China hires ‘thugs’ to intimidate house churches

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By International Christian Concern (ICC) –

Tattooed “thugs” hired to block entry to Zion Church in Beijing (Zion Church/China Aid)

ICC has learned that on July 5th, Zion Church, the largest house church in Beijing, was blockaded by a group of “thugs” employed by the local authorities. The group prevented church members from entering the third floor where the campus is located and hurled insults and threats at the Christians, calling their faith a cult.

In a prayer request to fellow Christians shared via WeChat (a popular Chinese messaging app) on July 8, church members detailed the ongoing oppression from the government against them.

Six individuals guarded the entrance to the church and prevented church members from attempting to unlock the government-imposed padlocks. They also prevented the church administrator from entering the church to retrieve computers and church documents.

The church recently prepaid the rent for another quarter, with its lease up for renewal in 2020, yet churchgoers were barred from entry.

Frequented by more than 1,500 Christians with eight campuses throughout Beijing, Zion Church recently became a prime target of the Chinese government. Their Yizhuang campus, the largest house church in Beijing, was the subject of the blockade.

Zion Church service before the crackdown

In April, authorities in Beijing requested that the church install surveillance cameras inside their building. After the church leaders refused, the government cut off the church’s water and shut down electricity to their elevator. The government also pressured the church’s landlord to not renew their lease.

Founding Pastor Ezra Jin

Beginning in May, many Zion Church members were approached by residential and communal authorities, offered solutions to job issues, financial benefits, and better education for their children should they decide to leave their church. Those who refused were put under surveillance.

According to China Aid, the church’s WeChat public account was blocked on June 12, and all of their sermon videos shared on other Christians websites have been deleted.

A Christian in Beijing familiar with the situation shared with ICC that the lease of Zion Church’s main building is up for renewal in mid-August. Given the intensifying crackdown against the church, it is concerning what will happen to the church next. Beijing authorities intend to intimidate other house churches by using Zion Church as an example.

Zion Church choir before crackdown

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “The latest crackdown against house churches in China is reflective of President Xi’s disregard for religious freedom. China is experiencing the worst Christian persecution since Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. The US and international community should not turn a blind eye to the injustices committed against Chinese Christians. Let us continue to pray for strength and wisdom for the Church in China as they navigate through intensified oppression.”

 

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