Here’s an excerpt from an important article in Christianity Today:
In 2012, a new three-phase approach was adopted to wipe out unregistered house churches, which the government saw as a hostile group of dissenters, and force them to join the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church system. In the first phase, from January 2012 to June, the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) secretly investigated house churches across the country and created files on them, the report says. This was followed by a wave of crackdowns on house churches, which has continued into 2013, as part of the second phase. The second phase will also entail strongly encouraging unregistered churches to become part of the TSPM—at which point they would become known as “house gatherings,” with the government banning the term “house churches.”
Some house churches have registered with authorities to avoid arrests and harassment, but most do not as they object to the beliefs and controls of some TPSM leaders. Barriers to evangelical churches registering with the TSPM include theological differences, adverse consequences if they reveal names and addresses of church leaders or members, and government control of sermon content.
The number of Protestant house-church Christians has been estimated at between 45 million and 60 million.
The third phase is expected to begin from 2015 through to 2025, when the government would shut down house churches that do not comply with the requirement to join the TSPM, according to a joint-memo issued in September 2011 by SARA and the ministries of public security and civil affairs, the report says.
With this objective in mind, authorities in 2012 stepped up long-time tactics of banning and sealing churches, pressuring churches to join the official Three-Self structure, detaining church leaders and sending them to labor camps on the pretext of “suspicion of organizing and using a cult to undermine law enforcement,” and strictly restricting the spread of the Christian faith among students, the report points out.
“Landlords were pressured to terminate lease agreements with church members, church members who had purchased real estate were unable to take possession of them, church leaders were placed under house arrest and church members were evicted – all of which was done to make it impossible for the house church to operate normally so that it would eventually disband,” the report notes.
You can read the whole thing here.