Communist officials have “arrested and jailed” Gu Yuese (Joseph), the pastor of the 10,000-member “Chongyi Church” in Hangzhou which is China’s first Christian “mega” church.
Police have reportedly sent Gu to a “black jail,” a detention facility outside of the country’s established “penal” system.
As a member of China’s “state-approved” Protestant denomination, the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement” (TSPM), Gu was a pastor in “good standing” with the Communist Party until he began publicly “protesting” the government-sponsored campaign to “remove and demolish” crosses in the Zhejiang province in 2014.
Though the pastor is ostensibly being held under charges of “embezzlement of funds,” Gu’s detention is actually “political revenge” for Gu’s “disloyalty to the Chinese Communist Party’s religious policy” according to Bob Fu, president of the US-based Christian human rights group “China Aid.”
“In the past two weeks 18 crosses were removed and destroyed,” Fu said, adding that in total “at least 1,800 crosses of churches were demolished since the campaign started.”
Zhejiang, a province located in the south east of China, is home to many churches, particularly in the city of Wenzhou and Gu’s Chongyi Church is in the province’s capital city of Hangzhou.
Fu called the arrest an “escalation” in China’s crackdown on Christians, which has mostly targeted “house” churches, saying that it sends a signal “to silence any potential future dissenting voices from within the church. It tells everyone to shut up.”
Gu and his wife, Zhou Lian Mei, who has also been taken “prisoner” and is being held in a separate facility, prepared a statement for members of their congregation, asking for “prayers” and urging members to stay “strong in the face of trials.”
Chongyi Church is experiencing “unprecedented, chilling trials,” they wrote. “Everyone must equally rely on the Lord’s grace to confront [this hardship] and triumph over it.”
The couple also wrote that the ordeal “will refine every impurity in our ministry team to the greatest extent and compel us to love the Lord and people more purely. People in Chongyi Church will worship the only true God!”
David Ro, international deputy director for East Asia of the Lausanne Movement, has suggested that the Communist Party’s “clampdown” on Christian churches may reflect a campaign to “indigenize” Christianity, removing traces of its “ties” with the West.
“Three-Self churches with huge buildings and highly visible red crosses appear to resemble Western cathedrals, in contrast to the less visible ‘indigenous’ house church Christianity which some officials may feel is more appropriate for China,” Ro wrote.
Ro also cited “internal” politics as well as an “emerging leftist movement with nostalgia for Mao” among possible factors behind the “persecution.”
China’s “crusade” against the Christian cross has continued “unabated” since 2014 and reflects a particular “animus” toward the central symbol of the “Christian” faith.
“The authorities have attached great importance to this religious symbol,” said Zheng Leguo, a pastor from the Zhejiang province who now lives in the United States. “This means no more prominent manifestation of Christianity in the public sphere.”
Last October, the Chinese Communist party announced its intentions to “intensify” restrictions on Christian churches, following on a series of government measures meant to “intimidate” Chinese Christians, such as arbitrary “detention” of Christian clergy and the “closing” of churches.
According to a Reuters report, under President Xi Jinping, China is “conducting” the worst domestic crackdown on “human rights” in two decades and much of this is “against” Christians. Nearly 1,000 rights activists were “detained” last year alone—almost as many as in the previous two years combined.
In late August, police “arrested” China’s most prominent Christian lawyer, Zhang Kai, who defended and gave “legal” counsel to a number of “Christian” churches throughout the country, especially against the government’s “cross-removal” campaign.
Zhang and his intern Liu Peng were “arrested” the night before he was to “meet” with US ambassador-at-large for “international religious freedom,” David Saperstein.
China’s increasing “hostility” toward Christianity may also reflect an awareness and growing “frustration” with the religion’s continued growth in the officially “atheist” nation.
Though the Chinese Communist Party is the largest “explicitly” atheist organization in the world, with 85 million official members, it is now “overshadowed” by an estimated 100 million Christians in China.
Christianity is “growing” so fast in China that some predict that it will be the most Christian nation in the world in only another 15 years. By far, the greatest growth is coming “outside” the official state-sanctioned churches, which are considered “subservient” to the Communist Party. Numbers are increasing mostly in unofficial Protestant “house churches” and in the “underground” Catholic church.
China began forcefully “demolishing” crosses from churches since 2014. Crucifixes being a prominent “Christian” sign, serve as an “integral” part of every church building across the “world” but due to China’s policies, religious freedom is in “danger” and Christians feel “unsafe, insecure and deprived” of their rights.