Chinese authorities shut down one of the largest unofficial churches in Beijing on Sunday 9 September.
Although unregistered, the church has been (in practice) permitted to operate for years with relative freedom, but since church leaders refused a request from authorities to install CCTV cameras inside the building in April the church has come under growing pressure.
District officials announced on 9 September the church had been banned because it had “not registered and [had] carried out activities in the name of social organisations without authorisation”. The government introduced new religion regulations governing church registration in February.
As many as 1,500 people attend the church’s five weekly services. Police officers are now guarding the building. Prior to the church being shut down the congregation had been threatened with eviction.
In June, 34 “house churches” (unregistered church groups) issued a statement calling for Chinese authorities to respect freedom of religion and not view religious believers as a “dissenting force”. They stated, “House churches have a strong desire to contribute to a necessary dialogue to achieve better relations with the government in the new era.”
China’s Communist government only recognises state-registered churches, which are closely monitored.