Crackdown continues in Anhui, China

Friday, August 18, 2000

by Paul Davenport

BEIJING (Compass) -- In Anhui province in eastern China -- a center of Christian house church activity -- the provincial government is enforcing a repressive religious policy that has continued for many years and shows no sign of abatement. And reliable house church sources say control is being further tightened.

On October 15, 1999, the 9th People's Congress of Anhui Province passed "The Religious Affairs Regulations for Anhui Province," which included 56 clauses. The regulations came into effect on January 1. According to these new restrictions, all house churches that refuse to register are outlawed. All unregistered house church meetings and Bible training sessions are labeled "illegal activities" to be proscribed according to law.

Even worse, clause 48 appears to sanction the blatant theft and confiscation of Christians' property by local police: "Serious offenders will be fined above 500 RMB and below 2,000 RMB or fined between 2-5 times the value of illegal property seized."

In February this year, a group of rural believers divided into three preaching groups and went from village to village and house to house preaching for two weeks. On February 26, the authorities stopped two groups and arrested 22 Christians.

Eighteen of the Christians were released two days later. Three women and one man, however, were kept in custody.

"We are preaching the gospel -- it is not a crime!" one of the women told the police. Representatives from the state-controlled Protestant Three Self Patriotic Movement then came and berated her, and the police said they would keep her in jail for at least another two weeks.

On March 3, another group of about 30 Christian evangelists were surrounded by police and arrested as they arrived in a small town in rural Anhui.

On April 26, more than 30 Christians were gathered together for a Bible training class. The first day went smoothly, but on the second day police surrounded the meeting-place. All the Christian workers were arrested, except for one woman who had urgent business elsewhere and had failed to arrive.

In spite of all these pressures, house church Christians in Anhui maintain a vibrant, practical Christian witness. In the summer of 1999, some of the dikes along the Yangtze River collapsed, causing a great flood in the Xuancheng district. By September the waters were still three feet deep in many places. More than 1,000 Christian families took refuge in tents built on top of the dikes. Relief aid soon came from neighboring house churches and then from house church Christians further away in Ma'anshan and Wenzhou.

Floods also devastated northern Anhui, but impoverished Christians gave more than 20,000 RMB ($2,500) to their suffering brethren, despite the fact that most farmers in Anhui earn an average of only 200 RMB ($25) per month.

Copyright © 2000 Compass Direct News Service.
Used with permission.