Last November (21-22, Nov 2008), the China State Council Development Research Center organized a seminar on “Christianity and Social Harmony — Special Session on House Church”. This is the first of its kind organized by a Chinese governmental sector. However, soon after the seminar, the Ministry of Civil Affairs issued a statement for banning activities organized by the China Federation of Christian House Churches.
The statement said (via cool mountain house at douban):
The douban article (reposted from artblog) points out that:
Below is a brief update of the religious demography in the past decade, which gives some background to the recent crackdown.
On October 16, 1997, China’s State Council Information Center released the “White Paper: Freedom of Religious Belief in China”, claiming:
Very interestingly, the White Paper on Progress in China’s Human Rights Cause in 2004 released on April 13, 2005 by China’s State Council Information Center says China’s religious demography remains 100 million, the clergy members remain 3000, 000, and the number of national and regional religious organizations also remains unchanged (more than 3,000), but the number of venues for religious activities rose to 100, 000.
According to China’s first major survey on religious beliefs conducted by professors Tong Shijun (童世骏) and Liu Zhongyu (刘仲宇) of Shanghai-based East China Normal University, 31.4 percent of Chinese aged 16 and above (or about 300 million) are religious. This figure is three times the official figure released in 2005.
It is noteworthy that 62 percent of the religious believers surveyed are in the 16-39 age groups, while only 9.6 percent are 55 years old or older.
According to this survey, Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Christianity and Islam are the top five religions, accounting for 67.4% of believers. About 200 million people are Buddists, Taoists or worshippers of legendary figures, accounting for 66.1 per cent of all believers. The survey finds 12% of all believers, or 40 million, are Christians.
USA’s “International Religious Freedom Report 2007: China” released on September 14, 2007 quoted China’s governmental figures as follows:
There are more than 100 million Buddhists;
There are more than 25,000 Taoist priests and nuns, more than 1,500 Taoist temples, and two Taoist schools;
There are as many as 20 million Muslims and 10 predominantly Muslim ethnic groups, the largest of which is the Hui, estimated to number nearly 10 million;
There are 5.3 million persons registered with China’s official Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), and an equal or greater number who worship in unregistered Catholic churches affiliated with the Vatican;
Officials estimated that at least 20 million Christians worship in official churches;
According to NGO reports, Ye Xiaowen, Director of State Ethnic Affairs Commission, said to audiences at Beijing University and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences that the number of Christians had reached 130 million by the end of 2006, including about 20 million Catholics.
The latest report about China’s religious demography, appearing in a Canadian newspaper, suggests:
16 per cent of Chinese nationals adhere to state-sanctioned Buddhist institutions; almost 2 per cent go to approved Protestant Christian churches; another one per cent attend official Catholic churches; more than one per cent go to sanctioned Muslim mosques, and another one per cent are Taoist.
The most controversial figure is how many people attend “family churches”, “house churches” or “underground churches” in China. Li Fan（李凡）exposed that
It is said that the former US President George Bush once urged
Although there is a new wave of crackdown after the November seminar on House church, it has also stimulated some discussion about the surfacing of church activities in China. An article written by Luke Lam has been reposted in many blogs (via yaoqiguang):
It seems that such a conclusion is too optimistic given the present political climate in China.
(This article is also contributed by Oiwan Lam).