Green Room

China Detains Members of Church at Easter Services

posted at 1:59 pm on April 24, 2011 by

Recently, President Obama, during a rare (!) moment of self pity, expressed his belief that it would be “so much easier to be the president of China.” Paraphrasing his views, one White House official explained that “No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.”

Indeed. Xinhua, China’s official news agency, has breathed not so much as a word of criticism over the government’s detention yesterday of hundreds of congregants belonging to a church in Beijing. Their crime, which also prompted authorities to take three dozen people into custody, was attempting to hold Easter services in a public square.

As the New York Times reports, the Chinese Communist Party keeps tight control over religious activity in the country. The “faithful” are required to join state-run churches, mosques, or Buddhist temples. This dictate puts “unregistered” churches like Shouwang, or Lighthouse, an evangelical Protestant congregation, in a precarious spot.

About three weeks ago, the government began a crackdown on churches like Shouwang, which was ordered earlier this month to disband or limit its prayer services to private homes. The 1,000-member congregation, one of the largest and most prominent in the capital, was evicted from quarters it had been renting.

Most of the congregants seized on Sunday Monday were taken away in buses after they showed up at the public venue where the service was to be conducted. On Sunday night the church’s website was shut down.

Shouwang, which was founded 18 years ago in a private home, insists it has no political agenda and only seeks the government’s blessing to pursue its prayerful ends. The Chinese government, however, has made it clear it has no intention of capitulating to the church’s request and has demanded that church leaders hand over the keys the $4 million space the congregation bought in 2009.

The church’s head pastor, Jin Tianming, circulated an e-mail circulated last week noting the Easter holiday was upcoming and urging congregants to:

pray especially for those brothers and sisters who in the past week or two have already been forced to move or leave their jobs. We ask God to remember the price they have paid for holding on to their faith and ask him to take care of their families and their daily life needs.

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Howard, sorry to be picky, but is it ‘members’ not ‘nembers’?

And yes, all Christians and Jews should have prayers for their faith in countries that don’t allow faith. We, they are under major attack everywhere. God please be with them. It seems that countries of the rop type and those with zero faith have been killing more and more of those people of faith.
L

letget on April 24, 2011 at 2:15 PM

Oh dear sorry Howard, you corrected members. I should have waited another second to post my first.
L

letget on April 24, 2011 at 2:17 PM

Shouwang, which was founded 18 years ago in a private home, insists it has no political agenda and only seeks the government’s blessing to pursue its prayerful ends. The Chinese government, however, has made it clear it has no intention of capitulating to the church’s request and has demanded that church leaders hand over the keys the $4 million space the congregation bought in 2009.

If they have a $4MM space of their own and they decided to stroll out to hold services in a public square, I’m not reading it clearly that they were rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. I’m fairly certain that similar authoritarian suppression measures would happen in the USA as well.

Having been to Beijing many times and seeing a different shade of authority each time, I can tell you that you still need a set of large ones to assemble for demonstration or simply holding a prayerful service. China is not a place to seek a governments blessing without formally seeking the government’s blessing beforehand. It never has been an acceptable maneuver in China.

ericdijon on April 24, 2011 at 6:50 PM

OT and I apologize profoundly to you Mr. Portnoy.

letget, your moniker reminds me of the core methods of a property – any coincidence?

ericdijon on April 24, 2011 at 7:43 PM

ericdijon: No need for apologies. Just to clarify, the current ruling, as I understand it, precludes using their $4 million as well because it does not meet state standards.

Howard Portnoy on April 24, 2011 at 8:01 PM

I’m fairly certain that similar authoritarian suppression measures would happen in the USA as well.

Huh?

Crawford on April 25, 2011 at 9:13 AM

Thomas Friedman endorses this type of action.

rbj on April 25, 2011 at 9:27 AM

Obambi: Oh to be Premeir of USA! To disband and/or re-educate all those bitter clingers that want to see me fail.

AH_C on April 25, 2011 at 1:16 PM

Which is more evil, Islamo-fascism or Communism?

itsnotaboutme on April 25, 2011 at 3:58 PM

The poor out of touch Communists! Their message that religion is the universal oppressor does not mesh with the lived reality in any atheistic experiment. Now, they have to watch as religion assumes the role of liberator and freedom fighter in their own culture and gains a permanent place in the hearts of her people and the culture at large.

StubbleSpark on April 27, 2011 at 4:29 PM

I’m fairly certain that similar authoritarian suppression measures would happen in the USA as well.

You love your bank’s raise your rate CD?

StubbleSpark on April 27, 2011 at 4:34 PM