Home News Police in China's Shanxi province detain Protestant church members

Police in China’s Shanxi province detain Protestant church members

Chinese authorities frequently raid unofficial "house churches" that aren't members of the CCP-backed Three-Self Patriotic Association

Authorities in the northern province of Shanxi in China have detained nine members of the Golden Lamp Protestant church in the provincial capital, Taiyuan.

A report from Radio Free Asia said the church members were arrested after refusing to join the Three-Self Association of churches, which is supported by the Chinese Communist Party.

The incident happened on August 7 in Shanxi’s Linfen county, said the report, adding that among those detained was pastor Wang Xiaoguang and preacher Yang Rongli.

The arrests and detentions came amid a series of raids on unofficial Protestant “house” churches in Linfen county, said the report.

“They detained Wang Xiaoguang and eight other people,” a Golden Lamp church member told RFA. “It was probably because they were carrying out a house church baptism.”

Yang has served a seven-year jail term from November 2009 for preaching and other pastoral activities, said the report.

He was released in October 2016 and pressured by religious affairs bureau officials to bring Golden Lamp — which boasts a membership of tens of thousands — under the aegis of the Three-Self Patriotic Association.

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Yang refused, and the church has been targeted by the authorities ever since, who have cut off pensions and other state benefits previously paid to Yang and colleagues, added the RFA report.

“We won’t change our beliefs, nor will we join the Three-Self Patriotic Association,” a church member said.

“Last time we met with them, they told us that the management of the church has been transferred to the religious affairs department of central government [in Beijing], and is no longer under the control of Shanxi province,” the church member added.

“It has been more than a decade now, since the persecution of the Linfen Golden Lamp church in Shanxi began,” said a legal professional familiar with the Linfen church case.

The man, who gave only a surname Li, said Shanxi is among the key areas in China being targeted for a crackdown on Protestant house churches, along with Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Anhui and Henan.

“Some of the church members were sentenced back then … this shows that the church has been resisting persecution, and that its Christians are keeping their faith,” he said.

Authorities in China are detaining Christians in secretive, mobile “transformation” facilities in a bid to make them renounce their faith, a former inmate of a secret facility told RFA in April 2021.

The man said he was held in a facility run by the CCP’s United Front Work Department, working in tandem with the state security police, for 10 months after a raid on his church in 2018.

Another Christian who asked to remain anonymous said that similar facilities are being used across China, not just for Protestants, but also for members of the underground Catholic church, and of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, a target of authorities since 1999.

State security police and religious affairs bureau officials frequently raid unofficial “house churches” that aren’t members of the CCP-backed Three-Self Patriotic Association, although member churches have also been targeted at times.

China is home to an estimated 68 million Protestants, of whom 23 million worship in state-affiliated churches under the aegis of the Three-Self Patriotic Association, and some nine million Catholics, the majority of whom are in state-sponsored organizations.

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