Mao Zedong’s communist rule (beginning in 1949) set the stage for what has become some of the world’s worst persecution in the last century. Christians, among other religious groups, have faced house arrest, imprisonment, torture and even death for their refusal to surrender to government control. Even religious groups who do agree to the demands of state-monitored organizations* have at times been subjected to prosecution under the restrictions placed on them. House churches determinately avoid registration, citing their refusal to provide the patriotic associations with the names and contact information of their parishioners, seek government approval for leadership decisions, or ask permission for major religious activities or theological positions.
The State Administration for Religious Affairs recently announced plans for new guidelines on the foreign involvement in religious affairs. On the surface, it appeared that religious organizations are encouraged to engage in charitable activities. In reality, religious charity work is very difficult.
House church raids are ongoing and are considered by China Aid’s founder and president, Bob Fu, as the government’s plan “to ‘eradicate’ the independent house church movement, a crackdown that would affect up to 100 million people.” Some believers peacefully protest government control by holding services publicly. The Shouwang Church, for instance, has met outdoors since November 1, 2009. Despite numerous arrests and continued harassment, members testify that they are continually reminded of God’s grace.
* The Chinese government officially recognizes five religious groups: Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism. There is a patriotic association for each. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) monitors registered Protestants and the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA) oversees all registered Catholics.