A new strategy has raised the level of fear among the church in China. Anyone renting to a house church can be punished with a steep fine – up to $45,000. The measure, supported with much publicity, has left many churches homeless.
A Christian from an impoverished household in Luanchuan County used to host small religious gatherings throughout the year. When she saw banners displayed throughout the city threatening to impose huge fines, she stopped, fearing that she would be unable to find the money for the penalty.
In another case, the police and local officials have been harassing the landlady of a house church meeting venue in Jinshui district of Henan’s Zhengzhou city since last year. Her property was used by a church which has more than 100 congregation members.
The authorities demanded she stop allowing the Christians to use her property. At first the woman refused to obey, so in April, officials told her that “religious issues are political” and threatened to fine her if she continued renting the venue to believers. The landlady said that officials would call her practically every day to put pressure on her, they even threatened to arrest her. The woman was told that even after she ousts the believers from her property, she will still have to report to authorities when she rents out the building again. Pressured and intimidated, the landlady had no choice but to obey, and the house church ceased gathering in April.
“We have the largest number of house churches in Henan. The government is implementing such severe measures in its crackdown to eradicate house churches completely,” a member of a house church commented.
Similar situations have occurred in various regions. Sometimes, the police don’t even need to appear in person to shut down a church: a threatening phone call is sufficient to make the landlord fear repercussions.
For house churches that generally rent their venues, the suppression tactic to threaten landlords with hefty fines is detrimental – they are left with no place to congregate.
Source: Bitter Winter
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