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Local Government Officials Banning Minors From Church in China

FILE - A woman prays with other villagers during a mass in the morning at the Liuhe Catholic Church in Liuhe village on the outskirts of Qingxu county, northern China's Shanxi province, Sept. 11, 2011.

While state-run church parishioners continue to face challenges in some Chinese provinces, adherents of unrecognized Christian “house churches” in Guizhou province are being threatened, so much so that students have been warned their continued participation will leave them barred from attending college.

According to the human rights group China Aid, some adult members of nonsanctioned house churches have been required to sign documents waiving their right to bring minors to pray. Parents also have been told that they will be sued if they do so.

“Yesterday morning, I questioned a government official in our township, saying, 'We do not accept the way you handled our church's public meetings,' " Mou, who administers a house church in the Guizhou province town of Huaqiu, told VOA's Mandarin service. " 'What regulations does the central government have prohibiting [church] meetings? Let us see them.' "

According to Mou, who declined to provide a surname, the official replied: “The higher-level leadership ordered us to do this; we are just doing [as they say].”

In an interview with VOA Weishi, China Aid founder Bob Fu explained that, although China's constitution explicitly guarantees freedom of religion, Chinese law prohibits people under 18 from participating in religious activities. That's why local Huaqiu officials have threatened students with barring them from taking college entrance exams.

Fu also said local officials threatened to cut off government subsidies to low-income families if they go to church.

When asked whether incidents similar to those occurring in Huaqiu were happening in other parts of China, Fu said 36 Christians in Sichuan province were detained for attending Mass in 2014 alone.

According to statistics, in recent years, China’s unofficial house churches have expanded faster than government-sanctioned churches. Chinese authorities, Fu said, appear eager to curb this trend.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Mandarin service.

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