By BosNewsLife News Center with BosNewsLife Senior Special Correspondent Eric Leijenaar
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- Chinese secret service agents are massively infiltrating China's growing house church movement and pressure its leaders to leave Beijing before the Olympic Games are held there in 2008, well-informed Chinese sources and rights investigators told BosNewsLife Friday, September 7.
"It doesn't go as well with religious freedom in China as being reported," said Open Doors, a respected group supporting Christians "persecuted for their faith."
"Despite some enthusiastic reports in the media, China's human rights are deteriorating. Since last year, Open Doors has established that the secret police is increasingly using harsher methods against the house church movement," the rights group told BosNewslife.
Since October 2006, Open Doorsâ€™ contacts reported that "in every house church meeting, baptism service or seminar someone was present from the secret service." Open Doors stressed that "house church leaders know who these people are" but do as if they don't notice them.
Open Doors said its Chinese contacts "also report that most house church leaders have been 'requested' [by the secret police or other authorities] to leave Beijing before the city hosts the Olympic Games" next year.
In addition "many leadership training courses were interrupted by the secret police in several provinces. If foreigners were involved, they were either asked to leave the region immediately, or expelled from the country," Open Doors said.
The group noted that foreigners have been expelled from at least two provinces for allegedly overstaying their permitted time as students. Others were allegedly deported from China after secret police discovered Chinese Christian publications in their homes.
Open Doors said that despite these difficulties, it plans to buy 50,000 Bibles "to sell in state supervised book shops and to distribute them among several house churches." The group claimed that its field workers have noted "an unusual lack of Bibles, even in Nanjing, the capital of China's Jiangsu Province, where [province] where the Bibles are printed. The reason for the alleged of Bible shortage was not immediately clear.
â€œWe don't know whether the pressure [on churches] can be linked to the Olympic Games...", Chinese sources said. "Perhaps the situation will improve after the Games...but it could be that the harsher policies will be extended [by authorities] because of their 'success.'"
Chinese Christians and rights investigators have suggested that China's Communist authorities have expressed concerns about the spread of Christianity and the possibility that missionaries will use the Olympic Games as a venue to further spread the Gospel among the masses.
130 MILLION CHRISTIANS?
Chinese officials have reportedly estimated there may be as many as 130 million Christians in China, at least 50 million more than previous estimates by Open Doors and other Christian rights groups. Christianity is often viewed by autocratic governments in Asia as a threat to their ideology and power base, BosNewsLife learned from several rights investigators.
China's government has denied religious rights abuses saying Christians are free to worship in the official denominations. Most Christians in China, however, prefer to gather in 'house churches', named this way as they are often organized in homes of believers, outside Communist-control. (With BosNewsLife Research. BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos contributed to the story).
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