House churches facing continuous crackdown

House churches, like other civil society groups in China, have in recent years faced a shrinking operation space. Authorities view house churches with suspicion, typically due to their hesitation to or outright refusal of the three-self patriotic ideology and distrust over the churches’ grassroots organizational capacities. House churches struggle to exist among the communities they serve.

On August 19, 2022, the Xi’an Civil Affairs Bureau in Shaanxi Province publicly announced that the Fengsheng Church (丰盛教会) had not registered with the government and that its social activities were unauthorized, thus making it an illegal civil organization. Just two days earlier, on August 17, police from the Xi’an Baqiao sub-bureau searched the homes of head pastor Lian Changnian (廉长年) and his son, pastor Liang Xuliang (廉旭亮). Subsequently, the two pastors were placed under Residential Surveillance in a Designated Location (RSDL). It is reported that the family is unaware of their whereabouts.

On the same day, police raided an outdoor event organized by the Linfen “Holy Covenant” church in Shanxi Province. It was reported that the homes of the church members Han Xiaodong (韩晓栋) and Li Jie (李洁) were searched the next morning. The two are reportedly missing.

Two days later, on August 21, the service at the Changchun Sunshine Reformed Church in Jilin Province was disrupted. The congregation was dispersed. It was reported that pastor Zhang Yong (张勇 aka Guo Muyun 郭暮云) and two other clergy members Qu Hongliang (曲洪亮) and Zhang Liangliang (张亮亮) were taken by the police.

Individual members of house churches also face legal troubles for carrying out missionary duties. Lin Xuesui (林学岁) of Wenzhou in Zhejiang Province was reportedly arrested by police on August 21 with two others for organizing and/or funding an illegal gathering in Sichuan, Gulin County. Lin was accused of being potentially harmful to society. On August 5, Lugang District Civil Affairs Bureau in Wenzhou publicly announced that two Bible schools operating under house churches had not registered with the government and are illegal social organizations. The announcement ordered the schools’ closure.

Gen Zejun (耿则军) of Shizuishan in Ningxia Province was sentenced to one year and three months in prison on August 19 by the Shizuishan Huinong District People’s Court. The court convicted Gen of organizing illegal gatherings. Gen is a missionary at the Panshi Church and has been gathering with fellow worshipers at homes for services. He was first summoned by police on January 4, 2021 for organizing and/or funding an illegal gathering and subsequently arrested on January 25 for organizing an illegal gathering. Gen reportedly refused to admit guilt during the court hearing in July 2022. His sentence expires in March 2023.

Hong Kong woman released to Hong Kong, then re-arrested

Kiu Ying-yu (乔映瑜 aka Quinn Moon), a young woman in her early 30s from Hong Kong who was convicted of organizing an illegal border crossing by the Shenzhen Yantian District People’s Court in December 2020, has completed her sentence of two years. She was released to the Hong Kong authority on August 23 and was immediately arrested on charges of making explosives during the 2020 protest.

Kiu and Tang Kai-yin (邓棨然) made plans with ten other Hong Kong residents, including two minors, to flee to Taiwan in August 2020. They were caught by the Chinese coastguard. While the ten others were eventually released, Kiu and Tang were accused of being the ringleaders. Tang was sentenced to three years and is serving his sentence at Conghua Prison until August 2023.

Activist Long Kehai detained again

Long Kehai (龙克海), who just completed two consecutive administrative detentions on July 16, 2022, was placed in criminal detention in early August for unknown charges.

Long, with several other petitioners and activities, attempted to attend the subversion trial of lawyer Chang Weiping on July 25 in Feng County. The family and supporters were blocked near Baoji. Long and legal activist Li Dawei (李大伟) were reportedly taken away by Gansu State Security. Another petitioner Tian Qiuli (田秋丽) was reportedly taken by Baoji State Security. Li and Tian’s whereabouts are unknown.

Shenzhen activist release

Wu Gejianxiong (吴葛健雄) completed his full three-year imprisonment sentence on July 21, 2022 and was released from Hengzhou Prison.

Wu is one of the trio of civil activists from the Changsha NGO Funeng (长沙富能) who expressed support for Hong Kong democracy protests and were convicted in July 2021 for inciting subversion, an endangering state security crime. Of the other two activists, Li Dazhi (刘大志) was released in July 2021. However, the founder of Funeng, Cheng Yuan (程渊) was sentenced to five years in prison and is serving his sentence in Jinshi Prison until July 2024.