Some house churches have registered with authorities to avoid arrests and harassment, but most do not as they object to the beliefs and controls of some TPSM leaders. Barriers to evangelical churches registering with the TSPM include theological differences, adverse consequences if they reveal names and addresses of church leaders or members, and government control of sermon content.
The number of Protestant house-church Christians has been estimated at between 45 million and 60 million.
The third phase is expected to begin from 2015 through to 2025, when the government would shut down house churches that do not comply with the requirement to join the TSPM, according to a joint-memo issued in September 2011 by SARA and the ministries of public security and civil affairs, the report says.
With this objective in mind, authorities in 2012 stepped up long-time tactics of banning and sealing churches, pressuring churches to join the official Three-Self structure, detaining church leaders and sending them to labor camps on the pretext of "suspicion of organizing and using a cult to undermine law enforcement," and strictly restricting the spread of the Christian faith among students, the report points out.
China Aid cites Shouwang Church as an example of closures by authorities.
"Landlords were pressured to terminate lease agreements with church members, church members who had purchased real estate were unable to take possession of them, church leaders were placed under house arrest and church members were evicted – all of which was done to make it impossible for the house church to operate normally so that it would eventually disband," the report notes.
Last September, Shouwang Church leaders said members were detained 1,600 times, 60 members were evicted from their homes, and more than 10 lost their jobs because they attended the church's outdoor worship services or simply because they were members. Many others were sent back to their hometowns, and some were confined to their homes on the weekends.
In February 2012, two Christians in Yulin, Shaanxi Province, were sent to a labor camp on charges of being a cult. In April, seven leaders of a house church in Pingdingshan, Henan province, were arrested and tried on this charge. In August, nine Christians from Ulanhot, Inner Mongolia, were placed under administrative detention for engaging in evangelism while providing free medical services, and two of them were sentenced to two years of re-education-through-labor.
Many summer camps for Christian students were raided, and the crackdowns were severe last year, the report adds.
Just as the Bible warns, "It is hard for you to kick against the goads," the approach of the Chinese government is "ignorant," concludes China Aid President Bob Fu in the report. "House churches will not be eradicated. What will be eradicated are any ideology and forces that try to resist the truth of Christ."
Editor's note: This Morning Star news account is based in part on a research report from China Aid. It was not produced independently by the CT news staff.