12/06/2019 China (International Christian Concern) – A house church in China’s Guangzhou province refuses to install national flag in replacement of the cross, even after facing pressure from the local authorities.
According to China Aid, pastor Ma Chao of the Guangfu house church was summoned by the local police on December 2 and requested to fly the national flag and hang up slogans taken from national religious policy. Pastor Ma firmly rejected their request.
With over 1000 members, Guangfu Church has been repeatedly requested by the Baiyun District Religious Affairs Bureau to join the state-sanctioned Three-Self church. After their refusal, the government sealed the church claiming that the church “has conducted illegal religious activities” and confiscated the church’s property.
Despite pastor Ma’s attempts to file for administrative appeal, none of them were successful. His visits to Guangzhou city government and Guangdong provincial government also yielded no result.
The church’s other gathering places also have been raided by the authorities. Last September, their meeting place at Xinhua township in Huadu District was raided by several government officials. They took pictures of all the members and registered their information, before they demanded them to worship at state-sanctioned church. The leader of the meeting place was threatened with arrest and a fine of 50,000 yuan (approximately 7100 dollars), while their landlord warned not to rent the place to this church anymore.
On November 26, three police officers from the Taihe township police station in Baiyun district came to visit Pastor Ma Chao. Ma said, “They called me and asked me to hang the flag, slogans from the national religious policy and core values [of socialism]. Since I was not home, I told them I would come by their office next Monday. I hope that all of you can pray for us so that we gain victory in Christ, and only raise up our cross persistently until the Lord comes again.”
He added that the state security also handed him a brochure on religious regulations, highlighting the “Four Elements Entering Religious Venues” –
Namely the flag, the Constitution, core values of socialism, and Chinese prominent traditional culture.
Thanks to their firm stance rejecting the state’s requests, both pastor Ma and many of his church coworkers have been oppressed. They have been denied of access to residence permits or have to jump through hoops to get them renewed.
A church member, Chen Chengwan, who is one of the victims told China Aid that he believes he was targeted for his faith.