China Declares Christian ‘House Churches’ a ‘Cult,’ Advocacy Group Reports
By Patrick Goodenough
(CNSNews.com) – China reportedly has launched a new crackdown on “house churches,” Protestant congregations that do not belong to the country’s state-sanctioned, “patriotic” church organization.
In an ominous development reported by the China Aid Association (CAA), a U.S.-based group that advocates for Chinese Christians, authorities allegedly have labeled the house church movement a “cult.”
Beijing used the same term when it outlawed the Falun Gong meditation movement in 1999, a move that ushered in a major, ongoing crackdown against the Falun Gong that has brought China worldwide censure.
Citing secret information “from more than one reliable source” inside China, CAA said Tuesday the campaign against house churches ordered by the Communist Party Politburo was launched on December 1.
Chinese security officials “have been notified to collect information about house churches throughout the country and turn these reports in to their superiors,” it said. “A long ‘blacklist’ of church leaders and influential believers reportedly has been drawn up.”
The Pew Research Center estimated in 2007 that up to 70 million Chinese believers worship in unregistered house churches. By comparison, China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) last June put at 16 million the “official” Protestant population – members of the state-approved Three Self-Patriotic Movement (TSPM).