by WorldTribune Staff, December 10, 2018
Chinese authorities on Dec. 9 arrested 100 members of an underground Christian church in Sichuan province.
In coordinated raids in districts of the provincial capital of Chengdu, police targeted members of the unofficial Early Rain Covenant Church.
In February, China’s Religious Affairs Regulation was amended to give officials more power to act against churches and impose tougher penalties for “unauthorized religious gatherings.”
The church, which attracts 800 faithful on a weekly basis, is one of China’s most prominent Protestant house churches, according to a report by the South China Morning Post. It has about 100 seminary students and a primary school catering to about 40 children.
“Members’ personal accounts and cell group discussions on social media channels were blocked at around 9 p.m. on Sunday while the church’s telephone line was also cut,” the report said. “The homes of the church’s leaders, including pastor Wang Yi, were among those raided.”
Zhang Guoqing, assistant deacon of the Early Rain Covenant Church, and one other church member detained in the raids were released on Dec. 10.
“The police said our church is an illegal organization and we cannot attend any more gatherings from now on,” Zhang said.
Bob Fu of China Aid, a U.S.-based Christian non-profit organization, said there have been more than 10,000 cases of detention of Christians this year, compared with just over 3,000 cases for the whole of last year. In September, Beijing police closed the Zion Church, one of the largest Protestant churches in China with more than 1,500 regular churchgoers.