HONG KONG—Authorities in Beijing have visited a prominent leader of an unofficial Christian church who recently commemorated the 21st anniversary of the June 4 military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in the capital.
Chen Tianshi, a Beijing family church organizer and former student leader during the 1989 pro-democracy movement, said his home in the suburban county of Shunyi was recently visited by unidentified police officers.
“My wife said two police officers had come to my home today at suburban Beijing’s Houshayu village in Shunyi county, checking our temporary residence cards,” said Chen, who has no permanent right to reside in the capital under China’s national household registration system.
“They are not the officers from our own residential area, all of whom we know,” Chen said in an interview Tuesday.
“Usually police in Beijing don’t check temporary residential cards, as the law doesn’t require everybody to have one,” Chen added.
“Furthermore, Monday through Wednesday is a holiday. Therefore I believe they have come for special purposes,” he said.
Unregistered or underground family Christian churches are often targeted by the ruling Communist Party, which allows religious worship only under the aegis of state-sponsored religious organizations.
Chen said he thought the police visit was linked to a recent article he published on a pro-democracy online magazine, Minzhu Zhongguo, and to recent activities he held to commemorate the June 4th anniversary.
“The day of June 4th happened also to be my son’s birthday, and so I gathered several friends for dinner,” Chen said.
“We went together to a lake, where we lit dozens of flying lanterns to remind people at the lake area not to forget Tiananmen.”
Chen, who was jailed for a year for his part in the 1989 protests before being sent back to his birthplace in southern China’s Guangxi province in 1995, has been the target of police harassment and questioning on a number of occasions, especially for his role in bringing new believers into his church group.
Meanwhile, police in the central Chinese province of Henan sent two members of a family church to labor camp in early May.
In Chimei township, near Henan’s Nanyang city, an anonymous church member said the two Christians were Chen Fengming and Qin Gaiying.
“The authorities say they have engaged in evil cult activities,” the church member said.
A second source in the area said the charges were fabricated by the authorities as a form of harassment.
And Christians in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region said unofficial Christian church members in the Talimu area are under constant surveillance by police.
Kong Lingrong, a Christian in the 2nd Division of the Xinjiang Construction and Cultivation Corps [in Chinese, bingtuan] stationed in Talimu, said that while police do nothing if they see someone reading a Bible, they have still kept a close eye on local Christians.
“Sometimes police came to our congregation place, threatening old worshipers by saying that their social welfare might be terminated or their salary might be lowered,” Kong said.
Beijing-based church leader Fan Yafeng said that despite harassment by authorities, family churches are probably the most powerful social group to bargain with the Chinese authorities over human rights protection.
He cited the case of Pastor Wang Dao of Guangzhou who was arrested but released recently thanks to pressure from overseas and Chinese human rights groups.
“The Chinese government will react differently according to the intensity of resistance brought out by particular social groups,” Fan said.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Translated from the Chinese by Ping Chen. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.