At least six unregistered Protestant churches in Guiyang city, Guizhou Province in Southwest China were shut down by authorities on 8 October. All six churches are from the same district and it is believed that similar forced closures are occurring in other districts in the city.
The churches, which have a total of around 300 members, were accused of being “illegal religious venues,” an accusation often levelled at unregistered churches, sometimes referred to as ‘house’ or ‘family’ churches. Unregistered churches in the area have been under pressure from authorities to join the state- sanctioned Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). Authorities have harassed church members, and some congregations have lost up to 40% of their members due to this kind of pressure.
These closures follow the introduction of revised Regulations on Religious Affairs which continue and place fresh emphasis on the requirement that group religious activities take place in specifically designated registered sites, outlined in Chapter IV. Lawyers familiar with the issues say that in practice, the only way for a church to register as a religious site is through the state-sanctioned TSPM. However, TSPM churches have also been closed down and even demolished in some areas, leaving a shortage of registered religious venues.