The Chinese government formally recognizes five religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism, and Catholicism (though the Chinese Catholic Church is independent of the Catholic Church in Rome). China's five officially sanctioned religious organizations are the Buddhist Association of China, Chinese Taoist Association, Islamic Association of China, Three-Self Patriotic Movement and Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
These groups are afforded a degree of protection, but are subject to restrictions and controls under the State Administration for Religious Affairs. Unregistered religious groups—including house churches, Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhists, underground Catholics, and Uyghur Muslims—face varying degrees of harassment, including imprisonment, torture, and forced religious conversion.
On Sept. 22, Pastor Xu Shizhen, her daughter, Xu Yuqing, and Xu Yuqing's 3-year-old son, Xu Shouwang, were arrested by the police and religious affairs bureau personnel after they took part in Zion Church's efforts to spread the Gospel in the city's public parks and squares. According to China Aid, the local religious affairs, public security, and national security bureaus frequently interrupted the Christian women while they sang, danced, and preached. The two women and the grandson have been separated according to non-profit Christian human rights organization, China Aid.
This is not the first time that Xu Shizhen is in conflict with the Chinese authorities. She has got into trouble with Chinese authorities five years ago when her then house church was seized and handed over to the control of Three-Self Patriotic Movement Church, a church which is run by the state. It was after this incident she founded her current home church, called Zion Church.
Many believe that this move has an aim to show how Chinese government is serious about its new rules regarding regulating religion in order to enhance national security and curbing the practice of faith by organizations which are not approved by the state. The Chinese government has been stepping up its crackdown on churches ahead of the implementation of the revised edition of its Regulations on Religious Affairs in February.
The Association of Christian Students, an institution affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party, issued a report detailing plans to launch a specialized management program targeting private churches, "illegal" religious organizations, and preachers who have not been ordained by the state. Under the program, churches will be forced to register with the state-run Three-Self Patriotic Movement. Smaller churches will be forcibly combined with registered churches, and those that refuse to register will be banned.
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