News From China’s church – Vol. 2 No. 2

    A new survey has determined that there are approximately 30 million Protestant Christians in China. The province-by-province survey, commissioned by News Network International, includes those attending the state-sanctioned Protestant Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) churches and those meeting in independent and underground house churches. The figure is nearly four times greater than the official TSPM census of 9.2 million Protestants, although some say the numbers may be too conservative, and that there are actually more Christians in China. According to the study, only 30 percent of China’s Protestant population attends TSPM churches, while at least 70 percent worship unregistered house churches or meeting points. (NNI, China News and Church Report)
    Dr. George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the 80-million-member Anglican Church, recently completed an 11-day visit to China to meet with leaders of the country’s official Protestant Church, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). Carey visited Nanjing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Beijing, where he met primarily with TSPM church leaders, but had contact with some government officials as well. The stated aim of his visit was “to encourage and support Chinese Christians” and “to be seen as a bridge-builder.” Carey did not meet with leaders of China’s vast underground house church movement.
    (China News and Church Report, South China Morning Post)
    In Beijing’s university district, the Haidian Protestant Church is filled to capacity every Sunday, mostly with students. (Newsweek)
    Christians in China’s unofficial house churches say that 1994 government regulations regarding religion have increased pressure on them. Under the new regulations, they say they are totally unprotected and open to persecution if they continue to refuse to register their meetings. While the government is stopping short of mass arrests, there does seem to be a widespread effort in many areas to force house church Christians to register with the authorities and to stop their evangelistic activities, which have been so successful. (NNI)
    According to a former Chinese government worker, authorities in Beijing have started a campaign to tighten control for the next two years. The clampdown, referred to as zhonghe zhili, or “comprehensive rule,” reportedly began on September 1 and will run until August 31, 1996. Targets of control include criminals, evil elements, triads, armed robbers, drug rings, prostitutes, pornographic businesses, corrupt party and government officials, advocates of democracy, those having illegal pregnancies, those engaged in illegal printing, those spreading superstition, and those involved in illegal religious activities, which would include China’s many house church Christians. Wide-scale arrests of habitual criminals, gamblers, and others began in late August. On average, 30 to 60 persons were arrested from each township in central China. About 100,000 people were taken into custody during the first two weeks of September. House church leaders feel that any increase in persecution will not be able to stop Christians from their ongoing evangelistic efforts. In fact, they believe it might even help to stimulate further church growth. (China News and Church Report, Radio France International)
    Intellectuals have always played a significant role in China’s history. Traditionally, officials in China have been chosen from among the intellectual elite. At this critical time, many Chinese intellectuals are looking to Christianity and wondering what role it played in the development of Western culture and democracy. Many scholars are studying and writing about Christian theology and the history of Christianity. (China Ministries International)
    In Sichuan Province, more than 90,000 people became Christians in a recent four-month period. More than 40,000 became Christians in one month, and the rest converted after a major crackdown on Christians. More than 10,000 were water baptized in a two-month period. This is just one of many places in China where Christianity is growing rapidly. A house church leader in Guangdong recently requested 100,000 Bibles and Christian literature from an outside supplier. He said that would satisfy only the immediate need of those to whom he ministers.
    Ministries that bring Bibles into China say many of the books end up on the black market where they bring high prices. Chinese claiming to be Christians receive deliveries of Bibles and other spiritual books and sell them to make a profit. A man from Pingdingshan, Henan Province, said he can sell a simplified character New Testament on the black market for RMB 30, while a study Bible with explanatory notes will sell for RMB 500. A similar report came from Anhui Province. Christians in these two provinces have annual incomes averaging RMB 700-800 a year, or about $100. (China News and Church Report)
    According to a report by the Washington-based Puebla Institute, at least 100 Protestant and Catholic clergy and church leaders are still imprisoned or under house arrest throughout the country. This figure, Puebla admits, is likely to be only a fraction of the true number of Christians in laogai (labor camps). More than 30 new cases of church workers being sentenced to prison terms of up to three years were recorded in the past year, Puebla said. Most have been detained for distributing Christian literature, holding unregistered Bible training seminars or meeting with foreigners. In Henan and Anhui, commonly regarded as the center of the Chinese Protestant house church movement (unregistered churches), PSB officials have arrested hundreds of unregistered church members in the past 12 months. (NNI)

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