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Authorities in China have doubled the fines for a Christian pastor and his wife who lead a house church in the communist nation, according to a report from ChinaAid, a Christian nonprofit focusing on persecution in China.
Pastor Yang Xibo and his wife Wang Xiaofei run the Xunsiding Church in Xiamen, in southeast China. Xunsiding is a house church, which is an “underground” church that is not sanctioned by the Three-Self Church — the supervisory organization of state-controlled protestant churches in China. The pastor and his wife face a fine of 400,000 yuan, or roughly $55,100, according to the watchdog.
“Thank God for allowing us to have a part in His affliction, and especially thankful that on Earth we have no property for the court-enforced implementation, which is definitely a great grace of God,” Pastor Yang Xibo and his wife posted to social media in response to the hefty fine.
Xunsiding is the largest house church in Xiamen, and it was initially fined 25,000 yuan, or roughly $3,400, in May 2019. In the wake of the fine, the Chinese government sent police to “surround” the venue, according to ChinaAid. The police reportedly “besieged” the church venue for a month and surveilled congregants “constantly.”
“As a result, the church changed meeting spaces frequently only to be met with more raids and bans,” ChinaAid wrote in its report. “During raids, authorities demolished private property and forced members to send their children to public schools.”
Pastor Yang and his wife began fighting to overturn the fine in 2021, but all appeals have been rejected by Communist Party bureaucracies in the country, the watchdog reports. In a May update on Pastor Yang’s situation, ChinaAid reported that an administrative lawsuit ordered the couple to pay $25,000. They are accused of “organizing illegal gatherings.”
On June 28, the total number of fines topped $50,000, according to the group. Yang and his wife said on social media that they would not pay the fine.
House churches in China are popular because churches that are sanctioned by the Three-Self Church are censored and controlled by the state, according to The Gospel Coalition. The underground churches — not affiliated with the Three-Self Church — are considered illegal and are often in undisclosed or always-changing locations.
The persecution of Christians in China has been a major problem for years. Open Doors USA, a Christian organization committed to serving persecuted Christians, releases a “World Watch List” annually, outlining the top 50 countries where the persecution of Christians is highest.
According to the 2023 World Watch List, China ranks 16th for Christian persecution. Surveillance is a significant issue, allowing the state to monitor and close down churches, according to the organization. A source told Open Doors that pastors and Christian leaders “are simply snatched away, only to appear months later in a kind of house arrest, where they get re-educated.”
Prior to the National Party Congress in October, the Communist Party increased its persecution of Christians through charges of “fraud” against church leaders, according to The Christian Post.