BEIJING, CHINA (Worthy News)– Pastors of "house" churches in China urged the country's parliament to investigate a police crackdown on one of Beijing's largest underground churches while Chinese Christian leaders in the United States and Canada launched a global signature campaign to support the embattled Shouwang Church, supporters said.
Wednesday's petition to China's 'National People’s Congress' is the first such action by Chinese house churches, also known as the underground church, in 60 years of Communist rule of China, explained advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA).
"It represents a further emboldening of the house church movement, which for decades was active only in the countryside, meeting in small groups in private homes and careful to maintain a low profile to avoid attracting government attention to the illegal gatherings," added CAA, which is supporting the iniative.
Besides asking for a special commission to look into the Shouwang Church events, the petition also demands a review "of the constitutionality of China’s current rules governing religious affairs," CAA explained.
The action follows the detention of over a dozen Shouwang Christians Sunday, May 8, in the fifth week of tensions with authorities over church attempts to hold outdoor worship services, Christians said.
Earlier, hundreds of Christians were detained or put under arrest to prevent them from leaving their houses or apartments including on Easter weekend, according to church members.
Chinese authorities have also driven people out of their houses or apartments, a church member told Worthy News. In one of the latest reported incidents, at least one family was forced to leave their home Sunday, May 8, before the worship service was about to begin.
Shouwang Church has defended its decision to hold open air services saying authorities effectively banned its indoor gatherings. China's authorities have denied wrongdoing saying Christians are free to gather in the official, state-backed, churches.
Advocacy groups say however that many of China's up to 130 million Christians prefer to worship outside Communist government control including "house" churches, named this way as they are often organized in homes of individual believers.
The Beijing Shouwang Church's efforts are also endorsed by former members and influential Chinese pastors in the United States and Canada who said they launched a worldwide signature campaign via website www.HelpSW.org to prevent "even harsher punishments against the church and its leaders."
Their bilingual appeal, launched Tuesday, May 10, has already been signed by some well-known figures, including Boli Zhang, a former student leader of China's 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, who now pastors the Harvest Chinese Christian Church in Washington D.C., CAA said. (With reporting by Worthy News's Stefan J. Bos).