By Michael Boewer, Worthy News South Africa Correspondent
BEIJING, CHINA (Worthy News) -- Last September, a mob of over 200 men led by a Chinese Communist official injured at least thirty people and demolished a Christian-owned factory in Linfen, along with its house church, Worthy News learned on August 11.
The Gospel Shoe Factory was owned and operated by Christians. Although it had a building permit, and its business license current, it also operated as a house church, and thus Chinese officials deemed it was illegal. In China, all house churches are required by law to be registered and is assigned a government appointed body that oversees the group’s activities.
A mob of over 200 men, led by a communist party official and supported by uniformed police stormed the factory, assaulted the sixty workers and demolished the factory using bulldozers and excavators. The workers, who sleep at the factory, were woken at 3 am on a Sunday morning and dragged from their beds by the mob.
Workers were brutally attacked and injured, including fractured legs and head injuries due to being clubbed. Over thirty people were taken to local hospitals by car and tractors.
MOST VIOLENT ATTACK IN RECENT TIMES
“This was the most violent attack on a house church in China in a decade,” says Li Fangping, a Beijing lawyer who later defended one of the church leaders.
This has been seen as one of the most violent attacks in China’s ongoing campaign against Christians in China. It is believed that the communist party, which has only 70 million registered members, is growing wary of the explosion of house churches across the country, considering that there are now an estimated 100 million Christians, a number which is growing rapidly.
GROWTH IN HOUSE CHURCHES SEEN AS A THREAT
Speaking about House Churches, Li Fangping was quoted as saying “The government is beginning to realize that they’re beyond their control.” Protestant Christianity is experiencing explosive growth both in the countryside and in the cities at a rate estimated to be above seven percent annually. And the government can neither stop them, nor control them.
The government has long held the belief that religion is nothing but "superstition and foolishness" and that as China modernizes and becomes a world power, that religion would fade away. Instead the contrary has occurred and religious belief, especially in Christianity, is growing.
What troubles China’s central government is the fact that the house churches are growing into a potentially formidable force with leadership, organizational structures, independent financing and a loyal and growing following.
The Gospel Shoe Factory is an example of "freedom of religion" in China, and a business based on Christian Principles, with independent funding, that is seen as a threat by the communist party. The government has recently held “closed door conferences” in order to decide a way forward with regard to the growth of Christianity and the explosion of house churches springing up around China.