Underground Church Persecuted
church in China continues to suffer
persecution. Last year Chinese police held 36 people in a raid on
a Bible School run by an underground Protestant church amid a
nationwide crackdown on Christians worshipping outside Communist
Party control. About 50 officers armed with electric cattle prods
and backed by more than 10 police vehicles surrounded the school
in the Eastern Province of Anhui, according to the China Aid
Association, based in Texas.
Persecuted Chinese Christians
Those inside — including students, teachers, and leaders
of the underground church — were taken away in police vans,
the group said. The school’s owner, Chu Huaiting, was later
arrested at his home. Chu was identified as vice president of the
Chinese House Church Alliance, which unites about 300,000
worshippers in unofficial congregations. The school also taught
sewing to help students to support themselves, and completed
blankets were confiscated in the raid along with thousands of
copies of religious literature, the association said.
Prior to this, the Vatican protested strongly against the
arrest and beating of Roman Catholic nuns which led to 600
Christians taking to the streets to demonstrate in Xian City,
North West China.
China allows worship only in the official Three Self Patriotic
Movement, set up after the expulsion of foreign missionaries and
church leaders following the 1949 revolution. The party retains
final say on the group’s finances, leadership and doctrinal
issues. A similar organisation controls the Catholic Church.
Protestant Christians are said officially to number around 16-17
million. Researchers suggest the real number is more likely to be
around 50-70 million. There are about 12 million Catholics.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is amongst those who
has urged China to move toward religious freedom and think about
political reforms to match its economic opening. The late 1980s
saw a hardening of Chinese government policy towards religions as
a reaction to the collapse of Eastern Europe and the Tiananmen
Square incident. Millions of Protestants worship in unregistered
groups, often called house churches because they meet in private
homes to avoid detection.
How risky is it for Christians in China? The official
government line is that everyone should be free to choose what
they believe. By this they mean people cannot tell others about
their beliefs, e.g. Christianity, as telling others would not
allow them to be free. It’s a bizarre philosophy - much
like saying a person is free to have tea or coffee and then only
allowing coffee to be provided. Meeting together without official
approval, distributing Christian material, and sharing the gospel
will result in arrest if caught. Penalties range from receiving a
fine to imprisonment. Some will get maybe 2-3 years in prison,
but the church leaders are the ones the government particularly
wants to punish and if caught leaders spend a long time in jail -
up to 10 years is common.
Underground Bible Study
The Chinese house churches meet secretly. They close the
windows and pull the curtains when they meet so that people
won’t hear or see what they are doing. Making videos of
Christian testimonies and gospel teaching is a huge enterprise,
with millions of these distributed throughout China. They also
have websites, which are not hosted and maintained from within
China, as then they could be shut down and the webmasters traced.
The websites are hosted and maintained by sympathetic Christians
in Korea. Blocking of these sites by the Government is usually
temporary as users access these sites alternatively by using
The Western Church needs to do what the Eastern Church already
do. They pray for the West because they cannot understand how
westerners remain Christians in such affluent societies.
That’s true, because persecution always focuses and
strengthens the Church as no other circumstance can. We are one
body. Pray for the underground Church!