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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07GUANGZHOU458 2007-04-13 04:02:00 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Guangzhou
Cable title:  

Guangzhou International Christian Church Faces RAB

Tags:   KIRF PHUM PGOV SOCI CH 
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R 130402Z APR 07 ZDK PER UR SVC 9760
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L GUANGZHOU 000458 

SIPDIS

CONFIDENTIAL

SIPDIS
SIPDIS

USPACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/10/2031
TAGS: KIRF PHUM PGOV SOCI CH
SUBJECT: Guangzhou International Christian Church Faces RAB
Pressure

REFERENCE: A) 04 Guangzhou 6362 (NOTAL); B) 04 Guangzhou
5735 (NOTAL); C) 04 Guangzhou 782 (NOTAL)

(U) CLASSIFIED BY ECONOMIC/POLITICAL SECTION CHIEF JAMES
TURNER FOR REASONS: 1.4 (b) AND (d).



1. (C) SUMMARY: Guangzhou International Christian
Fellowship (GICF) faces renewed pressure to move its
location, but the Religious Authorities Bureau (RAB) has
told prospective landlords that the fellowship is composed
of troublemakers and advised them not to rent to them. The
RAB appears concerned that GICF is growing, ironically due
in part to RAB raids on unregistered foreigner organized
house churches. The landlord problem has been temporarily
resolved with the old landlord extending the GICF lease but
the issue is expected to come around again in a few months.
END SUMMARY

International Church Faces RAB Pressure


--------------------------



--------------------------




2. (C) A GICF board member recently told Congenoff that the
church is facing pressure to move from the Star Hotel,
where it has been located for a number of years. The Star
Hotel, in a prime location near the East Train Station in
Tianhe, has for some time been interested in moving GICF,
primarily for economic reasons but also due, at times, to
RAB pressure. Star had requested that GICF move in 2003
due to pressure from the RAB which felt the church was
growing too quickly and that some attendees were
proselytizing outside of church (ref A). Several
foreigners attending the church were compelled to leave
China after their visas were not renewed or were asked to
leave for "religious activities which did not conform to
Chinese law" (ref C). After the church took measures to
set up small house churches, which are legal if numbers are
below 15 adults, and provided fewer ancillary services,
such as nursery or children's Sunday school, the RAB
renewed its license and the Star Hotel dropped its demand
that GICF move.



3. (C) Unlike its dealing with other local churches, the
RAB deals with GIFC directly, regularly sends people to
monitor GICF services, and approves any new location GICF
selects. After locating a large new space near the Star
Hotel in a partially empty building, Zhongtai Plaza, with
an eager-to-rent landlord, GICF was told by the landlord
that the RAB referred to GICF as a "trouble maker" and
advised him against renting to them. GICF approached
Congenoff to ask about the possibility of approaching the
American International School of Guangzhou to see whether
GICF could hold services in AISG facilities or whether the
Consulate would object to GICF considering space in the
office building housing the Consular Section.



4. (C) Congenoff discussed both options with GICF but
understood that GICF still prefers Zhongtai Plaza, due to
cost considerations. According to GICF, the landlord is
willing to offer a low rent and will make significant
improvements to the space on behalf of the Fellowship with
a view to increasing traffic in the building. In the
meantime, GICF met with the RAB to discuss its new space
request and explained that while the church was not
actively working to increase its attendance, several
factors were causing an increase. While not directly
giving reasons for its concerns, the RAB clearly is not
happy that GICF is continuing to grow.

Problems of Growth


--------------------------




5. (C) GICF explained that its growth is largely due to
Guangdong's economic miracle, much of which is based on
foreign direct investment (FDI) and export-led
manufacturing. With an average GDP growth in Guangdong
exceeding 12 percent for more than 25 years, the number of
foreigners has increased. A portion of these foreigners
happen to be people of faith, some of whom have come to
attend GICF services and be involved in GICF community
activities. The Guangdong-based GICF is much smaller than
similar international religious groups in Beijing and
Shanghai which appear to operate more easily. The RAB did
not respond to the GICF explanation.



6. (C) Ironically, RAB actions are in part responsible for
the increase in attendance at the Fellowship. A number of
house churches organized by African businessmen living in
Guangzhou were raided and shut down by the RAB. Local

neighbors complained about the enthusiastic services of
house churches and the RAB raided them, with the inevitable
result that most of the Africans, and other foreigners,
with few other religious options, have ended up at GICF.



7. (C) Following the meeting with the RAB, GICF learned
from Star Hotel management that it was willing to extend
the lease for three more months, but would still prefer
GICF to move so the space could be used for events with a
better return. The problem has been temporarily resolved
but is expected to resurface in a few months.

COMMENT: Problem Only Temporarily Solved


--------------------------



--------------------------




8. (C) GICF has not faced similar problems since 2003.
While it did not discuss the RAB raids with its RAB
counterparts for reasons of sensitivity, GICF's economic-
growth argument is compelling. However, Guangdong's
proximity, to Hong Kong with Falun Gong activists and other
religious groups, caused Governor Huang Huahua in 2004 to
rail against "illegal religious activities" by foreigners
(ref B). These sentiments translated into tighter control
of foreign religious groups in Guangzhou. GICF would like
to use a request to the RAB that it be housed in the same
building as the U.S. Consulate Consular Section as its "ace
in the hole" during future discussions with the RAB as it
pushes for its first choice of space. It hopes that the
RAB will be sensitive to potential GICF notification to the
Consulate of its space problem, though we are less
confident of the success of this strategy.

GOLDBERG