China has issued a circular requiring organizers of religious activities at temporary churches to seek guidance from government-recognized church organizations, reports Union of Catholic Asian News.
Under the new rules, temporary sites must register with either the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, or the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TPSM) to be able to continue with their religious activities. However, the Catholic underground communities and Protestant house churches fear that doing so would give the government more control over them.
It is well known that many house churches are reluctant to register and are willing to be an illegal organization because they do not want to be under the two organizations. —Professor Ying Fuk-tsang
Professor Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, wrote on his social media, “It is well known that many house churches are reluctant to register and are willing to be an illegal organization because they do not want to be under the two organizations.” He is concerned that the initiative would interfere with the church’s religious affairs such as theological interpretations and ceremonial rituals.
In China’s Henan province, churches were ordered to register members of their congregations, especially those with poor family background. The government explained that the campaign aimed to improve church services, but church leaders believed otherwise.
A priest disclosed that he refused to abide by the notice, thinking that those registered in the list would be punished for practicing their faith. “I suspect their hidden agenda may be to cancel people’s low-income subsidies,” he said.
Meantime, ChinaAid reported that a house church in the city of Zongdian located in Henan province was fined $7,500 (50,000 yuan) and received administrative penalty notice.
Shi Xinping, leader of the Hanzhuang Village house church, was accused of “organizing illegal activities without reporting to the department of religious affairs.” Since Shi’s house church refused to register with the official Three-Self Church, it has received three government notices within a week.