Affairs Bureau and the Anti-Riot Squad were involved in the operation.

"The officials declared the service an "illegal gathering". All Sunday school teachers were required to register their identity cards and other church members were dispersed by force."


It said that families of the six detained Christians received fines while Pastor Dou's home was allegedly searched by the Public Security Bureau, “resulting in the confiscation of his computer.”

The raid came just days after over a dozen Chinese house church leaders were detained June 9 while gathering in a house church in Langzhong city of Sichuan province. "Thirteen leaders were given 15 days of administrative detention, and five of the leaders were placed under criminal detention," CAA added.

However it is apparently becoming increasingly difficult for house churches and other Christian groups to inform the outside world about their situation via the Internet amid a reported state crackdown on Web sites, including in the capital Beijing.

CAA said it had learned that “The Websites Surveillance Section of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau forcibly shut down the website of Shouwang Christian Church of Beijing on April 13,” this year.


"The only explanation the church has received from the related agent is that government authorities concluded that the Web site was the "Web site of an illegal Christian organization, " CAA said. Local Christians reportedly say Shouwang Christian Church was never informed about its alleged "illegal" status and that the site was closed down "without prior notice or an official written explanation".

The Web site was used mainly by house church members to communicate with each other regarding daily activities and information about the church, CAA said. "The church requests that Christians around the world pray for their rights to be upheld and that their website will be restored."

Chinese officials have not commented on the latest developments. However China's government says Christians can freely worship within the government-backed churches. Millions of China's Christians  prefer however to gather outside state interference, rights groups say.

Officials have become increasingly weary of the spread of Christianity in the Communist run country. There may be as many as 130 million Christians, according to some Chinese officials.