Tuesday, October 11, 2016

RLPB 379. China: new regulations herald dark days for church

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 379 | Wed 12 Oct 2016

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International Days of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2016: Sundays 6 & 13 November. Resources: http://idop.org/
See also Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)
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CHINA: NEW REGULATIONS HERALD DARK DAYS FOR CHURCH
by Elizabeth Kendal

down with the cross
In January 2014 China's ruling Communist Party (CCP) launched a campaign of religious repression right in China's Christian heartland: Wenhzou city in the coastal province of Zhejiang [see RLPB 255, 'The Chinese Communist Party and the Cross Over Zhejiang,' (9 April 2014)]. Evidently the experiment has been deemed a success, for it appears the CCP is ready to roll out the repression nation-wide. New regulations coming into force give the CCP total control over religion nation-wide, purportedly on national security grounds. Further to this, on 1 November new regulations will come into force banning lawyers from speaking publicly about human rights abuses. These new regulations herald dark days ahead for the Church in China, for not only will the Church be without freedom, it may also be without lawyers.

On 8 September 2016 the CCP released a deliberative draft of its new Regulations on Religious Affairs [deliberation draft: English translation]. Friday 7 October was designated as the day the government would stop receiving public comments and bring the law into effect; however, no public announcement has been made as yet. The regulations give the CCP total control over religion. Unregistered (non-CCP-approved) religious activity will no longer be tolerated, registered churches will have to follow strict guidelines and all building will be tightly regulated so as to reduce the Church's visibility, as in Zhejiang.

Not only has the CCP set the stage for a flood of legal prosecutions ('lawfare') against Christians, but it is also moving to hamstring and tighten the restrictions on China's human rights lawyers. In a massive crackdown, back in July 2015 the government suddenly rounded up and arrested some 300 prominent human rights lawyers and activists, 14 of whom are still detained. In the midst of this, Christian lawyer Zhang Kai (37) announced the formation of 'Lawyers for Protection of the Cross', a group of some 30 Christian lawyers who vowed to defend the rights of the churches in Zhejiang. A month later, Zhang was arrested in Wenzhou, Zhejiang [RLPB 325 (1 Sep 2015)] and 'disappeared' into China's secret 'black jail' system. He was held in solitary confinement and in darkness for six months until, under extreme duress, he publicly 'confessed' to his 'crimes' and 'repented'. He was then released on strict bail conditions.

'house church' in Beijing
photo: Wayne Mcallister, ABC
Zhang Kai was re-arrested on 31 August 2016 after he breached his parole by publicly retracting his 'confession' [RLPB 377 (28 Sep 2016)]. On 1 November the Ministry of Justice's amended 'Administrative Measures for Law Firms' will come into effect. At that point all China's lawyers will be banned officially from speaking out about human rights abuses. Even silent protests, such as walking out of a courtroom, will be prohibited. 

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT: 

* God will give China's Christian leaders and lawyers great wisdom and grace as they seek to navigate the difficult path ahead.

* China's some 70 million Christians in unregistered 'house churches' -- many of which are remote -- will have great wisdom as they seek to continue studying the Word and worshipping together, albeit more deeply 'underground'.

* the Lord Jesus Christ will continue his Church-building work in China, as the Holy Spirit drives and guides creative and courageous mission and opens hearts to receive the Gospel.

* God will intervene in China to frustrate the plans of the Communist Party so that China's Christians will be free to live, worship and serve openly, so as to bring great blessing to China (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Pray for President Xi Jinping and the ruling CCP that 'the Lord opens the eyes of the blind' (Psalm 146:8a ESV).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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NEW REGULATIONS HERALD DARK DAYS FOR CHINA'S CHURCH

On 8 September China's ruling Communist Party (CCP) released a draft of new 'Regulations on Religious Affairs'. Friday 7 October was the final day for public comment before the law would come into effect. The regulations give the CCP total control over religion nation-wide, purportedly on national security grounds. Unregistered religious activity will no longer be tolerated, registered churches will be heavily restricted and all building will be tightly regulated. Furthermore, when the Ministry of Justice's amended 'Administrative Measures for Law Firms' come into effect on 1 November, China's lawyers will be banned from speaking publicly about human rights abuses. So not only will the Church be without freedom, it is destined to be without lawyers to advocate for it. May God intervene in China and build his Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016). See www.ElizabethKendal.com