(Bitter Winter) — The persecution of house churches that belong to the so-called “gray market” — the largest segment of Chinese religion — has intensified dramatically since the new Regulations on Religious Affairs came into force in February 2018. Crackdowns on them have been implemented throughout the country, and Ninghai county in Zhejiang Province’s prefecture-level city of Ningbo is no exception.
The largest house church venue in Ninghai county — Chengzhong Church — was shut down on orders from the local government in December 2019. All of its about 900 congregation members had no choice but to disperse into small groups and worship in secret at odd places and times.
Leading to the closure, the county’s government, along with its Religious Affairs Bureau, United Front Work Department, Public Security Bureau, and other institutions, had repeatedly summoned the church leader to pressure him into joining the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. When he refused, the authorities ordered the congregation to stop all gatherings and threatened to impose fines if they didn’t.