Since April 10, 2011, Shouwang church in Beijing has endured sanctions and restrictions that have been placed on it by the Chinese government. Churchgoers have complained of being placed under house arrest and verbally and physically abused, and Shouwang’s worship services have moved outdoors after the government banned the church from possessing a meeting site.
According to 2013 annual report published by China Aid, an international non-profit Christian human rights organization committed to promoting religious freedom in China, 7423 Christians were deprived of land tenure or facilities for church meetings — an increase of 50.9% compared to 2012. The report also says that 1470 Christians were detained by police and that church members have even lost their jobs as a result of their affiliation with the church.
The Chinese government does officially allow one Protestant church: the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) Committee. It calls for “self-governance,” “self-support,” and “self-propagation.” However, many Christians in China claim that these are merely pretended principles made to give the appearance that the nation acknowledges religious autonomy.
According to China Aid’s website, the TSPM Committee puts strong regulations against holding gatherings on Sunday. Additionally, the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) Committee assigns the pastors to its churches who espouse pro-government stances. China Aid says that Church members are not allowed to gather in their homes for independent Bible study, engage in evangelism outside the church, or consume Christian literature and radio broadcasts from overseas.
Moreover, church officials must not preach sermons that undermine the authority of the state. Rather, they must support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and uphold the ideology of Marxism, Leninism, and Mao Zedong Thought. Ironically, these are all atheistic philosophies.
Pastor Xiqiu “Bob” Fu, the founder of China Aid, fled from China after converting to Christianity and holding unsanctioned house church meetings with his wife, Heidi. Fu founded China Aid after settling in the United States.
While Fu is focused on Christian persecution, this is not the only realm in which human rights are abused in China. There are more citizens who have suffered after exposing these abuses. Indeed, Fu told JSR that he first experienced personal persecution for political reasons after his participation in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations for democracy.
Cao Shun Li, another activist, went to Geneva, Switzerland last year for a human rights training program and tried to add China’s human rights abuses to the human rights report while the UN was considering China for a seat on the Human Rights Council. When she returned to China, she was arrested and placed in a military prison where she died in March of this year. According to the Tibetan Center of Human Rights and Diplomacy, her family reported that her body showed signs of mistreatment.
Despite these persecutions, however, Chinese human rights activists continue to fight for political and religious liberty. While the nation has attempted to suppress Christianity, church membership has only grown. According to National Chinese Christian Congress, during the past five years 5,195 churches have been newly built or renovated and 1,057 pastors and 482 curates have been ordained.