Authorities in China Aug. 19 officially liquidated a historical house church in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, as part of a crackdown on churches that refuse to join the state-controlled Three-Self Church, rights advocates said.
The Church of Abundance, which began about 30 years ago, had been targeted as a “cult” that allegedly collected illegal donations, but officials closed it as an “illegal social organization” — that is, one that refused to join the Chinese Communist Party-controlled Three-Self Church, according to Italy-based religious rights organization Bitter Winter.
Crackdown against ‘illegal’ religious groups
The closure appeared to be part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call in December 2021 for action against “non-Sinicized” and “illegal” religious groups, Bitter Winter reported.
The Church of Abundance was ordered to cease activities or its members and pastors would be subject to arrest and detention. Bitter Winter reported that Church of Abundance Pastor Lian Changnian and his son, Pastor Lian Xuliang, were placed under “residential surveillance at a designated place.”
The ban also targeted the China Gospel Association, part of the same house church network, the rights group stated.
Christian rights group China Aid reported that the Civil Affairs Bureau and the Religious Affairs Bureau announced the charges against the Church of Abundance personnel as illegal gathering, illegal fundraising and illegal venue registration.
The pastors, their wives and other workers were arrested on Aug. 17, according to China Aid. The wives and most of the church workers were released, but not preacher Fu Juan, the group reported.
“The whereabouts of preacher Fu Juan is unknown, and her husband has not yet received any official written notice of detention,” one of the pastor’s wives reported.
Since President Xi’s call for a crackdown on unofficial religious organizations at the Dec. 3–4, 2021, CCP National Conference on Work Related to Religious Affairs, authorities have raided churches refusing to join the Three-Self Church in Beijing, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Jilin and Sichuan provinces, according to Bitter Winter.
China ranked 17th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.