Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chinese church won't stop meeting, despite demands

The Beijing church that saw more than 160 of its members arrested April 10 for meeting illegally says it will continue to hold services outdoors in spite of the Chinese government's demands that it stop.

Shouwang Church, one of the thousands of illegal unregistered churches across China, has found itself in the spotlight as the world debates China's limits on religious freedom. Churches in China are legal only if they registered with the government, which then often puts limits on their ability to grow and evangelize. The government also has blocked attempts by Shouwang to meet indoors.

The church, which reportedly has around 1,000 members, saw its pastor, pastor's wife and other members arrested in broad daylight Sunday morning, April 10, when it attempted to hold an outdoor worship service on a public space in Beijing. The members were put on buses and taken to a local elementary school, where police took their personal information. Much of the incident was captured on video. It was one of the largest crackdowns in recent history, observers say, with upwards of 1,000 police involved.

The church, which is Protestant, has repeatedly attempted to purchase or rent property, only to see the Chinese government get involved and pressure various owners/landlords not to give the church any keys.

As of April 11, most of the members were released but Pastor Li Xiaobai and his wife were still being detained.

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