Less than two months ago, we visited Beijing Shouwang Church (see previous post), a so-called underground church in Beijing. At the time, we commented that the experience was similar to our visits to China’s grand state-owned churches.
Then, we read the news today that dozens (some say more) of worshipers from Shouwang Church have been taken away by police while trying to pray outdoors today in Beijing’s Haidian district.
“The congregants sang hymns and said prayers as police loaded them onto waiting buses in Beijing’s western Haidian district, the US-based Christian rights group China Aid said in a statement on Sunday, citing witnesses.”
Unfortunately, we were not there to witness the event and therefore cannot verify the account. But we can report that the church’s website: http://www.shwchurch1.com, has been taken down. There is only a simple phrase on the website stating “Warm notice: This website is temporarily unavailable. We are sorry for any inconvenience.”
The church’s facebook page (you can search “Beijing Shouwang Church” on facebook to locate its page) has also not been updated since January. A google search turns up some results indicating that last Sunday, April 3, 2011, was the last service Shouwang held at the old venue that we visited. The church also distributed a Questions & Answers sheet (in Chinese) to its congregation about this Sunday’s outdoor service. In this document, the church made it clear that house arrests or police intervention might jeopardize the service today.
The latest situation, according to new reports, is that Shouwang’s pastor and leaders are under house arrests in Beijing. Its congregation, after taken away by police, is being held up in a local school. It is almost impossible for the church and its members to communicate with the outside world about what is happening to them now.
This is the first time that ChristiansInChina.com encountered this type of events throughout our investigations of Christianity in China. The Chinese government’s arbitrary or dictatorial nature is apparent if these reports are true. Its tyranny is written in each word in that “Warm Notice” on Shouwang Church’s now blank website, which we browsed only a short time ago. We will keep close watch of the situation.
Latest: according to reports, Shouwang Church’s worshipers have been release. But the pastor is still under house-arrest. (April, 2011)
Update: For the past many weeks, church members tried to gather each Sunday in Beijing at the location below. But as always, police awaited them. The pastor continues to be under house arrest. One piece of good news, however, is that some Chinese Christian leaders have sent a letter to the government, urging a resolution between the government and Shouwang Church. Though we think the government is unlikely to relent.
We testify again – with what we have witnessed and learned – that Shouwang Church is a group of faithful and peace-loving Christians who wanted to stay out of politics. Their only goal is to find a place for their worship, nothing more. (May 27, 2011)