Authorities in southwest China’s Guizhou province raided a Protestant house church, arresting at least 10 people for questioning, RFA has learned.
The raid took place in the middle of a Bible study group meeting held by the Ren’ai Reformed Church in Guizhou provincial capital Guiyang on Tuesday morning.
“The Ren’ai Reformed Church was raided by officials, including the Civil Affairs Bureau and the police, on the morning of March 16,” a local Christian told RFA on Wednesday, who gave only one name. family, Huang.
“More than a dozen of our siblings were taken away [by police]. “
Huang said a church elder, Zhang Chulei, was also arrested after going to the police station at around 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday to inquire about the others.
âI heard that they called him for questioning,â Huang said. “Many of them have not yet been released, including Zhang Chunlei.”
Another Christian living in Guiyang, who only gave a last name, Li, said it was rare for members of Protestant “house churches” to meet in person since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. .
âLately, it has been mostly online meetings, with no offline gatherings,â Li said. âOffline gatherings are restricted.â
âSometimes we get together in small groups of about a dozen people, or just a few people,â he said. “Large-scale gatherings are definitely prohibited.”
Zhang, who heads the church, was one of the first Protestant pastors to sign a declaration of Christian faith launched by jailed pastor Wang Yi.
Prior to the raid, he had already been subjected to repeated surveillance and harassment by the state security police and was prohibited from participating in religious activities and communicating with others. other church members.
Li said the reason for the sudden raid was unknown, although the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has strict rules on what can be considered a “house church.”
âAs far as we can judge, the [CCP’s] The United Front’s Labor Department and Chinese government secret agencies have their own definitions of what can be called a house church in China, âLi said.
“They think it should refer to a family reunion with only relatives present,” he said.
Currently, religious gatherings involving more than one household are prohibited under pandemic restrictions, he said.
An official who answered the phone at the Panyu Religious Affairs Bureau in the southern city of Guangzhou confirmed to RFA that gatherings are currently restricted to family members only.
The raid in Guiyang comes just days after authorities in southwestern Sichuan Province attacked the Fountain of Life Church during a Sunday service in the provincial capital, Chengdu.
Police raided the church on March 7, taking Pastor Zha Changping, his wife and three other church members to the local police station for questioning, US Christian rights group ChinaAid reported. on its website.
All five were released after several hours of questioning, the group said.
The Fountain of Life Church is one of the first town house churches founded and is a sister church to the now closed Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu.
Among its members is a former state security police officer who converted to Christianity and was later forced to resign his post in the state, ChinaAid said.
Reported by Qiao Long for the Mandarin service of RFA. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.