Earlier in autumn, Beijing city authorities closed one of the largest unofficial Protestant churches in the city and confiscated “illegal promotional materials.” The church worshiped 1500 on a Sunday. The closure is part of a government campaign aimed at destroying China’s “underground” churches.
More aggressive enforcement
Many non-registered church, along with Zion Church, had for years operated with relative freedoms. Some attracted hundreds of worshippers each weekend. Across China, those freedoms are now disappearing.
In April, officials told Zion Church closed-circuit television cameras needed to be installed in the building. The church refused.
The Beijing Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau has now determined that, by organizing events without registering, the church was breaking rules forbidding mass gatherings. The bureau announced that Zion Church was now “legally banned.” Officials came to the church and seized its “illegal promotional material.” had been confiscated. Reuters has published photos of the bureau’s actions.
Constitutional religious guarantees
China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, but since President Xi Jinping took office six years ago the government has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the ruling Communist Party.
Churches across China have faced new waves of harassment and pressure to register since a new set of regulations to govern religious affairs in China came into effect in February and heightened punishments for unofficial churches.
No resolution possible
“I fear that there is no way for us to resolve this issue with the authorities,” Zion’s Pastor Jin Mingri told Reuters. “Churches will continue to develop. Blocking the sites will only intensify conflicts.”