The Coronavirus is not the only new challenge facing Chinese Christians this winter. A new and stricter set of regulations governing churches went into effect in February. According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea representative Hyun Sook Foley, the new regulations are likely to challenge Chinese Christians long after the Coronavirus outbreak is controlled.
“Because the news from China is all about the Coronavirus, people may think that persecution of Chinese Christians by the government is somehow ‘on hold’,”
says Representative Foley.
This February 23 document, by Shandong’s two state-run Christian organizations, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and China Christian Council, announces “All livestreamed preaching should be stopped immediately!”
“But the virus has given authorities new excuses and ways to crack down. For example, in Korea many churches switched from live services to live streaming of services online, due to the Coronavirus, whereas in China, churches went from live services to no services, as a government crackdown on live streaming of religious services continues.”
She cited a government advisory from Shandong Province against live streaming of worship services as an example.
But Representative Foley said that the live streaming ban is only a small part of the renewed Chinese government crackdown on churches that is happening even during the Coronavirus outbreak. In November 2019 the State Administration of Religious Affairs released Order 13, the “Administrative Measures for Religious Groups” which went into effect February 1. Article 17 of that Order states:
“Religious organizations must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party, as well as national laws, regulations, rules to religious personnel and religious citizens, educating religious personnel and religious citizens to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, supporting the socialist system, adhering to and following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Pastor Wang Yi asks for prayer for his nation of China
Representative Foley said Chinese churches continue to show boldness and resilience despite the wave of crackdowns that began in February 2018.
“In September 2018, 439 Chinese pastors signed a declaration of faith written by Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church explaining why they could not involve themselves and their churches in the government’s political wishes but instead must only focus on preaching the gospel.”
Representative Foley said many of the document’s signers, including Pastor Wang Yi, are now imprisoned or have paid a high price through persecution. “That is why we translated this document into Korean, Chinese, Russian, and English and posted it at www.chinadeclaration.com. We have been calling on Christians in Korea and around the world to add their own names to those of the 439 Chinese pastors who originally signed it. In this way we can stand with them, make sure they are not cut off from the worldwide body of Christ, and show the Chinese government that the global church is continuing to support our brothers and sisters in China.”
Representative Foley said that so far 3,561 people have signed the online petition since it was first posted last summer. She said the goal is to reach 4,390 signatures—10 signatures of support on behalf of each Chinese pastor who originally signed the document. Then Voice of the Martyrs Korea will deliver the petition to the Chinese Embassy in Seoul in April.
Representative Foley says that signees do not need to worry that their information will be given to the Chinese government.
“When we deliver the petition, we include only the first name of signees, along with the date of each signature and confirmation that we have verified its validity,” she said.
“It is a safe, powerful, and effective way to stand with Chinese Christians and churches, not only during the Coronavirus, but as long as the ‘plague’ of Communist Party persecution continues for them.”