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Banned in Beijing

Last weekend, Chinese Communist authorities formally shut down Shouwang Church. The influential house church in Beijing made international headlines in 2011 when officials kicked the Christian believers out of their building and arrested them as they worshipped outdoors.

This time, more than 20 police officers barged into a Bible class on Saturday afternoon while church members were worshipping and demanded that they stop the meeting. Officials from Beijing’s Haidian district read aloud an official document banning the church for refusing to register with the government as a “social organization.” They also deemed their rented meeting space an “illegal religious activity venue.”

The government has shut down other influential Chinese house churches in recent months, including Beijing’s Zion Church, Chengdu’s Early Rain Covenant Church, and Guangzhou’s Rongguili Church.

During last week’s Shouwang raid, police took Pastor Zhang Xiaofeng into another room to sign the bans and to interrogate him. Other officers rounded up 19 students and held them at a nearby school. Authorities also interrupted a meeting at another one of the church’s rented spaces and brought those church members to the same school. As word spread about the raid, other church members showed up to the meeting place only to be detained at the school as well.

After several hours, police from the districts where each parishioner lived came to pick them up from the school. They took some parishioners home, but brought others to local police stations for questioning. According to a statement by the church, police asked some parishioners to sign a document promising to stop attending Shouwang Church and threatened to track down their parents in order to pressure them. Most were released by 9:00 that night.

Police also confiscated church materials and changed the locks on the doors of the two meeting places, which Shouwang used for prayer meetings, classes, choir rehearsal, small groups, and as a library. But church leaders said that even if the government took away their meeting spaces, they would continue their activities in other locations.

“The basic position of the church is to not accept the decision to ban the church,” Shouwang Church leaders wrote in a statement. “From a spiritual perspective, the legitimacy of the Christian church is not based on the ruling of the worldly powers, but on the church’s spiritual nature.”

Read more at World Magazine. 

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