The standoff between the Chinese government and the country’s largest unsanctioned house church has compelled Chinese authorities to take a public stance on the house church movement. Beijing’s Shouwang Church, whose 1,000-member congregation includes educated and affluent business people, intellectuals and students, has run into conflict with authorities in recent weeks for attempting to meet in public spaces outdoors. The Shouwang Church decided to meet openly after authorities repeatedly prevented the church from meeting in spaces it had rented or purchased.
In the first public comment on the conflict, on Tuesday, April 26, the state-run newspaper Global Times published an editorial stating, “Authorities are unwilling to let a confrontation occur between the religious organization and the administration system … at this politically sensitive time.”
The editorial continued, “It must be noted that the problem caused by [house churches] that refuse to join the legitimate Christian ‘Three Self Patriotic Movement Committee’ has grown more serious. It is not easy to completely solve this issue.” The Shouwang Church has refused to join the government-controlled Three Self Patriotic Movement, but it did apply unsuccessfully for registration between 2005 and 2007.