The notice by the Changchun City Civil Affairs Bureau. From Weibo.

On September 9, 2022, the Changchun City Civil Affairs Bureau in Jilin province has banned the Changchun Sunshine Reformed Church, claiming it is an “illegal civil organization” and an “illegal social organization.”

Bitter Winter documented last month, by publishing pictures of the raid, that on August 21, a service of Changchun Sunshine Reformed Church, was raided by the police. Those attending the service were beaten by the agents. Two women had heart attacks and had to be hospitalized. Nine believers, Pastor Guo Muyun, Elder Qu Hongliang, and Brother Zhang Liangliang, were detained.

The incident confirms that the policy of Xi Jinping’s China towards house churches is to attack and destroy them, one by one. While after Deng Xiaoping’s “Document no. 19” of 1982, house churches enjoyed a modicum of tolerance, they never ceased to be technically illegal. The only Protestant communities that are legal in China are those affiliated with the government-controlled Three-Self Church. By definition, house churches (a name that stuck even after some of them gathered thousands of followers and no longer met in private homes, acquiring large places of worship) are Chirstian communities that firmly refuse to join the Three-Self Church.

Deng Xiaoping effectively placed house churches in a limbo. Even if they were temporarily left alone, their legal status did not change. Unless they joined the Three-Self Church, something few were prepared to do, house churches were still illegal, which meant that at any moment local authorities could crack down on them and claim they were just enforcing the laws.

With Xi Jinping, the limits of Deng Xiaoping’s limited tolerance became apparent. Xi Jinping, particularly through the two National Conferences on Work Related to Religious Affairs, which he presided in 2016 and 2021, sent a clear message that he was unhappy with the very existence of house churches. They should join the Three-Self Church or face persecution.

The raid on the Sunshine Reformed Church that happened on August 21 was one of many conducted simultaneously all over the country,

Destroying all the house churches in China may prove a mission impossible. There are just too many. Xi Jinping’s public security, however, is starting by cracking down on those that are more visible and have popular pastors.