(Guangzhou) Voice of the Martyrs Korea is reporting another major wave of police action against house church across China this past Sunday, May 12.
At least 12 house churches were raided by police and personnel of some related government departments during their worship. Sunday services were interrupted and multiple people were taken away, detained, and interrogated.
“According to Christians living in mainland China, the mass crackdown may be associated with the approaching of June 4th, the anniversary of the Tianamen Square protests,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea representative Hyun Sook Foley. “There must be many house churches which have been oppressed, but we just don’t know.”
March 2017 house church raid
According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea and its partner China Aid, the house churches raided by authorities across the country on May 12 include Fuzhou Reformed Church, Xiamen Xunsiding Church, Xiamen Jimei Church, Xiamen Olive Mount Church, Guiyang Ren’ai Reformed Church, Chengdu Pi County Zhu’en Reformed Church, Xiangtan Jinxiangtan Church, Shanghai UCC Church, Shanghai Peace Church, Jiangxi Changnan House Church, and two house churches located in Guangzhou, named Lijiang Garden and Pazhou.
A large number of congregants were raided by state security officers and personnel of bureau of religious governance on May 12, at 9:30 am while they were worshipping at Jinxiangtan Church, Xiangtan, Hunan province. According to congregants, several dozen state security officers broke into the church, stopping Elder Huang of the church from preaching. One official from the Bureau of Religious Affairs who was on the scene stipulated that Jinxiangtan Christian Church should stop all evangelical events.
On the same day, Guiyang Ren’ai Reformed Church was raided as well. The church had been shut down by authorities last September 30. After it was shut down, the church often met at hotels and other temporary venues. On May 12, personnel of multiple departments including the Bureau of Religious Affairs, State Security agents, police, and auxiliary police broke into the room where congregants of the church were hosting the Sunday service and stopped their worship.
A member of Guiyang Ren’ai Reformed Church told Voice of the Martyrs Korea and China Aid,
“Nearly 100 congregants were in attendance in the service at that time, and about 70-80 people raided us, so the worship had to be held up.”
Congregants said that law enforcement officers coming into the room requested that the pastor should stop preaching.
“Two parties had a heated argument,” congregants reported. “The pastor said that faith is a personal thing, and he criticized the raid as an immoral action. Also, the pastor requested that they should show us their inspection paper; government officials said they penalized us for our so-called illegal religious events in accordance with laws and rules issued by the country.”
Congregants said that an official from the Bureau of Religious Affairs who was on site threatened congregants not to videotape the raid; otherwise, they would face legal consequences. Congregants report that multiple people were detained and interrogated for several hours. The pastor’s computer was confiscated.
When shutting down Guiayng Ren’ai Reformed Church last year, authorities said that Pastor Zhang Chunlei of the church and others were operating a church, hosting religious events, and accepting religious donations in a venue that was not approved for church activity, violating the rules of the Religious Affairs Bureau. They were ordered to stop all religious events and to remove related equipment and signs. In the meantime, congregants were warned by officials not to attend the church or other illegal religious events.
Additionally on May 12, in Guangzhou, two house churches located in Lijiang Garden and Pazhou were raided by authorities. According to a Christian who requested to be anonymous, the two house churches which were raided are of small scale. Some congregants were taken away by police, detained and interrogated, but they were soon released.
“The source said that house churches located in multiple regions in mainland China were raided simultaneously and requested to stop all fellowship, so it must be cross-country crackdown,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Foley. “Now is a crucial time for us to stand together as one body with our brothers and sisters in China. One of the ways we can do that is to add our names to the China Declaration, the basic statement of faith written and signed by 439 Chinese pastors to explain why Chinese churches are not able to comply with this new wave of government restrictions.” More information is available at www.chinadeclaration.com.