China Launches "New Offensive" On House Churches, Leaked Document Shows

Monday, June 20, 2005

Monday, June 20, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center

BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)-- A major human rights group said Wednesday, June 15, it has obtained a copy of a government document outlining China's "new offensive" on underground house churches.

The Voice of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC) said the document reads in part: "We have dealt with the Falun-gong [sect]. We have arrested and put their leaders on the run. Now we must resolutely and strongly deal with the unregistered house churches. They are too numerous -- too many. We must deal with them strongly."

It was difficult to verify the authenticity of the paper, but VOMC and its partner organization in the United States are known to have contacts with different officials criticizing the Beijing policies. VOMC said the document suggest the increased pressure on underground house churches would be from April to August 2005.

The term 'house church' often refers to Christians who refuse to worship in the two officially organized churches of China known as the Protestant Three Self Patriotic Movement and the Catholic Patriotic Association with a combined estimated membership of 17 million people.


Most of the at least up to 80 million Christians in the Communist-run nation worship outside these churches and have been described by human rights group Open Doors as the world's "largest persecuted religious minority."

News of the leaked government crackdown document came days after Voice Of the Martyrs USA said at least 100 leaders of China's rapidly growing house churches remain in jail following a "major assault" by Chinese security services against evangelical Christians.

It claimed the troubles began last month when "police and Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers simultaneously raided approximately 60 house churches in Changchun," the capital city of Jilin province in northeastern China.


"More than 500 house church believers and leaders were taken into custody. Most were released after 24 to 48 hours of interrogation, but approximately 40 leaders are still being held in different detention centers," VOM said in a statement to BosNewsLife News Center on Friday, June 10.

Around May 27, "approximately 60 additional house church leaders were arrested at Jiutai, a suburban city near Changchun. Most of the 60 leaders are still in custody," VOM added.

One church pastor, Zhao Dianru, 58, was reportedly arrested May 22 and freed Monday, June 6, after 15 days of "administrative detention." Zhao's arrest document accused him of "using other means to instigate and disturb social stability," but did reportedly not mention religion or church activities.


According to "reliable contacts in that area," at least 20 boxes of Christian books were confiscated during the police raids, VOMC said. University students, professors and other young intellectuals allegedly make up a large portion of the raided house church groups.

"It believed this is a coordinated campaign to eliminate house church influence in the university areas. At least three of the arrested church leaders work as professors at Changchun University. The three were also released after 15 days of detention, but are being watched by PSB officers," VOMC said in a statement to BosNewsLife News Center.

China's new law on religion, the Provisions on Religious Affairs, took effect March 1. Some believed the new law would lead to less restriction on unregistered churches, "but these large-scale raids and arrests seem to show otherwise," VOM analysts said. (With reports from China, and BosNewsLife Research).