China Announces Campaign to Stamp Out “Illegal Social Organizations” Including House Churches

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As part of a broader Chinese Communist Party (CCP) effort to antagonize adherents to various religious practices they deem a threat to the authoritarian regime’s ideology, state officials are launching an effort to target and shut down “illegal social organizations.”

International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) has announced a campaign to target five types of dissident organizations, including spiritual and religious organizations like house churches or groups practitioners of various Eastern traditions.

The MCA will be targeting organizations that are not properly registered with the state, as the CCP requires all religious organizations to do.

Beijing, contrary to their Soviet communist predecessors, allows freedom of religion to a degree but insists that churches and other spiritual groups adhere to certain standards of preaching and worship. The CCP has been in the process of tightening this influence over religious groups.

The ministry said they will be shutting down organizations that are not properly registered with authorities yet continued to conduct the activities of a social organization and those who have continued to conduct such activities after having their registration revoked.

While Christian house churches are undoubtedly included among these groups, the effort targets a broad range of political and ideological dissidents who are attempting to gather and organize outside of state control:

The five Illegal social organizations include those committing fraud and those engaged in economic, cultural or charity activities in the name of implementing national strategies; organizations using the words “China,” “Zhonghua,” or “National” in their names pretending to be subsidiaries of state organs; those who join forces with legal organizations to deceive [the government]; organizing competitions in the name of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP); planning activities that pretend to promote health, sinology, or mysticism, and those that hold gatherings in the name of religion.

The MCA’s campaign has already launched in provinces such as Sichuan, where we have reported several incidents of house churches and homeschools being targeted for raids and arrests.

Radio Free Asia reported that the Department of Civil Affairs in Sichuan published a list of “Illegal Social Organizations” in the province which includes the oft-persecuted Early Rain Covenant Church, whose members we have called you to pray for previously.

This week, RFA also shared a chilling anonymous account of mobile “brainwashing units” where those who have found themselves on the wrong side of state officials are reportedly kept and tortured for refusing to agree with a statement prepared for them by the CCP.

Our Christian brothers and sisters in China face incredible odds when they try to live out their faith in peace. We stand with them and perpetually keep them in our prayers.

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