In a disturbing new development in the 12-week long clash between the Chinese Communist Party and members of Beijing’s 1,000-member Shouwang Church, the Chinese government is pressuring employers to fire church members from their jobs.

“In the 12 weeks since Shouwang Church lost its meeting site and decided to hold its Sunday worship services outdoors, Chinese authorities have tried many different ways to try to get the church members to desist. These have included police detention, house arrest, eviction, loss of jobs, and being forced to move out of Beijing,” reported ChinaAid, an advocacy group of Chinese expatriate based in New York.

ChinaAid reported that Xia Xiaoqiu, a Shouwang Church member employed by the U.S.-based Christian humanitarian group World Vision, wrote on the social media site Google Buzz:

“With regard to the job, I’ve already had several rounds of talks with my boss. Each side has already made clear what can be made clear. My boss said that my activities cannot be allowed to impact the organization’s development [in China], and those in the managerial level are all in agreement about this. The only thing left now is to await their decision. I’m thinking that no matter what, I must do my part to the utmost, so even if I do have to leave, I’ll make sure there’s a smooth transition to my successor.”

Later Xia wrote:

“I haven’t checked BUZZ all day. Just logged on and immediately saw this lively discussion about this incident. That really took me by surprise. First, a special thanks to everyone for their concern and love and protection, thinking on my behalf and coming up with practical ways to respond. On the other hand, the organization’s managers have not yet made a final decision, so this affair is not yet concluded. So everyone please just hold back for a bit and take no action. For now, let prayer be the focus. Everything else should wait until there’s a conclusion!”

Asked about the report, Cynthia Colin from World Vision’s Washington, D.C., office sent Beliefnet the following response:

“An  article  originating  with  the  ChinaAid Association stated that World  Vision  has  been  pressured by the government to fire a staff member for their church membership. World  Vision  affirms that it has fired no one and has come under no pressure to do so. The  staff  member  in  question continues to work out of her regular office and has been reassured that her position is secure. As   a   Christian   organization,  World  Vision  continues  to  work collaboratively with the government on a range of long-term communitydevelopment  programmes  and  ongoing  relief  responses, such as the current flood response in Central/Southern China.”

Xia has been detained by police several times for participating in Shouwang’s attempts to hold Sunday worship services.

Shouwang Church had grown to 1,000 members, but has experienced constant harrassment by government officials — who have pressured landlords to deny the church a place to meet. The congregation raised $4 million to buy a property, but government officials pressured the seller to refuse to turn over the keys.

The church has asked churches and human rights organizations outside of China to come to its aid and to pray for its members, after church leaders decided not to be “underground” any longer. They asked to register with the government, but not come under Three Self authority. At Three Self churches, clergy are selected by the government. Children under 18 are prohibited from attending. The government approves sermons beforehand. Three Self reachers whose congregations experience successful growth have found themselves demoted and transfered to small, rural churches.

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