Persecution in China Is Very Real
Given our findings and experience, the Communist Party does not draw clear lines between what is political and what is religious. Fearful of a collapse reminiscent of the Velvet Revolution in Eastern Europe, the Party sees all organizations it cannot control—Protestants and Catholics who refuse government oversight, democracy and free speech advocates, intellectuals, and labor unions—as the biggest political threat to their power. One only has to look at President Xi Jinping's recent speech in Guangzhou to recognize that an Eastern European model collapse remains prominently on the mind of Communist Party leaders.
In other words, one does not have to act, in what we in the West consider to be overtly politically ways, to be considered a political threat in China. The persistence and growth of the "house church" movement is such a threat no matter how much is stays clear of party politics. How else to explain another central government-sponsored secret initiative we recently discovered that seeks to curtail the spread of Christianity and Christian fellowships among college students and professors in the name of "anti foreign religious infiltration"?
I do agree, however, with both Brent Fulton and Jan Vermeer, that if Protestant groups remain in home fellowships under 20 to 30 people, do not seek to act on behalf of the poor and vulnerable, do not form fellowships with like-minded groups in other provinces, comply with bans on proselytizing among college students or communing with their foreign brothers and sisters without permission, there would be fewer arrests, fewer detentions, and fewer restrictions.
But that is just not the "house church" Protestantism that I know today in China. It does not describe the many courageous religious leaders and religiously inspired advocates who are growing the church, building national "house church" organizations, standing up for the right of religious freedom guaranteed by Chinese law, and seeking to be both salt and light in Chinese society. It is ChinaAid's mission to protect and equip these individuals in the situations they find themselves and for the battles they chose to fight.
I was jailed in the 1990s for organizing an illegal "house church" while teaching English at the Communist Party School. My wife and I were able to escape, by the grace of God, through a network of friends and allies, eventually settling in the United States. Many of my friends and colleagues were not as fortunate. I know that China has changed much in the past thirty years and we continue to praise progress where and when it occurs. Christianity has grown despite persecution and restrictions. The most extreme cases of violence or imprisonment are reserved now for the most influential leaders to encourage self-censorship and fear, such as in the cases of Fan Yafeng, Alimujiang Yimiti, Gao Zhisheng, Yang Rongli or Cao Nan.