Beleaguered Chinese Church Offers Members Legal Aid

by | Jul 1, 2011 | Charisma Archive

chinachurchnewsLeaders of the troubled
Shouwang house church in Beijing have established a legal committee to
assist church members facing arrest or house arrest, the loss of
employment or homes and forced relocation to their home towns.

In
a press statement issued Tuesday, the unregistered church
described the forced relocation of one church member to Shandong
province as “a flagrant violation of the law.”

Leaders
charged the committee, composed of legal experts within the church and
officially formed last week, with collecting evidence of “citizens of
faith being forced to leave their jobs or being evicted because of their
religious belief.” The church would hold officials legally responsible
for these violations, as outlined in an earlier press statement on May
12.

For the past three months, Shouwang church members have
committed to meet in a public square in Zhongguancun, northwestern
Beijing, in response to repeated attempts by the gov-ernment to deny
them access to a permanent worship venue.

Shouwang
represents the “third church” phenomenon in China—consisting of large
Protestant or Catholic churches functioning openly rather than
underground, but refusing to register with government approved bodies
such as the Three-Self Patriotic Movement or the Chinese Catholic
Patriotic Association.

China is also currently
embroiled in a tense debate with Vatican leaders over the unauthorized
ordination of Catholic bishops within the CCPA, according to a Union of
Catholic Asian News report on Tuesday.

Pressure Mounts
On Sunday, police arrested 15 people who showed up at Shouwang’s
designated outdoor worship venue, including several from other house
churches. Many church leaders remained under permanent house arrest,
while scores of church members were detained in homes or hotel rooms,
according to a China Aid Association report.

One of those detained on Sunday had traveled all the way from Henan province to express her support, the CAA said.

Two
other women from Shuangshu house church in Beijing had planned on
traveling to the venue, but police prevented them from leaving home.
Within 24 hours their landlord also asked them to move out of their
rented apartment, according to CAA.

CAA also claimed that
officials pressured the management of the Beijing office of World Vision
to dismiss employee and church member Xia Xiao, a claim that World
Vision refutes.

“World Vision has fired no one and has
come under no pressure to fire anyone,” World Vision spokesperson
Cynthia Colin said in a press statement. “The staff member in question
has in fact been working as normal out of her office this week.”

For the second week in a row, pastors from TSPM were called in to “counsel” Sunday’s de-tainees, according to the CAA.

In
mid-May the director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs
convened a meeting of Three-Self leaders from 15 provinces and
municipalities, asking them “not to heed Shouwang church’s statement of
faith,” and repeatedly slandering Shouwang church, according to Bob Fu,
president of the CAA.

The national daily Xinhua
published an article on Monday extolling the freedom of TSPM
churches. As evidence, the article listed several TSPM churches around
the country with congregations of over 4,000 people; the construction of
11 new churches in Nanjing, including one with seating for 5,000
people; the “abundant” provision of Bibles through China’s Amity
Printing Press, and the training of over 2,000 TSPM clergymen through
the government approved Nanjing Union Theological Seminary.

“I
feel that the most pressing issue for Chinese churches is to figure out
how they can be helpful to society, and how they can become integrated
with traditional Chinese culture,” Pastor Kan Renping of St. Paul’s
Church in Nanjing province told Xinhua.

MORE RELATED STORIES:
China’s Official Church Members ‘Admonish’ Shouwang Group
Chinese Christians Support Persecuted Churches
Shouwang Showdown Leads to About Two Dozen Arrests
Shouwang Church Faces Increased Persecution
Beijing Churches Risk Open Air Worship
Chinese Christian Rights Activist Gao Zhisheng Released

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