China: Crackdown on House Churches

Monday, February 23, 2004

By Elizabeth Kendal
World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC)
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- In January 2004, top cadres of China’s Religious Affairs Bureau and the policy-making United Front Work Department met for the annual National Religious Working Conference.

During that meeting, communist leaders screened a new, four-hour digital video, “The Cross: Jesus in China”, written and directed by pro-democracy leader and Christian Yuan Zhiming, and produced by USA-based “China Soul for Christ” ( The cadres were also briefed on the new book, “Jesus in Beijing”, by journalist and former TIME magazine correspondent in Beijing, David Aikman.

Timothy C. Morgan reports for Christianity Today magazine that “Both the video and book document the stunning growth and vibrancy of Christianity in China. The video has been classified as ‘political matter’, and Public Security Bureau officers are confiscating CDV copies of the widely distributed series and other Christian literature”. (Link 1)

AsiaNews reports, “At a National Religious-Work conference in January, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Jia Qinglin, urged all party groups nation-wide to recommit to supervising religious activities and to guard against the influence of foreign church affiliated groups. He declared that the energy of the people must be directed instead to building up a prosperous society. The State Council has given 450 million yuan (around 56 million euro) to the Religious Affairs Bureau, to build up a team of expert cadres and eliminate unregistered religious groups. Suspicious factions are to be rooted out and replaced by ‘patriotic’ forces, religious sources said.” (Link 2)

CBN News published a report by Gary Lane that included statements by Peter Xu (pastor of the “Born Again” movement) and Tianyun Samuel (Brother Yun, author of the book "Heavenly Man”). Both have been imprisoned several times in China for their Christian activity. Both have found refuge in the U.S.A.

Gary Lane quotes Peter Xu as saying, “The Cross is a look at the growth of the house church movement in China, but the hardliners say it is subversive and undermines national religious policy. They have called for all copies of the DVD in China to be confiscated, and the house church leaders depicted in the video to be detained for questioning. (Link 3)

Gary Lane notes in his report that “Xu's sister Deborah, who was arrested January 24th because of her evangelistic activities, cannot be found. Xu says, ‘We don't know where she is…we don't know where she is locked in. Her health is very weak.’ Xu asks that Christians worldwide pray for his sister, and other Christians who have been arrested for the sake of the Gospel.” (See also WEA RLC Prayer bulletin, link 4)


On 19 February, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) published an article entitled, “Temple fire leads to crackdown on religious activity”, by Nailene Chou Wiest in Beijing. Wiest reports that fire in a bamboo prayer hall that killed 40 elderly women folk-Buddhist worshippers in Wufeng village, Haining county, Zhejiang province on Sunday 15 February, (see link 5), “has been used as grounds for provincial authorities, citing safety concerns, to clamp down on popular religious activities.

“The crackdown coincides with a new nationwide campaign intensifying the suppression of unregistered religious groups.”

The AsiaNews article reports, “The fire in Zhejiang has given justification to officials for the crackdown, citing it as a prime example of the effect of superstition and foolishness. ‘The Hianing fire gave Zhejiang provincial bureaus new reasons to stamp out unregistered religious groups in the name of public safety,’ a church source in Hangzhou stated.” (Link 2)

SCMP reported, “As the families mourned the dead, the Zhejiang provincial department of public security and fire prevention units sent 11 work teams to demolish unauthorised meeting places across the province and condemned the ‘superstitious practices’ for causing the deaths.”


On Thursday 19 February, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) published an exhaustive list of taboo activities that could lead to a party member being expelled. A 19 February SCMP article entitled “Communist Party lists 178 things members cannot do”, reports that “Besides the usual political no-nos, like opposing Marxism, Leninism, Maoism and Deng Xiaoping thought, the 178-article list published in the leading People's Daily also included apparently criminal acts such as accepting bribes, extortion and economic crimes.

“Other off-limit activities punishable by internal party sanction include visiting prostitutes, keeping mistresses, gambling, using illegal drugs or joining religious and ‘cult’ like groups.”

The SCMP followed this on 20 February with an article entitled “Cadres face expulsion under new vice rules”, which elaborated that the rules cover all party members and even retired leaders. “Party members can now be expelled for a wide range of activities. These include opposing party policy, economic crimes such as accepting bribes, joining religious groups, engaging in adultery or polygamy, watching pornographic shows, visiting prostitutes, gambling and using drugs.”

If nothing else, this list of wicked, depraved, punishable sins demonstrates the status of religion in the CCP mind.


1) China Arrests Dozens of Prominent Christians
By Timothy C. Morgan with David Neff in Washington, D.C. 18 Feb 2004

2) Underground communities: more persecutions after the temple blaze
Beijing (AsiaNews) 20 Feb 2004

3) Faith Amidst Persecution: Many Chinese Churches Destroyed
By Gary Lane, Chief International Correspondent, CBN, 20 Feb 2004

4) RLP 259 18 Feb 2004. China: Church Demolition and Arrests

5) Haining city closes illegal worship houses after fatal fire. 18 Feb 2004