Beleaguered Chinese Church to Provide Legal Aid to Members
Leaders 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 (TSPM) or the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA).
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 (June 28).
On Sunday (June 26) 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 (CAA) 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.”