Police in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, China again summoned a homeschooling father for questioning, this time on suspicion of “illegal holding of materials promoting terrorism and extremism”.
The July 7 detention is the latest in a series of troubles with Chinese authorities for Zhao Weikai, a 35-year-old Christian from Taiyuan Xuncheng Reformed Church whose refusal to stop homeschooling his three children led to a home raid and charges of proselytism in May.
The case signals an increase in China Communist Party intervention in Christian homes.
The Party overrules the parents in every aspect of a child’s life. Parents must act as extensions of the state or face severe punishments. In the case of Brother Zhao, his Christian beliefs prevent him from subjecting his children to an atheist public education. The response of the authorities was to detain him, raid his home, confiscate his home schooling materials, and investigate him as a terrorist.
Zhao and his wife Li Xin have repeatedly been summoned by officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau, Education Commission, and the National Security Agency and threatened with arrest for their refusal to send their children to public school. Brother Zhao and Sister Li refused to compromise their beliefs and instead continued to provide Christian education for his children in his home.
Twenty police officers then raided Zhao’s home on May 17, showing Zhao a subpoena for proselytism. First Brother Zhao, and then later Sister Li, were summoned to the police station while officers who remained in the family’s home confiscated books, a computer, a hard drive, and a flash drive. Li was released the same day, but Zhao was forced to serve a 15-day administrative detention penalty and was denied visitation by his family and attorney. When his attorney complained, authorities said that because the case involved classified information and national security concerns, the visitation request was denied.
Police used the investigation of Zhao’s home schooling to gather information about Zhao’s church. Zhao is not the pastor of Taiyuan Xuncheng Reformed Church, but he works closely with the church’s minister, An Yankui. Brother Zhao and Minister An studied theology together in Chengdu Huaxi Seminary, a Christian university founded by Pastor Wang Yi, the pastor of Early Rain Church who was sentenced to nine years in prison in December 2019. It would appear to be a case of guilt by association.
Minister An wrote, “They arrested Brother Zhao without an arrest warrant and searched his home without a search warrant. They summoned and detained him using the excuse of home schooling his children, but they interrogated him about our church, completely irrelevant to the case. Until now, his family has not received any document, not even a list of items they impounded nor a detention notice. Everything remains a secret, a public secret. CCP authorities persecute God’s church.”
Zhao’s case reveals more than Communist Party concerns over home schooling.
For years, the Chinese government tried to control Christianity by cracking down on China’s megachurches. But Chinese churches responded by shifting away from the megachurch model of professional pastors and Christian educators to a home-based model where Christian parents like Zhao and Li take the primary responsible for the evangelism and discipleship of their children. The Chinese government knows that it is the home-based model, not the megachurch model, that is the future of the Chinese church. So they are devoting more and more state resources to cracking down on Christian parents. As Christians in the rest of the world, we need to devote more of our resources to supporting Chinese Christian parents like Zhao and Li. They are the new “front line” of the Chinese church.