In another example of the ongoing crackdown against house churches in China, house church pastor Shi Enhao was sentenced to two years in a labor camp last month. Pastor Shi, who serves as deputy chairman of the Chinese House Church Alliance, was charged with “illegal meetings and illegal organizing of venues for religious meetings.” The charges stem from the fact that Pastor Shi’s house church of several thousand meets in different sites around Suqian city.
Pastor Shi was detained on May 31 by police in the coastal city of Suqian, Jiangsu province, and held for 12 days before being detained on June 21 by the Suqian Public Security Bureau. The Domestic Security Protection Department also ordered his church to stop meeting and confiscated the congregation’s car, musical instruments and choir robes, as well as 140,000 yuan ($21,712.50) in donations.
Pastor Shi’s case shows that the government is targeting even house churches that do not gather in one location for worship. Shouwang Church in Beijing is engaged in an ongoing 15-week standoff with authorities over their meeting site. Critics of Shouwang have said that house churches that meet in smaller groups can avoid conflicts with authorities, but Pastor Shi’s case proves otherwise.
Pastor Shi and his wife, Zhu Guangyun, are both 55 years old. His 86-year-old mother, Liu Guanglan, requires constant care, which is provided by Pastor Shi’s wife. Pastor Shi’s son, Shi Yongyang, and his wife are both in full-time ministry. His son signed the sentencing paperwork at the police station, but police refused to give him a copy of the signed documents. All three of Pastor Shi’s daughters and their husbands have been threatened by police.
The sentence of two years of “re-education through labor” is an extra-judicial punishment that can be issued by police; it requires no trial, no conviction of a crime and no review by a court or judge. It is often used as punishment for those who have committed minor criminal offenses or for dissidents and adherents of religious groups, such as house church Christians and Falun Gong practitioners.
The chairman of the Chinese House Church Alliance, Zhang Mingxuan, also known as “Pastor Bike,” has been arrested multiple times.
Source: China Aid Association