“Chinese Christians have witnessed increasing pressure imposed on house churches since the revised Regulations on Religious Affairs came into effect on February 1, 2018,” says the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
“House churches nationwide are faced with harassment, intimidation, and domination from the government, with thousands of church locations being shut down.”
Over 100 house churches were closed down in Nanyang the first week in February. At one church, officials ordered that the cross, a painting of the Last Supper and Bible verse calligraphy be taken down, as well as, that all services stop until each person, along with the church itself, was registered with the government.
The largest urban church in Beijing, the Zion Church, has refused to install surveillance cameras inside and outside its building. The government is pressuring landlords, neighborhood committees, employers, and public security bureaus to harass, pressure, and threaten church members. The church has lost the lease on its building as of the end of August.
Children and party members are banned from churches in some areas.
At least one township has encouraged Christians to replace posters of Jesus with portraits of Xi.
On a single Sunday morning in Henan, 700 religious banners were reportedly removed, 200 religious texts seized, and 31 illegal Christian gathering places shut down.
Under the new regulations, religious groups must register with and receive approval from the government before they can apply for a permit from the local religious bureau to practice religious activities. Since the government does not recognize house churches as religious groups, it impossible for them to obtain such a permit.
Without the proper permit, house church activities will be deemed “illegal religious activities” under the new regulations. ACLJ maintains, “Recently, local governments in several provinces have carried out investigations and screenings of gathering places established by the house churches, preparing for the best ways to shut down the churches.”