Three House Church Leaders Imprisoned In China

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

SANTA ANNA, CA (Aug. 5, 2003) - On July 13, police raided a house church in Xiaoshan City, Zhejiang province, China, and arrested at least three church leaders. According to a China Aid Association press release dated July 24, the raid came at 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning while the Christians were meeting for prayer and worship.

Eighty-year-old Shen Shaocheng, who helped found the church more than 25 years ago, was among those arrested. Xu Weimin and Gao Chongdao, two other house church leaders, were also taken into custody. The three men are being held at an unknown location. Authorities have not revealed their location to their families or allowed them visitors.

The church, which has about 1,500 members, belongs to the "Little Flock," one of the largest house church "streams" active in China. The Little Flock is best known in the West for their famous founder, Watchman Nee, whose writings are widely read by Christians all over the world. Nee was martyred in a labor camp in 1973, and his followers in China still suffer persecution.

The Xiaoshan church has been destroyed three times by the authorities over the last 25 years, but it was rebuilt each time - even without government permission. During the recent SARS scare, authorities ordered the church to stop meeting. However, members continued to gather.

The local Religious Affairs Bureau (PSB) has repeatedly tried to convince the church to register and join the government-controlled "Three Self Patriotic Movement." Little Flock theology, while urging Christians to be model citizens, stresses the lordship of Christ over the church and strongly resists government attempts to control the spiritual affairs of each local assembly.

More than 300 PSB officers raided an affiliated congregation in Hengpeng village during a Sunday service on July 6 and demolished the church building. This church has also refused to register with government religious authorities. The believers continue to meet in their homes and other locations.

"Continuing persecution, which includes the brutal demolition of believers' homes and places of worship, has done nothing to assure the world that Beijing has truly reformed its ways and is a worthy venue for the 2008 Olympics," a China watcher told Open Doors.

Johan Companjen, president of Open Doors International, says Christianity is flourishing in China despite the recent crackdown on Christian believers.
"The government wants us to believe there are no problems in China. Yes, the official church has its own kind of program -- but we are really serving the house churches," he says. "It seems that the government is afraid to lose control, and that's why it has clamped down. But they cannot stop what God is doing."

Open Doors is training 6,000 leaders in China, according to Companjen. Also, Open Doors hopes to send 2.2 million Bibles to China in 2003.