SANTA ANA, CA (ODNS) – China’s itinerant evangelists and unregistered house church leaders report growing efforts by official government agencies to stifle church activities and say it is the “worst” wave of persecution since the “great tribulation of 1983.”
Citing numerous acts of violence against Christians in at least five separate provinces, including Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Fujian, Henan and Shanxi, Dr. Jonathan Chao, executive director of the China Church Research Center in Hong Kong, said the recent purge is directly related to the downfall of Party Secretary General Hu Yaobong on January 17, l987.
At that time, conservative members of the Chinese Communist Party initiated action against negative Western influences which they referred to as an “anti-bourgeois liberalization campaign.” This was “supposed to be confined to the party, yet records of the Jiangsu provincial committees of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and of the China Christian Council (CCC) indicate that they have held meetings to implement the spirit of anti-bourgeois liberalization among the Protestants,” Chao stated.
According to Chao, “many house meetings, including those registered with the TSPM, were told to close down.” He added that local TSPM officials are working in full cooperation with civil authorities to find unregistered meeting points by “dispatching spies to discover underground house church activities, and hence putting pressure on [these] house churches to stop meeting.”
More importantly, Chao revealed that local TSPM officials of Jiangsu province have resolved to “terminate independent itinerant preaching,” according to records of the TSPM and CCC meetings. As a result many house churches throughout China have stopped meeting and itinerant evangelists are fleeing to avoid arrest.
Arrest lists are now surfacing throughout north and central China, with one list naming as many as 3,270 house church leaders. According to Chao, local party officials are telling the TSPM committee members that “Christians are growing too fast and therefore some administrative measures must be taken.”
“The rate of growth since 1982 has been tremendous,” Chao said. “In 1982 the house churches circulated a Christian population count ranging from at least 35 million to as high as 55 million, and those are the numbers we have been using for about five years now.” He concluded that if the Public Security Bureau admits the presence of 50 million Christians in China today, then the number must actually be much higher.
Chao speculated that Christians may actually number around 75 million today, based on the expectedly conservative numbers classified by the government.